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FERPA Frequently Asked Questions

Students

When do FERPA rights begin?
A student’s FERPA rights begin with his or her registered attendance at UTHSC. Attendance need not be physical, such as in cases of correspondence and distance learning courses. Applicants who are denied admission or who are admitted but never attend are not covered under FERPA. There is no end point for FERPA rights—as long as the student is living.
Are UTHSC students notified about FERPA rights?
UTHSC students are informed each semester about their FERPA rights. Updates are also posted here
How do students invoke their rights to limit the disclosure of directory information?

Students wishing limited disclosure may complete the Restrict Release of Directory Information form and submit the request with the University Registrar. We will suppress your directory information in the UTHSC Directory, and will exclude the directory information by contacting the IT department and notifying the Banner Student Information System that you have restricted release of public or student directory information without written consent. Students who have questions may visit:

  • Office of the Registrar, 910 Madison Ave, Suite 520, Memphis, TN 38163, 901-448-5568, registrar@uthsc.edu.

A paper copy will be provided upon request.

FERPA permits the University to disclose directory information without a student's consent unless a student, prior to the 14th calendar day after the term begins, notifies the Office of the Registrar in writing of his or her desire to restrict directory information from being published

If students opt out of the release of directory information, how will this impact inclusion in the University Commencement Program and UTHSC marketing and communication materials?

By opting out of directory information, the University will not include or use the student's photo, image, and/or voice in any and all University of Tennessee Health Science Center and/or University of Tennessee newsletters, articles, news releases, brochures or other communications and marketing materials. During the first day of classes for the term in which the student plans to graduate, the student MUST file a written request with the Registrar's Office to have his or her name included in the official Commencement Program.

Do my parents have access to my education records?

When a student reaches 18 years of age or is attending an institution of post-secondary education, FERPA rights transfer from parent to student. Therefore, at the post-secondary level, parents have no inherent rights to inspect their son’s or daughter’s education records. Information regarding education records is best obtained by direct communication between the parent and the student. However, parents who have declared a student as a dependent on their most recent Federal Income Tax form may have access to their child’s education records.

Does my spouse have access to my educational record?

The spouse has no rights under FERPA to access the student’s education record. A student may grant access to the spouse by completing the Student Education Record Release Form.

In the event of a health or safety emergency, can the school disclose information to my parents?

Yes. If a health emergency involves their child, UTHSC is permitted to disclose information from education records to parents. However, the disclosure of the information is limited to what is deemed necessary to manage the emergency situation.
If a student is in violation of alcohol consumption and controlled substance rules can parents be informed?
Yes. If a student is under the age of 21, UTHSC is permitted to inform parents of any violation of law or policy concerning the possession of alcohol or controlled substances.
Can law enforcement unit records be disclosed to my parents?
Law enforcement unit records can be disclosed to anyone including parents, federal, state and local law authorities WITHOUT the consent of the student. UTHSC has its own campus police unit, as do many colleges and universities. Any records maintained by these units are exempt from privacy restrictions of FERPA.

Parents

If I am a parent of a college student, do I have the right to see my child's education records, especially if I pay the bill?

The rights under FERPA transfer from the parents to the student, once the student turns 18 years old or enters a postsecondary institution at any age. However, although the rights under FERPA have now transferred to the student, a school may disclose information from an "eligible student's" education records to the parents of the student, without the student's consent, if the student is a dependent for tax purposes. Neither the age of the student nor the parent's status as a custodial parent is relevant. If a student is claimed as a dependent by either parent for tax purposes, then either parent may have access under this provision. (34 CFR § 99.31(a)(8).

 

Can a postsecondary institution disclose financial records of an eligible student to the student's parents?
If the student is a dependent for income tax purposes, the institution may disclose any education records, including financial records to a student's parents if the institution receives evidence of the student’s dependent status. If the student is not a dependent, then the student must generally provide consent for the school to disclose the information to the parents.
In the event of a health or safety emergency, can the school disclose information to my parents?
Yes. If a health emergency involves their child, UTHSC is permitted to disclose information from education records to parents. However, the disclosure of the information is limited to what is deemed necessary to manage the emergency situation.
If a student is in violation of alcohol consumption and controlled substance rules can parents be informed?
Yes. If a student is under the age of 21, UTHSC is permitted to inform parents of any violation of law or policy concerning the possession of alcohol or controlled substances.
Can law enforcement unit records be disclosed to my parents?
Law enforcement unit records can be disclosed to anyone including parents, federal, state and local law authorities WITHOUT the consent of the student. UTHSC has its own campus police unit, as do many colleges and universities. Any records maintained by these units are exempt from privacy restrictions of FERPA.
Can UTHSC disclose information to parents of dependent students?
Under FERPA, UTHSC may disclose any and all information to parents who have students that are dependent for tax purposes or if students voluntarily provide a waiver consenting to release of information WITHOUT their consent.
FERPA and parents of dependent students

A “dependent student” means a child under the age of 24 who is a student and who is claimed by a parent as a dependent of the parent on the parents’ Federal Income Tax Form (1040). FERPA allows the disclosure of non-directory information about the student to the parent if the institution can establish the dependency status of the student.

  • The parent(s) should make their request in writing, indicating the particular records requested and declaring specifically that the student is the requestor(s)’s dependent.
  • The institution must ask for the Federal Income Tax Form filed by the parents for the most recent tax year. The institution is not entitled to maintain a copy of that federal tax form; so verification is made and noted on the written request for records and the tax forms are returned to the parent(s).
  • Since FERPA rights belong to the eligible student, the institution should notify the student that his or her parent(s) have asked to review records. Like the advice that is mailed out upon receipt of a subpoena for records, the institution should instruct students that records will be provided to their parents for review on a particular date. If a student responds that he or she does not want the records shared with his or her parent(s), the institution should refer the parent(s) back to the student. At this point, in order to provide access to the student's records, a prior, written consent is required from the student.

The problem may arise when students indicate that they do not wish the institution to share records with their parent(s). Because the student is an adult and guaranteed full rights under FERPA, the recommendation in this case is that the institution refer the parent(s) back to the student. Our effective, non-emotional approach is to provide the parent(s) with a copy of our Annual Notification and explain that the privacy of student records is governed by federal regulations that guarantee students certain rights.

Faculty

May I post grades?
The public posting of grades by the student’s name, NetID, or social security number, without the student’s written permission, is a violation of FERPA. If necessary, instructors can assign students unique numbers or codes that can be used to post grades, but the order of the posting must not be alphabetic. Students may access final course grades on Banner Self Service soon after they are posted by faculty.
What are acceptable methods for returning assignments and exams?
Leaving personally identifiable, graded papers (exams, homework, etc.) unattended for students to view is a form of publicly posting grades. If these papers contain personally identifiable information, then leaving them unattended for anyone to see is a violation of FERPA. If papers cannot be returned personally and individually during class, an alternative would be to leave the graded papers with an assistant who would ask students for proper identification prior to releasing them.
Under FERPA, to which student records do I have access?
Faculty members are normally considered “school officials.” Under FERPA, school officials may obtain access to only those education records in which they have legitimate educational interests. “Legitimate educational interest” is defined as an interest which results from the duties officially assigned to a school official and which are related to the school official’s responsibility for facilitating the student’s development. In other words, a faculty member should only access those student education records that are needed to perform his or her job as an official of the university. Any other access is a violation of FERPA.
What student information may I release?

FERPA protects the privacy of education records. As a faculty member you have a responsibility to protect educational records in your possession. You may not disclose personally identifiable information about students or permit inspection of their records without written permission from the student, unless such action is covered by certain exceptions permitted by FERPA (see Annual Notification of Student Rights section of these webpages for more information on the disclosure of personally identifiable information from students’ education records.

Information that is defined as “directory information” may be released without student consent unless the student has directed the university to withhold such information. If such a hold is in place, then Banner Self-Service will show a notification of confidentiality and no information may be released about that student, including no verification as to whether or not the individual is a student at UTHSC. If a student has a filed a Request to Withhold Directory Information Form, "Confidential" will appear next to the student's name on the class list (class roll) that is pulled from Banner Self-Service. 

Protection of student privacy is crucial, and the consequences of mishandling of student information are significant. When in doubt, do not release student information—consult your department head, college administrators, or the Registrar’s Office.

What is considered directory information?

Directory information may be released without the written consent of the student, unless the student has filed a Request to Withhold Directory Information Form. If such a hold is in place, then no information may be released about that student, including no verification as to whether or not the individual is a student at UTHSC. If a student has a filed a Request to Withhold Directory Information Form, "Confidential" will appear next to the student's name on the class list (class roll) that is pulled from Banner Self-Service.

An institution may not disclose or confirm directory information without the student’s written consent if the student’s social security number or other non-directory information is used alone or combined with other data elements to identify the student.

The following items are considered “directory information” at UTHSC:

  • Student's name
  • Local and permanent addresses
  • Institutional email address
  • Telephone number
  • Year of birth
  • Major field of study
  • Dates of attendance at UTHSC
  • Degrees, honors, and awards granted or received and dates granted or received
  • Academic classification such as freshman, sophomore, junior, senior, etc.
  • Most recent educational institution previously attended
  • Dissertation or thesis title
  • Advisor or thesis/dissertation advisor
  • Participation in officially recognized organizations, activities, sports
  • Parents' names and addresses (city and state only)
How do I know if a student has restricted access to his/her directory information?
If a student has a filed a Request to Withhold Directory Information Form, "Confidential" will appear next to the student's name on the class list (class roll) pulled from Banner Self-Service. No information may be released about that student, including whether or not the individual is a student at UTHSC.
Am I required to verify the identity of the student or others to whom I disclose education records?

Yes. FERPA requires that institutions use “reasonable methods” to verify the identity of students, school officials, parents and others to whom information from education records is disclosed. The use of “widely available” information to verify identity, such as name, date of birth, social security number or student ID number, is not considered reasonable or sufficient. 

Identity verification must include at least one element that is either known or possessed only by that person, for example:

  • Photo ID
  • Random PIN or token
  • Password
  • Biometric factors (ex: fingerprint scan, voice or facial recognition, etc.)
How does FERPA apply to student workers?
Students who perform work for the university may be designated as “school officials” with a “legitimate educational interest” for specific purposes. The same requirements and responsibilities for full-time faculty and staff exist for student workers. Student workers must be trained on FERPA just as if they were faculty or staff.
What are the limits in working with parents?

At the elementary and secondary school level, FERPA gives parents the right to access education records. When a student reaches 18 years of age or is attending an institution of post-secondary education, FERPA rights transfer from parent to student. Therefore, at the postsecondary level, parents have no inherent rights to access their son’s or daughter’s education records.

Information such as a student’s enrollment in a course, class attendance, or progress/grades in a course is personally identifiable information that constitutes part of the student’s education record that is protected under FERPA. Students may grant a parent or other individual view-only access to specific records by filing a Student Education Record Release Form.  

If a student has provided such consent to discuss records, faculty members may release information to parents, provided the identity of the parents has been authenticated. Parents of a dependent student may challenge denial of access to educational records by providing to the Registrar’s Office evidence that they declare the student as a dependent on their most recent Federal Income Tax form (Form 1040).

In this case, faculty members may release information to parents, provided the identity of the parents has been authenticated. Even if no specific information can be released about a student, faculty members may be able to assist parents by providing general information that does not violate FERPA, such as course requirements, a copy of the course syllabus, and other similar information.

How should I handle letters of recommendation?

As a faculty member, you may be asked to write a letter of recommendation on behalf of a student. If the letter includes information that falls within FERPA’s definition of educational records, such as grade point average or other non-directory indicators, the student’s written consent to disclose this information would be necessary. Unless the student has waived the right of access to the letter, he or she would have the right to read it, because it is part of the student's educational record.

The written release from the student should:

  • Specify the records that may be disclosed
  • State the purpose of the disclosure, and
  • Identify the party or class of parties to whom disclosure may be made (FERPA § 99.30)
  • Be signed and dated by the student 
  • Statements in a recommendation that are based on the faculty member’s personal observations about a student do not require a written release from the student.
What happens during crisis situations and emergencies?
If non-directory information is needed to resolve a crisis or emergency situation, an education 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. Factors considered in making this assessment are: the severity of the threat to the health or safety of those involved; the need for the information; the time required to deal with the emergency; and the ability of the parties to whom the information is to be given to deal with the emergency. If information is released in this type of situation, a record must be placed in the student’s file describing the articulable and significant threat that formed the basis for the disclosure (the circumstances of the emergency).
Questions or Concerns? 
If you encounter a situation where you are uncertain on how to respond to a request for protected student information, please ask your supervisor for assistance. General questions may be directed to the Office of the Registrar. Comments or suggestions about this website should be addressed to the Office of the Registrar, 910 Madison Avenue, Suite 520, Memphis, TN  38163, 901-448-5568 or email registrar@uthsc.edu

Staff

Under FERPA, to which students records do I have access?
Staff members are normally considered “school officials.” Under FERPA, school officials may obtain access to only those education records in which they have legitimate educational interests. “Legitimate educational interest” is defined as an interest which results from the duties officially assigned to a school official and which are related to such a school official’s responsibility for facilitating the student’s development. In other words, a staff member should only access those student education records that are needed to perform his or her job as an official of the university. Any other access is a violation of FERPA.
What student information may I release?

FERPA protects the privacy of education records. As a staff member you have a responsibility to protect educational records in your possession. You may not disclose personally identifiable information about students or permit inspection of their records without written permission from the student, unless such action is covered by certain exceptions permitted by FERPA (see Annual Notification of Student Rights section of these webpages for more information on the disclosure of personally identifiable information from students’ education records. 

Information that is defined as “directory information” may be released without student consent unless the student has directed the university to withhold such information. If such a hold is in place, then Banner will show a notification of confidentiality and no information may be released about that student, including no verification whether or not the individual is a student at UTHSC. If a student has a "Confidential" will appear next to the student's name on the class list (class roll). 

Protection of student privacy is crucial, and the consequences of mishandling of student information are significant. When in doubt, do not release student information—consult your department head, college administrators, or the Registrar’s Office.

What is considered directory information?

Directory information may be released without the written consent of the student, unless the student has filed a Request to Withhold Directory Information Form. If such a hold is in place, then no information may be released about that student, including no verification as to whether or not the individual is a student at UTHSC. If a student has a filed a Request to Withhold Directory Information Form, "Confidential" will appear next to the student's name on the class lists (class rolls). 

An institution may not disclose or confirm directory information without the student’s written consent if the student’s social security number or other non-directory information is used alone or combined with other data elements to identify the student. 

The following items are considered “directory information” at UTHSC:

  • Student's name
  • Local and permanent addresses
  • Institutional email address
  • Telephone number
  • Year of birth
  • Major field of study
  • Dates of attendance at UTHSC
  • Degrees, honors, and awards granted or received and dates granted or received
  • Academic classification such as freshman, sophomore, junior, senior, etc.
  • Most recent educational institution previously attended
  • Dissertation or thesis title
  • Advisor or thesis/dissertation advisor
  • Participation in officially recognized organizations, activities, sports
  • Parents' names and addresses (city and state only)
How do I know if a student has restricted access to his/her directory information? 
If a student has a filed a Request to Withhold Directory Information Form, "Confidential" will appear next to the student's name on the class list (class roll). No information may be released about that student, including whether or not the individual is a student at UTHSC. 
Am I required to verify the identity of the student or others to whom I disclose education records?

Yes. FERPA requires that institutions use "reasonable methods" to verify the identity of students, school officials, parents and others to whom information from education records is disclosed. The use of "widely available" information to verify identity, such as name, date of birth, social security number or student ID number, is not considered reasonable or sufficient.

Identity verification must include at least one element that is either known or possessed only by that person, for example:

  • Photo ID
  • Random PIN or token
  • Password
  • Biometric factors (ex: fingerprint scan, voice or facial recognition, etc.)
How does FERPA apply to student workers?
Students who perform work for the university may be designated as “school officials” with a “legitimate educational interest” for specific purposes. The same requirements and responsibilities for full-time faculty and staff exist for student workers. Student workers must be trained on FERPA just as if they were faculty or staff.
What are the limits in working with parents?

At the elementary and secondary school level, FERPA gives parents the right to access education records. When a student reaches 18 years of age or is attending an institution of post-secondary education, FERPA rights transfer from parent to student. Therefore, at the postsecondary level, parents have no inherent rights to access their son’s or daughter’s education records.  Information such as a student’s enrollment in a course, class attendance, or progress/grades in a course is personally identifiable information that constitutes part of the student’s education record that is protected under FERPA. Students may grant a parent or other individual view-only access to specific records by filing a Student Education Record Release Form.  

If a student has provided such consent to discuss records, faculty members may release information to parents, provided the identity of the parents has been authenticated.  Parents of a dependent student may challenge denial of access to educational records by providing to the Registrar’s Office evidence that they declare the student as a dependent on their most recent Federal Income Tax form (Form 1040).  In this case, faculty members may release information to parents, provided the identity of the parents has been authenticated. Even if no specific information can be released about a student, faculty members may be able to assist parents by providing general information that does not violate FERPA, such as course requirements, a copy of the course syllabus, and other similar information.

How should I handle letters of recommendation?

As a staff member, you may be asked to write a letter of recommendation on behalf of a student. If the letter includes information that falls within FERPA’s definition of educational records, such as grade point average or other non-directory indicators, the student’s written consent to disclose this information would be necessary. Unless the student has waived the right of access to the letter, he or she would have the right to read it, because it is part of the student's educational record.

The written release from the student should:

  1. Specify the records that may be disclosed
  2. State the purpose of the disclosure, and
  3. Identify the party or class of parties to whom disclosure may be made
  4. Be signed and dated by the student (FERPA § 99.30) 

Statements in a recommendation that are based on the staff member’s personal observations about a student do not require a written release from the student.

How are subpoenas handled?
At UTHSC, subpoenas for student education records are generally directed to the Registrar, Bursar, Office of Student Affairs, or other offices responsible for maintaining the specific records that are requested. Legal Counsel is consulted when a subpoena is received.
What happens during crisis situations and emergencies?
If non-directory information is needed to resolve a crisis or emergency situation, an education 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. Factors considered in making this assessment are: the severity of the threat to the health or safety of those involved; the need for the information; the time required to deal with the emergency; and the ability of the parties to whom the information is to be given to deal with the emergency. If information is released in this type of situation, a record must be placed in the student’s file describing the articulable and significant threat that formed the basis for the disclosure (the circumstances of the emergency).
 Where are FERPA-related forms?
 Please see "Access to Student Records" in the Forms section of the Registrar website
 Questions or concerns?
 If you encounter a situation where you are uncertain on how to respond to a request for protected student information, please ask your supervisor for assistance. General questions may be directed to the Office of the Registrar. Comments or suggestions about this website should be addressed to the Office of the Registrar, 910 Madison Avenue, Suite 105, Memphis, TN  38163, 901.448.2495 or email registrar@uthsc.edu

Last Published: Apr 3, 2019