Skip to main content

FERPA Basics

Ten Questions covering the fundamental protection under FERPA for students at Santa Clara University and the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley.

1. What is FERPA?

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 protects the confidentiality of students records. FERPA governs (1) the release of educational records maintained by the university and (2) access to these records.

2. What does FERPA require of Santa Clara University for compliance?
  • notify students annually of their FERPA rights (which SCU does quarterly in the Schedule of Classes. Information for students on FERPA also appears in the university bulletins and in the Community Handbook)
  • protect students' rights to inspect and review their educational records
  • protect students' rights to request to amend their educational records
  • protect students' rights to limit disclosure of personally identifiable information contained in education records
  • ensure that third parties do not redisclose personally identifiable information
  • keep records of request for and disclosures of student education records in specific situations
3. Who has FERPA rights at SCU?

A student "in attendance" (regardless of age) and former students. According to the SCU FERPA policy, a "student" is any person who attends or has attended Santa Clara University. FERPA rights do not apply to prospective or students who have applied, but have not enrolled at SCU. A student is considered "in attendance" beginning the first day he or she attends a class at Santa Clara University.

4. What are the FERPA rights of SCU students?
  • right to inspect and review their education records
  • right to request to amend their education records
  • right to limit disclosure of some "personally identifiable information" known as "directory information"
5. What are education records under FERPA?

Education records are defined as records that are:

  • directly related to a student, and
  • maintained by SCU or a party acting for the university
6. What is not an educational record and falls outside the scope of FERPA?

The SCU FERPA policy indicates that the following are not considered education records:

  1. Personal records which are kept by a staff member if the record is kept in the sole possession of the maker of the record and is not accessible or revealed to any other person except as a temporary substitute for the maker of the record.
  2. Employee records of an individual whose employment is not contingent on the fact that he or she is a student, provided the record is used only in relation to the individual's employment at SCU.
  3. Law enforcement records maintained by the SCU Campus Safety Services office if the record is maintained solely for agencies of the same jurisdiction, and the department does not have access to education records maintained by SCU.
  4. Counseling records which are created or maintained by a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, or other recognized professional or paraprofessional, acting in his/her professional capacity or assisting in a paraprofessional capacity, used solely in connection with the provision of treatment to the student and not disclosed to anyone other than individuals providing such treatment, so long as the records can be personally reviewed by a physician or other appropriate professional of the student's choice. "Treatment" in this context does not include remedial educational activities or activities which are part of the program of instruction at SCU.
  5. Health records maintained by SCU's Cowell Health Center if the records are used only for treatment of a student and made available only to those persons providing the treatment.
  6. Alumni records which contain information about a student after he or she is no longer in attendance at SCU and which do not relate to the person as a student.
7. When would SCU release information from a student's education record without the permission of the student?

According to SCU's FERPA policy, the university may release information:

  • To a school official who has a legitimate educational interest in the record. A "school official" is a person employed by the university or an agent of SCU who has been designated as a school official by the university and is working in an administrative, supervisory, academic, research or support staff capacity. A school official has a "legitimate educational interest" if the official is performing a task that is specified in his or her position description, performing a task related to the student's education, or is performing a task related to the discipline of the student.
  • To officials of another school, upon request, in which a student seeks or intends to enroll.
  • To certain officials of the U.S. Department of Education and other federal, state and local educational authorities, in connection with certain state and federally supported education programs.
  • 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. Parents' financial information, including statements submitted in connection with financial aid applications, is excluded from inspection.
  • If required by a state law requiring disclosure that was adopted before November 19, 1974.
  • To organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the university.
  • To accrediting organizations to carry out their functions.
  • To parents of an eligible student who claim the student as a dependent for income tax purposes.
  • To comply with a judicial order or a lawfully issued subpoena.
  • To the appropriate parties if the University finds an articulable and significant threat to the health or safety of a student or other individuals in light of the information available at the time.
  • To the complainant of sexual or gender-based misconduct hearings, notice of the outcome of the proceedings.
  • Upon written request, to the alleged victim of any crime of violence or non-forcible sex offense the results of the disciplinary proceedings.
  • To courts for a legal proceeding brought by a parent or student against the university or by the university against a parent or student.
  • To parents and legal guardians of students under the age of 21 if the student violated laws or policies relating to the use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance.
  • To state and local juvenile justice systems or their officials.
  • If designated as directory information.
8. What is directory information?

According to FERPA, directory information is defined as information contained in an educational record that generally would not be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed. As such, SCU lists the following items as "directory information" which can be released to third parties without the student's consent:

  • Student's name
  • Address:  Campus post office box, local, and permanent addresses (residence hall and room number are not disclosed)
  • Telephone number
  • Email address
  • Photograph
  • Date and place of birth
  • Major field of study
  • Classification level/academic level
  • Dates of attendance (defined as academic year or quarter)
  • Participation in officially recognized activities and sports
  • Weight and height of members of athletic teams
  • Degrees (including expected or actual degree date), honors, and awards received and dates
  • Most recent educational agency or institution attended
9. How can a student prevent disclosure of all or part of his or her directory information?

If a student prefers not to have any information released to anyone, the student must complete a non-disclosure form and submit it to the Office of the Registrar. Request for non-disclosure may be filed with Office of the Registrar during the registration period and throughout the academic year. Once filed, the request remains in effect just prior to the Fall term of the following academic year. Requests for non-disclosure by students in their last term of enrollment at SCU remain in effect until canceled in writing by the student.

10. How can a student challenge the content of his or her education records?

FERPA grants students the right to seek amendment to their education records if the students believe the records to be inaccurate, misleading, or in violation of their privacy rights. Requests for amendment must follow these steps:

  • A student must request in writing that the University Registrar or other custodian of records amend a record. The student must identify the part of the record to be amended and explain why the student believes the record to be inaccurate, misleading, or in violation of the student's rights. Santa Clara University may comply with the request or it may decide not to comply. If the university decides not to comply, the student will be notified in writing of the decision and advised of his or her right to a hearing to challenge the decision. If the university decides that the information is inaccurate, misleading, or in violation of the student's rights, it will amend the record and notify the student in writing that the record has been amended.