FERPA Student Tutorial

The purpose of this student tutorial is to inform students of their basic rights under Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

What is FERPA?

  • The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974, also known as the Buckley Amendment, protects the privacy rights of student records.
  • FERPA is enforced by the Family Policy Compliance Office of the U.S. Department of Education.

Students’ Rights under FERPA:

  • To inspect and review their education records.
  • To be informed about what the College has designated as directory information.
  • To request that the institution not disclose directory information items about them.
  • To have some control over the disclosure of information in their education records.
  • To seek to amend their education records.
  • To a hearing if the request for an amendment is unsatisfactory.
  • To file a complaint with the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act Office, Department of Education, if Owens Community College violates the FERPA.

Whose records are protected?

  • Current students
  • Former students

What are Educational Records under FERPA?

  • Records directly related to a student.
  • Records containing information from which an individual student (or students) can be personally identified.
  • Records (in writing, print, tape, film, computer or other medium) that are maintained by an educational agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution.

What is not included in an “Educational Record?

  • Sole Possession Notes”: these are notes (memory joggers-not grades or GPA related) created and maintained by instructors and staff, meant for their personal use. So long as no one else sees these notes they remain private and are not subject to FERPA.
  • Law enforcement unit records.
  • Employment records
    • Exception: records of individuals who are employed as a result of their status as students are education records.
  • Health Records

What is “Directory Information?

  • FERPA identifies a category of non-academic information as “directory information” i.e. what institutions may release without student permission. However, FERPA also gives students the ability to restrict this information from the general public.
  • “Directory information” is the only information that Owens Community College will release to a third party without written consent from the student, except in certain conditions as specified by law.

What does OCC consider “Directory Information” that can be released without the written consent of the student?

  • Student name
  • Student telephone number
  • Student mailing address
  • Student college e-mail address
  • Student major fields of study
  • Student dates of attendance
  • Student expected graduation date, degrees and awards received
  • Student enrollment status (full-time or part-time)
  • Student participation in officially recognized activities and sports
  • Weight and height of a member of an athletic team
  • High school and hometown of a member of an athletic team

Can a student prevent disclosure of their directory information?

  • Yes, a student may formally request the College Registrar to prevent disclosure of directory information, except to school officials with a legitimate educational interest. Please note that in compliance with federal regulations there are situations in which specific information may be released, upon presentation of official documents, to designated state, local or government agencies.
  • To withhold directory information, an Authorization to Withhold Directory Information Form must be completed and returned to the Records Office.

Who may have record access?

  • Employees of the College designated as “school officials” may access student records as long as they have a “legitimate education interest” to review these records.Owens Community College designates “School Official” as:
    • A person employed by the College in an administrative, supervisory, academic or support staff position.
    • A person employed by or under contract to the College to perform a special task, such as an attorney or auditor
    • A person on the Board of Trustees.

    OCC defines “legitimate educational interest” as the person’s need to know in order to:

    • Perform a task that is specified in his/her position or contract agreement.
    • Perform a task related to the student’s education.
    • Perform a task related to the discipline of a student.
    • Provide a service or benefit relating to the student’s counseling, job placement or financial aid.

Who else can access records?

  • Financial Aid Lenders, as necessary to determine the eligibility, amount, or conditions of the financial aid, or to enforce the terms and conditions of the aid.
  • Agent of the court when the College has been issued a subpoena or court order.
  • Certain officials of the U.S. Department of Education, the Comptroller General, to state and local education authorities, in connection with certain state or federally supported education programs.
  • Appropriate parties in a health or safety emergency.
  • Accrediting organizations to carry out their functions.
  • Organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the College.

What about parents?

  • FERPA rights transfer to the student at age 18 or when he or she attends a post-secondary institution, regardless of age.
  • Without written permission from the student, parents, like all other third parties, may only have access to the student’s directory information unless the student restricts his or her records.

Note: Parents or legal guardians may obtain personally identifiable information at the discretion of the institution, only if they can establish that the student is a financial dependent or obtain the student’s written consent. The student is considered “financially dependent” if either parent or the legal guardian claimed the student on the proceeding year’s Federal Income Tax return. The Record’s Office requires the parent(s) or legal guardian(s) to provide a copy of the filed tax return before releasing the requested information.

Telephone Communication

Instructors may communicate general course information to a student over the telephone. i.e. To discuss the course syllabus, homework concerns and questions, how and where a student may obtain additional assistance (Math Lab, etc.), and student’s informing you of their absence.

Keep in mind that what an instructor cannot communicate to a student over the telephone is personally identifiable information i.e. A Student’s current grade, test scores, and performance. If a student or instructor would like to discuss those topics, the instructor and the student must meet in person or communicate through OCC Ozone.

Note: Ozone is Owens Community College’s official portal.
Students may choose to forward their email to an alternate email service; however, instructors may communicate to them only through their Ozone account. If a student sends an instructor an email from a non-Ozone address, the instructor will inform the student that all communications must be conducted through his or her Ozone account.

Recommendation Letters Under FERPA

Recommendation letters on behalf of a student that contains specific information from a student’s educational record, such as grades or a student’s grade point average, are in violation of FERPA unless the faculty member receives prior written consent from the student to disclose that information.

Students who request a letter of recommendation from an instructor, must complete and sign the “OCC FERPA Release: Letter of Recommendation Form” prior to the instructor composing the letter.

Student authorization/release forms are available on the Records Office forms webpage.

Who on campus is responsible for FERPA compliance?

  • Because education records are maintained in many different forms all over the campus, the responsibility of ensuring FERPA compliance is a campus-wide responsibility. However, the Registrar is the administrator of FERPA.
  • Contact the Record’s Office if you have questions or concerns regarding FERPA regulations at proxy_access@owens.edu. If you need immediate assistance please telephone Student Financial Services at (567) 661-2387 or 1-800-GO-OWENS, Ext 2387.