FERPA Basics


FERPA is a federal law designed to protect the privacy of educational records.  It also provides guidelines for appropriately using and releasing student educational records.

It is intended that students’ rights be broadly defined and applied.  Therefore, consider the student as the “owner” of the information in his or her educational record, and the institution as the “custodian” of that record. 

Basic Rights of Students under the Act

  • Be notified of their FERPA rights at least annually.
  • Inspect and review their records.
  • Amend an incorrect record.
  • Consent to disclosure (with exceptions).




When do FERPA rights begin? 

A FERPA-related college education record begins for a student when he or she enrolls in a higher education institution.  At a postsecondary institution, rights belong to the student in attendance, regardless of the students’ age. 

Consequences for Institutions found to be in violation of FERPA may result, ultimately, in the institution no longer being eligible to receive federal funds.

How Does This Impact Faculty?

Before sharing any non-directory student information with anyone other than the student make sure you have obtained written permission from the student to release.

  • Example—discussing academic progress with a parent/guardian.  Check with Registrar’s office to ensure we have a FERPA release on file for the parent.  
  • Example—discussing student academic information with other university personnel.  FERPA expressly requires there to be a “legitimate educational interest/need to know.”

Student workers can never have LMS access to any course via instructor login permissions.  

Student workers assisting faculty with grading must have met with Registrar’s office to sign confidentiality agreement and participate in one-on-one FERPA training. 

Student workers should never assist faculty with grading in a course that they are currently taking or will take in the future.  

When returning graded coursework to students ensure that privacy is maintained and no personally identifiable information is shared. 

Recommendation letters: You may share any academically-related information that you possess regarding a student when asked for a letter of recommendation as long as you have the written request of the student on file.  It is recommended that you ask the student to be as specific as possible in their request. 

Health or Safety Emergency:   If non-directory information is needed to resolve any emergency situation, that information may be released if it is determined that it is “necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals.” 

Social Media:  Best practices recommend faculty do not share anything via social media regarding particular terms, courses, or students.  Often items can be shared that are personally identifiable and thus protected by FERPA.  

Specific Issues for Faculty and Instructional Staff

Since grades can never be directory information, it is inappropriate to post grades in a public setting.  An instructor may, however, post grades if the grades are posted in such a manner that only the instructor and the individual student can identify the individual and his or her grade.  Grades should never be posted by any portion of the SSN.  Additionally, it is recommended that such a posted list should not be in the same order as the class roster or in alphabetical order.

Courses supported by class Web sites and/or discussion groups must take extra precautions to not inadvertently release non-directory student information.  Only directory information can be available to the general public and other class members, so it is recommended that such Web-based tools employ a security layer so that only class members and instructors can access appropriate information. 

Students cannot choose to be anonymous in the classroom setting.  If a student has chosen “no release” for his or her directory information, that does not mean that an instructor cannot call on him or her by name in class or that the student’s email address cannot be displayed on an electronic classroom support tool such as a discussion board, blog, or chat feature.

The Registrar's Office is located in Jorden Hall

Office Hours: 8:00am to 5:00pm, Monday - Friday

Office Phone: 605-331-6650


FERPA Basics for Faculty and Instructional Staff

Click here to download the full FERPA Basics Brochure