IntroductionStudentsParentsFacultyFormsFAQs

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education.

Unless a student requests in writing to the contrary, federal law permits the university to release Directory Information to the public without the student’s consent.

Directory Information is information in a student’s education record that would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed. At UNC Greensboro, Directory Information consists of:

  • Student’s first and last name
  • Major field of study
  • Dates of attendance
  • Enrollment status
  • Anticipated graduation date
  • Degrees awarded
  • Awards (including scholarships)

Additionally, UNC Greensboro designates some information as Limited-Use Directory Information.

The use and disclosure of this information is restricted to:

(1) university officials who have access, consistent with FERPA, to such information and only in conjunction with a legitimate educational interest and,

(2) external parties contractually affiliated with the university, provided such affiliation requires the sharing of Limited-Use Directory Information. Limited-Use Directory Information consists of:

  • Local and permanent address
  • Student e-mail address
  • County, state, or US territory from which the student originally enrolled
  • Telephone numbers
  • Participation in officially recognized activities and sports
  • Weight and height of members of athletic teams
  • The most recent previous educational agency attended by the student

(3) military recruiters are entitled to student’s names, addresses, telephone listings, date and place of birth, levels of education, academic majors, and degrees received.

For more information regarding FERPA, visit the U.S. Department of Education

Student Rights under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

Students have the right of access to their educational records, the right to request an amendment to those records and to have a hearing if the request is denied, the right to consent to disclosure of their information unless consent is not required by FERPA (see release of directory information), and the right to file a complaint with the Family Policy Compliance Office. Students also have the right to suppress directory information.

Annual Notification of Rights

UNCG sends an annual notification to eligible students in attendance of their rights under FERPA.  This annual notification is electronically communicated to students UNCG email address.

Click here to view an example of the annual notification.

Suppression of Student Directory Information

Under FERPA, the student has the right to request in writing that the disclosure of this information be withheld from persons outside the university. Please note that this information can only be suppressed from the public, not from university officials. The suppression request includes both Directory Information and Limited-Use Directory Information as defined by UNC Greensboro policy.

A student must file a form requesting suppression of information with the University Registrar’s Office. A request to suppress information must be filed while the student is still enrolled at the university.

You must be enrolled at UNCG in order to file a suppression, which will remain in effect until revoked in writing, even after you are no longer a student. Once your information is suppressed, it will not be released to news services or posted on the Registrar’s Website for honors such as Deans List or Chancellor’s List, nor printed in the UNCG Commencement Program when you graduate, unless you revoke the suppression.

Click here to download the Suppress/Revoke Suppression of Directory Information. Please print, sign, and date the form and present it in person to the University Registrar’s Office at 180 Mossman along with a government-issued photo ID.

Consent to Disclose Education Records

UNCG may provide access to a student’s education records to a third party if the student provides written consent using the following form.

Click here to access the disclosure form.

Exceptions

Please note: The law allows the University to release directory information and other information about students under certain circumstances—even when the student has signed a suppression form. Examples include a health or safety emergency, a lawful subpoena or court order, or to authorized Federal, State, or Local employees.

For more detailed information, visit the U.S. Department of Education

Parent Rights under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

When a student turns 18 years old or enters a postsecondary institution at any age, all rights afforded to you as a parent under FERPA transfer to the student. However, FERPA provides ways in which a school may—but is not required to share information from an eligible student’s education records with parents, without the student’s consent. For example:

  • Schools may disclose education records to parents if the student is claimed as a dependent for tax purposes.
  • Schools may disclose education records to parents if a health or safety emergency involves their son or daughter.
  • Schools may inform parents if the student, if he or she is under age 21, has violated any law or policy concerning the use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance.
  • A school official may generally share with a parent information that is based on that official’s personal knowledge or observation of the student.

For more detailed information, visit the U.S. Department of Education

FERPA Guidelines on Release of Grades and GPA Information

Subject to certain exceptions in FERPA, all University faculty and staff who receive non-directory information about students (including course grades, letters of recommendation, and GPAs) are responsible for protecting the confidentiality of the information, and are not permitted to disclose the information to the public or any person or organization outside the University without the prior written consent of the students involved, unless otherwise provided for by law.

Faculty have legitimate educational interest in the records of University students when those records are directly related to the faculty member’s work with a student (typically providing instruction or mentoring) or in the discipline of a student. The determination of a faculty member’s legitimate educational interest in records outside of their direct work with a student (e.g. financial aid or student conduct records) is fact-specific and will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

For more detailed information, visit the U.S. Department of Education

Suppression of Student Directory Information

Under FERPA, the student has the right to request in writing that the disclosure of this information be withheld from persons outside the university. Please note that this information can only be suppressed from the public, not from university officials. The suppression request includes both Directory Information and Limited-Use Directory Information as defined by UNC Greensboro policy.

A student must file a form requesting suppression of information with the University Registrar’s Office. A request to suppress information must be filed while the student is still enrolled at the university.

You must be enrolled at UNCG in order to file a suppression, which will remain in effect until revoked in writing, even after you are no longer a student. Once your information is suppressed, it will not be released to news services or posted on the Registrar’s Website for honors such as Deans List or Chancellor’s List, nor printed in the UNCG Commencement Program when you graduate, unless you revoke the suppression.

Click Here to download the Suppress/Revoke Suppression of Directory Information. Please print, sign, and date the form and present it in person to the University Registrar’s Office at 180 Mossman along with a government-issued photo ID.

Consent to Disclose Education Records

UNCG may provide access to a student’s education records to a third party if the student provides written consent using the following form.

Click here to access the disclosure form.

What laws and regulations or policies govern student records?

The Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), more commonly known as “the Buckley Amendment” (20 U.S.C. § 1232g) governs access to and privacy of student records at schools, such as UNCG, which receive federal monies. The U.S. Department of Education has adopted regulations which implement FERPA and explain these requirements in greater detail at 34 C.F.R. Part 99. UNCG has adopted a Policy entitled “Access to Student Records” (the UNCG Policy) to ensure compliance with FERPA and its regulations on this campus.

What rights does FERPA create?

FERPA creates two basic rights: (1) a right of access by the student (or a “qualified” parent) to his or her education records, and (2) the student’s right of privacy in those records so that access by others is strictly controlled. This article will cover the student’s right of access.

What are “education records”?

Education records are defined by FERPA, and in the UNCG Policy, as any record (written, printed, taped, filmed, etc.) maintained by UNCG that is directly related to a student except for (1) personal notes kept in the maker’s sole possession, (2) certain campus law enforcement records, (3) alumni records, and (4) certain medical records used only for treatment purposes. Thus, with few exceptions, almost any record that is made on this campus about a student must be handled in compliance with FERPA.

What rights does a student have to look at his or her education records?

Students have the right to examine their own education records upon request. Under UNCG’s Policy, the student must submit a written request to the custodian of the records. For example, if the student wants to review his or her transcript, the student must submit a written request to the Registrar’s Office. An appointment will be set up for that review. However, students do not have the right to demand instant access to their records. The University must respond to the request within a reasonable time period, and never more than 45 days from the date of the request. The University must also explain or decode the records for the student.

Does a student have a right to obtain copies of his or her education records?

Unlike the right to examine records, there is no absolute right to obtain copies. Copies need only be given when the failure to do so would effectively prevent the student from exercising the right to examine the records, e.g. where the student is too far away to commute to the campus. UNCG’s Policy defines that distance as more than 50 miles.

Are there any other circumstances under which the University may refuse to provide copies of education records to the student?

Both federal and state law permit the University to deny copies if the student has an unpaid financial obligation to the University or if there is an unresolved disciplinary or academic action against the student.

Are there any limits on the student’s right to review information in the student’s education records?

Yes, if the record also contains information about other students, that information must be “redacted” (removed or blanked out) prior to the review. Additionally, the student has no right to review financial records provided by his or her parents. Confidential letters of recommendation may also be withheld from the student’s review IF the student had voluntarily waived the right to review those letters, in writing. Even where such a waiver exists, the University must comply with the student’s request for the names of anyone who submitted confidential recommendations. Finally, students have no right to personally review medical and mental health records. However, the student may have those records reviewed by a physician or other appropriate professional of the student’s choice.

What rights do the parents or legal guardian of a student have to get information from their child’s records?

FERPA expressly states that when a student reaches the age of 18 OR is attending an institution of postsecondary education the rights of access to student records “transfer from the parents to the student.”Thus, the parents’ rights are terminated unless the parents either obtain written consent from their child or submit proof that they claimed the student as a dependent in their most recent federal tax return. A copy of the written consent or the tax return must be submitted along with their written request for access to the student’s records. Once this has been done, the parents become “qualified” for access in the same manner as the student.

What about parents who are divorced or separated?

Both parents will be given access (if they are “qualified” as specified above) unless the University has been provided with evidence that there is a court order or legally binding document (such as a divorcee decree or separation agreement) that specifically revokes these rights.

Is it OK to answer questions about education records over the phone, by e-mail or by fax?

This is a very bad idea unless you know for certain that the person on the other end is the student or is a “qualified” parent or guardian. Unfortunately, there have been cases where a person (e.g. a private investigator) posed as a student or parent in order to get information for use in litigation or to hunt the student down for credit reasons. Others have done so in order to harass or stalk the student. Thus, the refusal to answer inquiries that are not made in person (and with positive ID) is justified as much for the protection of our students as it is for compliance with federal law.

What right does a student have to challenge incorrect information in his or her education records?

FERPA and the UNCG Policy establish a process whereby a student may seek the correction of information he or she believes to be inaccurate, misleading or in violation of privacy rights. In summary, the student first requests amendment from the custodian of the record in question. If the custodian declines, a hearing will be scheduled. If the hearing officer also declines to grant the amendment, the student has the right to place a statement in the record explaining his or her disagreement with the challenged information.

What does FERPA say about confidentiality of education records?

FERPA states that “No funds shall be made available…to any educational agency or institution which has a policy or practice of permitting the release of education records (or personally identifiable information contained therein other than directory information…) of students without written consent [from the student].” This means that UNCG can lose all of its federal funding, including the authority to award federal financial aid to students, if confidentiality is not maintained. The student may also bring a lawsuit against the University and/or the individual responsible for improperly releasing confidential information.

Are there rules specifying how the student’s consent must be given?

The consent must:

  1. be given in writing, and signed by the student,
  2. specify the records that may be disclosed,
  3. state the purpose of the disclosure, and,
  4. identify the person or persons to whom the disclosure may be made.

Are there exceptions to the consent requirement?

There are several exceptions to the consent requirement listed in the statute, regulations, and in the UNCG Policy. Disclosure may be made without the student’s consent:

  1. to University officials who have a legitimate educational interest in the records.
  2. to officials of another school; upon request, in which a student seeks or intends to enroll;
  3. to certain officials of the United States Department of Education, the Comptroller General, and state and local educational authorities, in connection with certain state or federally supported education programs;
  4. in connection with a student’s request for or receipt of financial aid as necessary to determine the eligibility, amount, or conditions of the financial aid, or to enforce the terms and conditions of the aid.
  5. if required by a state law requiring disclosure that was adopted before November 19, 1974;
  6. to organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the University;
  7. to accrediting organizations to carry out their functions;
  8. to parents of a student who claim the student as a dependent for income tax purposes as defined in section 152 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 (i.e. a “qualified parent”);
  9. to comply with a judicial order or a lawfully issued subpoena;
  10. to appropriate parties in a health or safety emergency;
  11. directory information so designated by the University;
  12. the results of any disciplinary proceeding conducted by the University against an alleged perpetrator of a crime of violence to the alleged victim of that crime.
    The application of these exceptions can be tricky at times. When in doubt, please contact the General Counsel prior to making any non-consensual disclosure.

Who falls within the definition of “University officials”?

A “University official” is defined as follows:

  1. A person employed by the University in an administrative, supervisory, academic, research, or support staff position;
  2. A member of The University of North Carolina at Greensboro Board of Trustees in connection with student appeals;
  3. A person employed by or under contract to the University to perform a special administrative or professional task, such as an attorney or auditor.

What qualifies as a “legitimate educational interest”?

A University official has a “legitimate educational interest” in a student’s record(s) if the University official is:

  1. Performing a task that is specified in the official’s position description or by a contract agreement, and;
  2. Performing a task related to a student’s education, or;
  3. Performing a task related to the processing of a disciplinary charge involving the student or;
  4. Providing a service or benefit relating to the student or the student’s family (e.g., health care, counseling, job placement, financial aid).

What is “directory information”?

“Directory information” is defined as the student’s name, address (including e-mail address), telephone number, date and place of birth, major, participation in officially recognized activities and sports, weight and height of members of athletic teams, dates of attendance, degrees and honors information, and the most recent previous educational agency or institution attended.

May a student request that directory information be withheld and, if so, how?

Each student has the right to request that the disclosure of directory information be withheld as long as the student is enrolled at the University. If a student wishes to have directory information withheld and omitted from the University Directory, the student must submit a written request to the Registrar’s Office.

Must (permissible) non-consensual disclosures be documented?

With two exceptions, a record of disclosure must be made and it must indicate the name of the party making the request, any additional parties to whom the education record may be redisclosed, and the legitimate interest the party had in requesting the information. That record may be reviewed by the student or by a “qualified parent.” The two exceptions are:

  1. responses to secret grand jury subpoenas, and
  2. disclosures to qualified University officials.

Must the student be given prior notice of non-consensual disclosures?

Prior notice (or a reasonable attempt to give prior notice) must be given in two cases:

  1. disclosures to other educational institutions, and
  2. disclosures to comply with a subpoena (other than a grand jury subpoena)

Where can I find a copy of the UNCG Policy?

The UNCG policy is included in the Policies for Students handbook published at the beginning of each academic year.

I have other questions that you haven’t answered.

Please contact the General Counsel’s office at 334-3067.