FERPA - Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act

FERPA - Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act

HOWARD UNIVERSITY PROMOTES interactive problem solving and open communication between students and their families. However, the University is required to comply with certain federal and state regulations governing the disclosure of student information. The dominant federal law pertaining to student information is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). FERPA permits Howard faculty, staff and representatives to discuss the content of a student's education record with a third party only if specific regulations are met. The Howard University "Student Privacy Rights Policy" can be found here. Below is a list of frequently asked questions to help you understand these regulations.

Q: What is FERPA?

A: The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that affords a third party the right to access their children’s education records, the right to seek to have the records amended, and the right to have some control over the disclosure of personally identifiable information from the education records. When a student turns 18 years old, or enters a postsecondary institution at any age, the rights under FERPA transfer from the parents to the student.

Q: What can I do if I want faculty and staff to be able to talk to my parents about my education record?

A: Simply complete the Permission to Release Education Record Information form and return it to the Office of the Registrar.

Q: Can I submit the form online?

A: Yes. The U.S. Department of Education passed legislation allowing an electronic consent for the release of records. Howard University encourages students to fill out, download, and submit the waiver form online to the Office of the Registrar via email at registrar@howard.edu.

Q: Once I submit the form, how long is it in effect?

A: Consent will remain in effect until a student submits a subsequent written request to the Office of the Registrar, revoking their consent to release information.

Q: Do parents or guardians of college students have the right to see their children’s education records? Does it make a difference if they are paying the tuition?

A: The rights under FERPA transfer from parent to student once the student turns 18 or enters a postsecondary institution. The rights are not waived based upon who is paying for the student’s education. An institution may disclose information from a student’s education record to the parents of the student without the student’s consent if the student is a dependent for federal income tax purposes. Neither the age of the student nor the parent’s status as a custodial parent is relevant. If a student is claimed as a dependent by either parent for tax purposes, then either parent may have access under this provision. While Howard University will accept other documentation of dependent status, we encourage submission of the release form as a preferred approach to the release of education records since it does not have to be submitted annually.

Q: What constitutes an education record?

A: An education record is any record, file, document, and other material maintained by the institution which contains information directly related to a student. This includes, but is not limited to, grade information, disciplinary documentation, and billing and financial aid data.

Q: What is not an education record?

A: Records not considered part of an education record include, but are not limited to, records of the law enforcement unit of an educational institution, records made or maintained by a physician or other recognized professional acting in his or her professional capacity, and records that only contain information about an individual after they are no longer a student at the institution.

Q: Under what circumstances may an institution disclose information from education records without consent?

A: There are several exceptions to FERPA’s general prior consent rule that are set forth in the statute and the regulations. One exception is that institutions may disclose “directory information” at their discretion.

Q: What is “directory information”?

A: Howard University defines directory information as the following: name, address, telephone number, electronic mail address, photograph, date and place of birth, major field of study, dates of attendance, school or college, credit hours earned, degrees earned, enrollment status, participation in officially recognized sports and activities, and honors and awards received.

Q: What should I do if I want my “directory information” handled as confidential information?

A: Students may choose at any time to have their directory information marked confidential by filling out the Request for Non-Disclosure of Student Information” form and submit it to the Office of the Registrar. This request will be effective during the current academic year and will expire at the start of the following academic year.

Please carefully consider the consequences of a decision to withhold directory information. The University will honor your request to withhold directory information from non-institutional persons or organizations. Regardless of the effect upon you, Howard assumes no liability as a result of honoring your instructions to withhold this information.

Q: May an institution disclose to a parent, without the student’s consent, information regarding a student’s violation of the rules regarding use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance?

A: Yes, if the student is under the age of 21 at the time of the disclosure. FERPA was amended in 1998 to allow such disclosures. Also, if the student is a “dependent student” as defined in FERPA, the institution may disclose such information, regardless of the age of the student.


FERPA Permission to Release Education Record Information Form

Request for Non-Disclosure of Directory Information Form