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FERPA FAQ

What is FERPA

What is an "Education Record"

What is "Directory Information"

If a student requests access to her education records, do I have to show the student her file?

Under what circumstances may the University disclose information from education records without the student's prior written consent?

Can I provide letters of reference/recommendations for students?

Can I post names of students, sample student projects, or other student information on a website for a class I am teaching?

Can I provide student education records/student information to a student's parents?

May the University disclose to a parent, without the student's consent, information regarding a student's violation of the law involving use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance?

Where can I find the University's guidelines on FERPA?

What is FERPA

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act ("FERPA") is a federal law that gives students who enter a post secondary institution the right to have access to their 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 their education records.  With limited exceptions, FERPA prohibits the release of personally identifiable information from a student's education record without the student's prior written consent.  The FERPA statute is found at 20 U.S.C. § 1232g and the FERPA regulations are found at 34 CFR Part 99.

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What is an "Education Record"

"Education records" are those records, files, documents, and other materials which contain information directly related to a student and are maintained by the University or by a party acting on behalf of the University.

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What is "Directory Information"

"Directory information" is information in a student's education record which may be disclosed to outside parties without a student's prior written consent.  Disclosure of directory information about a student is generally not considered harmful or an invasion of privacy.  Information that the University has designated as directory information is listed in the MSU Notification of Students Rights Under FERPA available here.

Currently enrolled students may restrict the release of directory information by notifying the Office of the Registrar or updating their directory restrictions online through the Office of the Registrar website.

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If a student requests access to her education records, do I have to show the student her file?

Yes.  FERPA provides that an institution must allow a current or former student to inspect and review his/her education records within 45 days of the request.

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Under what circumstances may the University disclose information from education records without the student's prior written consent?

With limited exceptions, FERPA prohibits the release of personally identifiable information from a student's education records without the student's prior written consent.

One exception is the disclosure of "directory information."  The University may generally release student directory information to third parties without student consent.  The types of information the University has designated as directory information are listed in the MSU Notification of Student Rights Under FERPA available here.  Before disclosing directory information about a student to any third party, individuals should contact the Office of the Registrar to determine whether the student has restricted the release of his/her directory information.

Another exception to FERPA's prior consent rule is disclosure to "school officials."  Student records can be disclosed without the student's written consent to school officials who have a "legitimate educational interest" in the records.  Generally, a "school official" is a person employed by the University.  A school official has a legitimate educational interest in a student's education record when he/she has a need-to-know the information about the student.

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Can I provide letters of reference/recommendations for students?

Yes.  In order to provide a letter of reference/recommendation for a student that discloses information from the student's education records, you must first obtain consent from the student.  The consent must specify in wiriting the date of consent, the records to be released, the purpose of the disclosure, and the parties to whom the disclosure may be made.

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Can I post names of students, sample student projects, or other student information on a website for a class I am teaching?

Student information, other than unrestricted directory information, may only be posted with the student's written permission.  The elements of the required consent are described above.

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Can I provide student education records/student information to a student's parents?

With limited exceptions, the University does not release student information to parents without the student's written permission.  One exception is to protect the health and safety of an individual.  The University may disclose information from a student's education records to appropriate parties, including parents, whose knowledge of the information is necessary to protect the health or safety of a student or another individual because of a significant and articulable threat to that individual.

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May the University disclose to a parent, without the student's consent, information regarding a student's violation of the law involving use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance?

Yes, if the student is under the age of 21 at the time of the disclosure.  See § 99.31(a)15 of the FERPA regulations.

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Where can I find the University's guidelines on FERPA?

A comprehensive summary of the University's procedures on maintenance of and access to student education records in compliance with FERPA is provided in the MSU Access to Student Information guidelines here.

Questions about the disclosure of a student's education records under FERPA should be directed to the Office of the Registrar at (517) 355-3300 or the Office of the General Counsel at (517) 353-3530.

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