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Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

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 U.S. Department of Education. Go to the Family Policy Compliance Office (FPCO) to learn more.

To which information does FERPA apply?

FERPA applies to personally identifiable information in educational records. This includes items such as a student’s name, names of family members, addresses, personal identifiers such as Social Security Numbers, and personal characteristics or other information that make a student’s identity easily traceable.

What are educational records?

Educational records are all records that contain information directly related to a student and are maintained by an educational agency or institution, or by a party acting on its behalf. A record means any information recorded in any way, including handwriting, print, tape, film, microfilm, microfiche, and digital images.

Educational records do not include the following:

  • Sole possession records - records kept in the sole possession of the maker that are used only as a personal memory aid, and are not accessible or reviewed by any other person except a temporary substitute for the maker of the record.
  • Medical or psychological treatment records that include those maintained by physicians, psychiatrists, and psychologists.
  • Employment records, provided that employment is not contingent upon being a student.
  • Law enforcement records.

To whom does FERPA apply?

FERPA rights apply to students. A student is a person who is or has been in attendance at the institution, regardless of the person’s age.

Who has access to student educational records?

According to FERPA, nondirectory information may not be released without prior written consent from the student. Exceptions are listed in the General Information catalog, and include: access by appropriate university administrators, faculty members, or staff members who require access to educational records in order to perform their legitimate educational duties; officials of other schools in which the student seeks or intends to enroll; and in connection with a student’s application for, or receipt of, financial aid.

What is legitimate educational interest?

Legitimate educational interest is access to educational records by appropriate university administrators, faculty members, or staff members, and by appropriate administrators or staff members of the Texas Exes who require such access in order to perform their legitimate educational and business duties, when such records are needed in furtherance of the educational or business purposes of the student or university.

What can happen if I fail to follow the law?

  • Dismissal
  • Lawsuit
  • Loss of Federal funding
  • Conviction of a misdemeanor under the Public Information Act
    • Confinement in the county jail not to exceed 6 months, or
    • Fine not to exceed $1,000, or
    • Both

Who should I contact with questions or concerns?

If you have questions regarding FERPA, you may contact:

  • UT Austin, Office of Institutional Compliance, (512) 232-7055
  • Family Policy Compliance Office, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue SW, Washington, D.C. 20202-5901

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