What is FERPA?

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that affords students the right to have access to their education records, the right to seek to have the records amended, and the right to have control over the disclosure of personally identifiable information from the education records.

How am I informed of my rights?

Information about student rights under FERPA is published each semester in the College’s Schedule of Classes. It is also published in the Student Handbook and made available online through the registrar’s office web page.

What is Directory Information?

FERPA defines “directory information” as information contained in the education records of a student that would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed.

Lafayette College considers the following to be directory information:
Student’s name, College and home address and phone numbers, P.O. box number, email address, date of birth, photograph, dates of attendance, class year, degree program and major, adviser’s name, degrees and awards received, participation in College activities and the weight and height of members of athletic teams.  Although this information is public in nature, students may request that it be withheld and released only upon written authorization. Such requests should be made to the Office of the Registrar.

Although this is not typical, Lafayette may disclose “directory information” to third parties without consent.

When do FEPRA rights begin?

FERPA rights begin when a student becomes 18 or begins their career at any post-secondary institution.

When is prior consent not required?

A school may disclose education records without consent when:

  • The disclosure is to school officials who have been determined to have legitimate educational interests as set forth in the institution’s annual notification of rights to students
  • The student is seeking or intending to enroll in another school
  • The disclosure is to state or local educational authorities auditing or enforcing federal or state supported education programs or enforcing federal laws which relate to those programs
  • The disclosure is to the parents of a student who is a dependent for income tax purposes
  • The disclosure is in connection with determining eligibility, amounts, and terms for financial aid or enforcing the terms and conditions of financial aid
  • The disclosure is pursuant to a lawfully issued court order or subpoena or
  • The information disclosed has been appropriately designated as directory information by the school.

Can my parents have access to my records?

Lafayette College seeks to teach students to become mature, reasoned, educated adults capable of defining and realizing their academic and personal developmental goals. To that end, the College practice is to regard students as the primary contact for interaction regarding information contained in student educational records and to respect the confidentiality of that information. The College encourages students to act responsibly by communicating directly with their parents.

Under federal law, if College personnel determine that it is in the best interest of the student to disclose to a student’s parent(s) information from that student’s educational record, the College may elect to do so after receiving proof of the student’s financial dependency on their parent (s) for federal income tax purposes. In these rare cases, the College practice is to communicate first, when possible, with the student regarding a parental request for information.

Students who are not dependent on their parent (s) for federal income tax purposes, and students who are dependent but wish to provide their parent (s) general access to their educational record, may allow College personnel to share educational record information with their parent (s) by signing a waiver. Waivers can be found on the registrar’s website or picked up in the Office of the Registrar or the Dean of the College.

Students may also elect to have information from their educational record shared with graduate schools, potential employers, or other third parties by signing a release that can be found on the registrar’s website or picked up in the Office of the Registrar or the Dean of the College.

What are the responsibilities of college personnel regarding student records?

As a faculty or staff member, you have a legal responsibility under FERPA to protect the confidentiality of student educational records in your possession. You have access to student information only for legitimate use in the completion of your responsibilities as a College employee.

Your access to student information, including directory information, is based on your faculty or staff role within the College. You may not release lists or files with student information to any third party outside of the College.

Student educational records (other than directory information) may not be released without written consent of the student. Student information stored in electronic format must be secure and available only to those entitled to access that information.

Questions regarding the release of information from student records should be referred to the Registrar’s Office at ext. 5090.

Can college personnel access student records?

College personnel can access a student’s record as long as they have a legitimate educational interest in doing so. College personnel include all employees or agencies contracting with the College to perform service on its behalf. Use of the information in the completion of your responsibilities as a College employee meets the criteria of a legitimate educational interest.

What are the “do not's” for Faculty in notifying students about their grades?

Grades can never be viewed as directory information. It is inappropriate to post grades in a public setting. In this age of increasing technology and the use of content management systems (i.e. Moodle), only directory information should be available to the entire class. Grades should never be posted in a manner that lets other students access another student’s grade(s).

What are parents entitled to know?  What about non-custodial parents?

  • Refer to the Policy on Student Records in our FERPA statement.
  • All outside parties including parents may obtain directory information only at the discretion of the college.
  • Parents may obtain non-directory information (grades, GPA, etc.) only at the discretion of the college AND after it has been determined that their child is legally their dependent.
  • FERPA does not permit access to non-educational records such as law enforcement records, or medical treatment records.
  • FERPA does not permit us to presume that all undergraduates are dependents.
  • Parents may also obtain non-directory information by obtaining signed consent from their child.

Non-custodial parents have the same rights associated with the custodial parent, unless a court order exists precluding it.

What information can college personnel release when asked for help in finding a student?

These requests should be referred to Public Safety or the Registrar’s Office.

How does FERPA impact Letters of Recommendation?

A person writing a reference letter is free to include his personal observations and assessments of the student as long as those observations/assessments cannot be identified as an education record.  Letter writers can include such subjective observations as “stellar student,” “takes part in class discussions” or “mediocre performance” and can include examples. These statements are not education records.

However, if the letter includes a statement that the student had a 3.30 GPA in the writer’s classes, or the student got C’s, this release of information would violate FERPA. Why? They are education records and subject to FERPA. Furthermore, GPA or grades cannot be directory information. The writer would be required to obtain the student’s written consent before including this type of information.

If a student asks for a letter of recommendation, the student has access to the letter unless states otherwise.