Student Rights Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

Handbook of Operating Procedures 9-1610

Student Rights Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

I. Policy Statement 

The University of Texas at Austin ("University") and its employees will protect the privacy and records access rights that apply to education records maintained by or for the University about its current and former students by complying with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

II. Reason for Policy 

To provide clear expectations for the handling of, and granting access to, educational records of current and former University students in accordance with FERPA.

III. Scope & Audience 

This policy applies to University employees and current and former students of the University.

IV. Definitions (specific to this policy) 
Annual Notice:

The notice the University will provide to each student in attendance at the University at least annually of their rights pursuant to FERPA and the procedures for exercising their rights.  The notice contains information about the directory information exception and how a student may opt out of the release of that information under the exception.

Attendance:

Includes attendance in person, by correspondence, or online or distance learning, or any other technologies for students who are not physically present in the classroom and the period during which a person is working in a position that requires student status, such as a under a work-study program position.

Consent:

Written or electronic permission, signed by the student or otherwise verified by the student if electronic, that is dated and specifies the records to be disclosed, the party to whom the records are to be disclosed, and the purpose of the disclosure.

De-identified Record:

An education record that has been stripped of all identifiers and/or aggregated such that it is not possible to re-identify an individual who is the subject of the record.  This type of record is no longer an education record and is not subject to this policy or FERPA.

Directory Information:

Information in a student's education record that would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed. The following information about a student has been designated by the University as directory information: 

  • name
  • local and permanent postal addresses
  • email address
  • UT EID
  • telephone listing
  • place of birth
  • fields of study
  • dates of attendance
  • enrollment status
  • student classification (example: freshman, first year law school student)
  • degrees awarded
  • certificates and awards (including scholarships) received
  • participation in officially recognized activities and sports
  • weight and height of members of athletic teams
  • most recent, educational agency or institution attended
  • expected date of graduation
  • student parking permit information
  • job title and dates of employment when employed by the University in a position that requires student status
Education Records:

Records directly related to a student that are maintained by or on behalf of the University. Education records do not include

  • records of instructional, administrative, and educational personnel that are in the sole possession of the maker (i.e., file notes of conversations), used only as a personal memory aid, not intended to be accessible or revealed to any individual except, in the case of an instructor, a temporary substitute;
  • law enforcement records of the University campus police;
  • medical records and mental health records, including counseling records created, maintained, and used only in connection with provision of medical treatment or mental health treatment or counseling to the student and that are not disclosed to anyone other than the treatment facility;
  • employment records unrelated to the student's status as a student; or
  • alumni records.
Personally Identifiable Information:

Information obtained from or contained in an education record that can be used to identify a student to whom the record relates or to another student. It specifically includes information determined by the University to be

  • linked or linkable to a specific student and would allow a reasonable person in the University community who does have personal knowledge of the relevant circumstances, to identify the student with reasonable certainty; or
  • information requested by a person who the University reasonably believes knows the identity of the student to whom the education record relates.

 

Unless the context of this policy indicates otherwise, a reference to an education record includes personally identifiable information contained in or obtained from an education record.   

Student:

An individual for whom the University maintains a record, regardless of age, who is or who has been in attendance at University. It does not include persons who have been admitted but did not attend the University.

University Official with a Legitimate Educational Interest:

Any person employed by the University in an administrative, supervisory, academic, or support staff position, including law enforcement unit and health staff; a person or company with whom the University has an affiliation or contract (such as a University of Texas System attorney or auditor, or a clinical facility where a student is participating in an internship); the University of Texas Board of Regents; a person employed by UT System Administration; or a person assisting another University official in performing his or her tasks (such as a volunteer or committee member), if that person or contractor requires access to an education record in order to fulfill his or her official responsibilities on behalf of the University.

V. Website (for policy) 
https://policies.utexas.edu/policies/hop/9-1610
VI. Contacts 
Contact Details Web
Registrar's OfficePhone:512-475-7575Fax:512-475-7515Website:
Privacy Officer - Office of Legal AffairsPhone:512-471-1241Fax:512-471-1255
VII. Responsibilities & Procedures 

The University will comply with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and other federal regulations pertaining to students’ right to their education records in the following manner.

 

  1. Notice of Rights under FERPA

The University will provide annual notice to each student of his or her rights under FERPA and this policy by publishing the information Notice of Student Rights under FERPA and Notice Concerning Directory Information in several locations including in the General Information Catalogs for undergraduate and graduate students, annually in The Daily Texan, and on the Office of the Registrar website at http://registrar.utexas.edu/staff/ferpa.  

 

  1. Consent Requirements for Access to Education Records by Third Parties
  1. Generally Required for Disclosures of Education Records

The University will not disclose education records or personally identifiable information from a student’s education record to any third party without prior consent of the student, except as authorized by FERPA and this policy.

 

  1. Exceptions to the Consent Requirement

The University, pursuant to FERPA, will release education records without the student’s consent as follows.

 

  1. Directory Information. Directory information may appear in public documents and may otherwise be disclosed without student consent unless a student submits a written request to the registrar to withhold this information from disclosure as applicable or as otherwise designated by the University in the annual notice. 

To opt out of directory information disclosure, this request must be submitted to the Registrar's Office during the first twelve (12) days of class of any semester or the first four (4) days of class of any summer term. The annual notice required by Section VII.A. above will provide specific information for students wishing to exercise this right under FERPA.

 

Upon graduation or termination of a student’s enrollment for any reason, the release of the student’s directory information will be governed by the student’s directory information status in place during the student’s last period of enrollment, unless the former student requests a change to that status.

 

  1. University Officials. University officials with a legitimate educational interest in an education record are allowed access to that education record. Inter-institutional disclosures may be made between institutions that administer or participate in joint programs or activities, in accordance with legitimate educational interest criteria.

For example, an education record about a student concurrently enrolled in the University and another institution, or who receives services from the University (such as the provision of a distance education class) and from another institution may be disclosed by the University to the other institution under this subsection. This includes services provided by University and institutions participating in distance education classes.

 

  1. Other Institutions. The University may release a student's education records to officials of other educational institutions in which that student seeks or intends to enroll or is enrolled, so long as disclosure is for purposes related to the student’s enrollment or transfer.
  1. Audit or Evaluation of Federal or State Education Programs. The following individuals, or their authorized representative, may access an education record for the audit, evaluation, or enforcement purposes of a federal or state education program, or as required by law:
  • The University of Texas System Board of Regents
  • U.S. Comptroller General
  • U.S. Attorney General
  • U.S. Secretary of Education
  • state and local educational authorities
  1. Financial Aid. The University may release an education record to persons or organizations in connection with that student's application for, or receipt of, financial aid to the extent necessary for such purposes as determining eligibility, amount, conditions, and enforcement of terms or conditions of the financial aid.
  1. State and Local Officials Pursuant to Statutes Concerning Juvenile Justice. The University may release education records to state and local officials who are authorized by statute to access student education records to efficiently serve the student.
  1. Organizations Conducting Studies. Organizations conducting studies for, or on behalf of, the University for the purpose of developing, validating, or administering predictive tests, administering student aid programs, and improving instruction, may access education records for such studies provided that the study is conducted in a manner which will not permit release of the personal identification of students and/or their parents to anyone other than representatives of the organization; and the information will be destroyed when no longer needed for the purposes of the study. The term "organizations" includes, but is not limited to, federal, state, and local agencies, and independent organizations.
  1. Accrediting Organizations. An accrediting organization may access student education records as required to carry out its accrediting functions.
  1. Designated Parents of a Tax Dependent. A parent of a student who is a dependent for federal tax purposes, as defined by Section 152 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954, may access the student’s education records, if the student provides a written designation that permits such access. If a tax-dependent student's parents are divorced, both parents may have access to the student's education records, so long as at least one parent is designated by the student.
  1. Judicial Order or Subpoena. Information concerning a student will be released in response to a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena. The University will make reasonable efforts to notify the student of an order or subpoena before complying with it, except the University will not notify a student of a subpoena if it is from a federal grand jury or is for law enforcement purposes, and the subpoena or order indicates the University must not disclose to any person the existence or contents of the subpoena or any information furnished in response to the subpoena. In addition, education records may be disclosed to the U.S. Attorney General, or his or her designee, without prior notice to the student, in response to an ex parte order concerning an authorized investigation or prosecution of domestic or international terrorism.
  1. Health and Safety. The University may disclose student information to individuals deemed by the University as appropriate to persons in connection with an emergency in order to protect the health and safety of the student or other individuals.
  1. Disciplinary Hearing Results
  1. Disclosure to Victims. The University may disclose to an alleged victim of any crime of violence or a non-forcible sex offense (as those terms are defined in 34 C.F.R. 99.39) the final results of any disciplinary proceeding conducted by the University against the alleged perpetrator of such crime or offense with respect to such crime or offense, regardless of whether the alleged perpetrator was found responsible for violating the University's rules or policies with respect to such crime or offense.
  1. Disclosure to Third Parties. The University may disclose the final results of any disciplinary proceeding against a student who is an alleged perpetrator of a crime of violence or non-forcible sex offense (as those terms are defined in 34 C.F.R. 99.39) if the student is found responsible for violating the University's rules or policies with respect to such crime or offense. Such disclosure will include only the name of the student, the violation committed, and any sanction imposed by the University on that student. Such disclosure may include the name of any other student, such as a victim or witness, only with the written consent of that other student.

  1. Alcohol and Drug Violations. The University may disclose to a parent or legal guardian of a student, information regarding any violation of any federal, state, or local law, or of any rule or policy of the University governing the use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance, regardless of whether that information is contained in the student's education records, providing the student is under the age of 21 at the time of disclosure to the parent, and the University determines that the student is responsible for a violation subject to disciplinary violation with respect to such use or possession.

  1. Defense of Litigation or Complaints Against the University. If a student initiates legal action against the University, the University may disclose to the court or agency with jurisdiction over the complaint, without a court order or subpoena, the student's education records that are relevant for the University’s defense.
  1. Status as a Registered Sex Offender.  The University may disclose information concerning a student’s status as a sex offender or other individual required to register under section 170101 of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1993, 42 U.S.C. 14071, and the information was provided to the University under 42. U.S.C. 14071 and applicable federal guidelines.
  1. Consent of the Student

The University will release a student’s education records to a third party, or allow them access to this information, providing the student gives the University valid and verifiable consent for this release to the individual named in the consent.

 

  1. Disclosure to the Student
  1. A student has the right, upon written request, to review all materials that are in his or her student education records, except
  • financial information submitted by the student’s parents;
  • confidential letters and recommendations associated with admissions, employment or job placements, or honors, to which the student has waived rights of inspection and review or which were placed in the student’s educational record prior to January 1, 1975, provided those letters were collected under established policies of confidentiality and were used only for the purposes for which they were collected;
  • education records containing information about more than one student, in which case the University will permit access only to that part of the record that pertains to the student requesting the review; and
  • records that are subject to an attorney-client privilege which belong to the University.
  1. Process for Students Requesting Access to Their Education Record

The vice president and chief financial officer (VP-CFO) is designated as the official custodian of the University’s education records.

The University will release a student’s education record except

  • if there is a specific provision of FERPA that prohibits such release; or
  • if the request is for an official copy of the student’s transcript.

A student may make a request for an official copy of his or her transcript through the Registrar’s Office. The University, however, will not release a student’s official copy of transcripts or other academic records if the student has a delinquent financial obligation or financial "hold" at the University. 

 

  1. Requests by a student for education records available to a student under an applicable provision of the Texas Public Information Act (TPIA) will be processed by the University according its protocol for access to records under the TPIA.
  1. Records preempted from availability under the TPIA by FERPA will be made available within forty-five (45) days of the request. 
  1. Record of Disclosures

The University will maintain with the student’s education record a record for each disclosure request and each disclosure, except disclosures to the student

  • of directory information;

  • pursuant to the written consent of the student;

  • pursuant to a University official with a legitimate educational interest; or

  • pursuant to a law enforcement subpoena and the issuing court or other issuing agency has ordered that the existence or the contents of the subpoena or the information furnished in response to the subpoena not be disclosed, or the order is concerning an authorized investigation or prosecution of domestic or international terrorism.

  1. Requests to Amend Records

A student who believes the information contained in his or her education record is inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise in violation of the student’s privacy rights under FERPA, may request an amendment of the record. However, the substantive judgment of a faculty member about a student's work, expressed in grades and/or evaluations, is not within the scope of this right.

 

  1. Informal Requests. A student may informally request the University office responsible for a specific education record to amend the record. If agreement is reached with respect to the student's request, that office will amend the appropriate record. If the request is not honored, the University will inform the student of its decision and of the student's right to request a formal hearing.
  1. Requests for a Hearing.  A student may request a hearing by writing to the VP-CFO, who will, within a reasonable period of time after receiving such request, inform the student of the date, place, and time of the hearing. The president will appoint the hearing officer who will adjudicate such challenges.

  1. A student may present evidence at the hearing relevant to the issues raised and may be assisted or represented at the hearing by one or more persons of the student's choice, including attorneys, at the student's expense.
  1. The decision of the hearing officer will be final and will be based solely on the evidence presented at the hearing.  This decision will consist of a written statement summarizing the evidence and stating the reasons for the decision, and will be delivered to all parties concerned. This decision will become part of the student’s education record.

  1. If the hearing officer’s decision is made in favor of the student, the education records will be corrected or amended in accordance with the hearing officer.

  1. If the decision is unsatisfactory to the student, he or she may place with the education record a statement commenting on the information in the record or a statement setting forth any reasons for disagreement with the decisions of the hearing officer, or both. The statement will be maintained as part of the student's education record and released whenever the record in question is disclosed.

  1. A student who believes the adjudication of his or her challenge was not is keeping with the provisions of FERPA or was unfair, may request assistance by writing to the University’s president.

  1. Complaints

Complaints regarding alleged violations of a student’s rights under FERPA may be filed with the Family Policy and Regulations Office, US Department of Education, Washington, D.C. 20203.

XI. History 

Last review date:  January 2016

Next scheduled review:  January 2018