Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

FERPA & Your Privacy

What is FERPA?
FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, is a federal law that pertains to the release of and access to educational records. The law, also known as the Buckley Amendment, applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the US Department of Education.

To which information does FERPA apply?
FERPA applies to personally identifiable information in educational records. This includes items such as the student's name, names of family members, addresses, personal identifiers such as social security numbers, and personal characteristics or other information that make the student's identity easily traceable.

What are educational records?
An educational record is any record in any medium which is maintained by the University of South Alabama or an agent acting on behalf of USA, and which is directly related to a student and contains personally identifiable information.

 Some types of information are not considered education records and are not protected by FERPA. These include:

  • campus law enforcement unit records;
  • employment records, except for those whose employment at USA is tied to their status as a student;
  • USA student medical records
  • USA alumni records

Does FERPA apply to everyone? 
FERPA rights apply to qualifying students. You are a qualifying student if you are currently attending USA, or have attended USA in the past. Applicants to the University or prospective students are not guaranteed right under FERPA.

What are a student's rights under FERPA? 
Under FERPA, a student has a right to:

  • inspect and review their education records.
  • exert some control overt the disclosure of information form their education records.
  • seek the amendment of any of their education records that they believe are inaccurate, misleading, or in violation of privacy rights.
  • file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education's Family Policy Compliance Office.

The University of South Alabama's FERPA policy is published every year in The Lowdown, the USA student handbook. The Lowdown is available from the USA Student Government Association Office, located in the Student Center, room 214.

Do students have a right to see their educational records?
Students have the right to inspect and review their education records. Follow the procedures below.

  • Students must submit a signed request to the Registrar's Office specifying which records need to be reviewed.
  • The Registrar's Office will arrange for access to the file and will notify you when and where the inspection may take place. Access will be granted as soon as possible, but no later that 45 days after the request was received in the Registrar's Office.
  • Students are entitled to an explanation of any of the information contained in your file. If you are unsure of something, please ask us.

How do I correct inaccurate information?
You have the right to seek to amend any of your USA education records that you believe to be inaccurate, misleading, or that violates your right to privacy or any other of your rights.

  • Contact the Registrar's Office first. You may need to complete a form specifying which information you believe needs to be amended, and why.
  • If the Registrar's Office cannot informally resolve the problem, you may request a formal hearing.
  • If the result of the formal hearing is to deny the request to change the information, you will be given the opportunity to attach a statement of explanation of disagreement, which will remain with that record.

What is directory information? 
FERPA identifies certain information, called directory information, that may be disclosed without the student's permission. The university has designated the following information as directory information:

  • Student's name
  • Local, permanent, and email addresses
  • Telephone listing
  • Place of birth and Date
  • Major fields of study
  • Dates of attendance
  • Enrollment status
  • Degrees, awards, and honors received, including selection criteria
  • Classification
  • Participation in officially-recognized activities and sports
  • Weight and height, if a member of an athletic team

Who has access to student educational records?
FERPA grants USA the right to disclose information from your education records without your approval to the following:

  • University officials with a legitimate educational interest.
  • Federal or state agencies, or organizations performing audits or official studies.
  • Financial Aid Officers.
  • Accrediting Agencies.
  • Officials of other institutions in which you seek to enroll.
  • Appropriate authorities in an emergency situation.
  • Parties to legal actions through subpoenas and/or court orders.

What is legitimate educational interest? 
Legitimate educational interest means that a university official has a justifiable need to view an education record in order to complete his or her job responsibilities, as defined by the university.

Whom should I contact with questions or concerns? 
Direct general questions to the Office of the Registrar.

FERPA For Students

What are my rights under FERPA?
Under FERPA, you have a right to

  • inspect and review their education records.
  • exert some control overt the disclosure of information form their education records.
  • seek the amendment of any of their education records that they believe are inaccurate, misleading, or in violation of privacy rights.
  • file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education's Family Policy Compliance Office.

When do FERPA rights begin?
Your FERPA rights begin when you enroll; that is, when you have registered and paid and classes have begun.

Who can access my educational records?
FERPA grants USA the right to disclose information from your education records without your approval to the following:

  • University officials with a legitimate educational internet.
  • Federal or state agencies, or organizations performing audits or official studies.
  • Financial Aid Officers.
  • Accrediting Agencies.
  • Officials of other institutions in which you seek to enroll.
  • Appropriate authorities in an emergency situation.
  • Parties to legal actions through subpoenas and/or court orders.

How can I restrict access to public or directory information about me?
To prevent this information from being released to third parties, you must complete a "Request to Prevent Disclosure of Directory Information" form in the Registrar's Office within the first two weeks of a semester. This request will remain in effect unless changed by the student.

Whom should I contact with questions or concerns?
Direct general questions to the Office of the Registrar.

FERPA For Parents

May I access my child's student records?
At the post-secondary level, parents have no inherent right to access or inspect their son's or daughter's educational records. The right of access is limited solely to the student.

May I view my child's grades, exams, or academic progress?
Final grades, grades on exams, and other information about academic progress are examples of the confidential information that makes up part of a student's educational record. This information is protected under FERPA and parents do not have access to it.

What about crisis or emergency situations?
If nondirectory information is needed to resolve a crisis or emergency situation, an educational institution may release that information if the institution determines that the information is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals.

Whom should I contact with questions or concerns?
Direct general questions to the Office of the Registrar.

FERPA For Faculty & Staff

Who are the Designated Records Officials within the University?
The University has designated the Office of the Registrar as the records official for all student academic records and transcripts. The Associate Deans over the Colleges are the records officials responsible for student records in their colleges. In addition, the University has designated the following officials as the records officials for their respective areas:

  • Vice President of Student Services for all other records pertaining to students, excluding the College of Medicine
  • The Director of Career Services for student records maintained in that office
  • The Associate Dean for Academic Affairs for the College of Medicine
  • The Veterans Affairs Specialist for student records maintained in that office

Who on campus may access student records?
At USA, only faculty, administrators, and staff who individually or collectively have a legitimate educational interest in the student records and are acting within the limitations of their need to know may access student educational records without prior consent of the student. This would include personnel in academic offices as well as student support offices (Admissions, Student Accounting, Financial Aid, Registrar, etc.). This is true even if the student has been granted non-disclosure.

How do I know if a student has signed a Request for Non-disclosure?
When using Banner to access information on a student who has been granted non-disclosure, an alert box will display the message, "Warning: Information about this person is confidential." The user must click "OK" to view the record. The word "Confidential" will appear in the top left-hand corner of every subsequent screen on Banner for that student. Faculty or advisors using PAWS will see the message, "Confidential" on class rosters and degree audits for that student.

The only proper response to inquiries from third parties for any information about such a student must be "Federal Law prevents me from answering this question."

How does FERPA apply to Faculty and staff?
Faculty and staff are required by law to handle students' education records in a legally specified manner. The following list should help clarify what is expected.

  • Do not post grades by name, Jag Number, or any portion of social security number. The University discourages public posting of grades, even if identity codes are used. The University does not permit the emailing of grades. The Office of the Registrar will post final grades on PAWS at the end of the term and students use a secure website to retrieve that information.
  • Do lock desks, file cabinets and rooms that contain student records before leaving them unattended.
  • Do guard student records on your computer.
  • Do not put transcripts, degree audits, grades, etc. in the trashcan. Shred any paper containing personally identifiable information.
  • Do not leave graded papers with student names or Jag Numbers on a table for students to collect. You must not allow students access to other students' grades or personal information.
  • Do keep your personal professional notes regarding students separate from education records. These "sole possession" notes must be kept private, not accessible by any other person except for a designated substitute.
  • Do procure a written release from a student if you are accessing an education record to write a recommendation. If you will make reference to grade point average, or a particular grade in a course, etc., you must have a written release.
  • Do not discuss student daily attendance, academic progress, or grades with a student's parent or guardian. Refer all such inquiries to the proper records official.
  • Do refer all other third party requests for information from education records to the proper records official.

When in doubt err on the side of caution and do not release the requested information. Contact the Office of the Registrar if you require clarification of any portion of FERPA regulations.

Whom should I contact with questions or concerns?
Direct general questions to the Office of the Registrar.