Privacy Rights of Students (FERPA)

The Family Educational Right and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974 (Public Law 93-380), as amended, Oregon Revised Statutes 351.065, and their implementing regulations, afford students certain rights with respect to their educational records and require Concordia University to assure that those students' rights are not abridged.

Student Record Privacy

FERPA protects the privacy of all "education records," in any medium, maintained by Concordia University. Although the law was written in 1974, its coverage is not limited to paper copies. All student education records, including records about students contained in computer databases, are protected.

It is important to respect the privacy of students. Even though a record is not protected by FERPA, it does not mean that the record can be freely released. For example, other laws protect employment and medical records. Medical records used to accommodate a disability should be kept separately from a student's "education records."

A student is any individual who is or has been enrolled as a student at Concordia University. This includes students who are enrolled in any Concordia course, whether attending the main campus, an off-campus site, or online, regardless of the student's age. FERPA continues to apply to a student's records even after they have graduated or otherwise left the University.

Most student records at the university are considered education records that are protected by FERPA.

Examples of education records include:

  • Admissions information for students once they are enrolled;
  • Biographical information including date and place of birth, gender, nationality, information about race and ethnicity;
  • Grades, test scores, evaluations, courses taken, and official communications regarding a student's status;
  • Coursework including papers and exams, class schedules, as well as written, email or recorded communications;
  • Disciplinary records;
  • Student's financial and financial aid records;
  • Internship program records;
  • Employment records related to a student's employment in a position for which only students are eligible.

Education Records include any information or data recorded in any medium that is directly related to a student and maintained by the University or by a person acting for the University. Record mediums include, but are not limited to, electronic databases and files, handwriting, print, tapes, film, e-mail, microfilm, and microfiche.

Some university records are not defined as educational records in FERPA, and the FERPA procedures do not apply to them. However, other legal restrictions do apply to them and they also may not be released. Any subpoena or request for release for these records should be referred to the Office of the Registrar. Some examples are the following:

  • Employment records when the employment is not connected to student status (e.g., a staff member who happens to be pursuing a degree at the institution, as opposed to a student employed under the work-study program);
  • Medical and mental health records used only for treatment of the student;
  • Alumni records that do not relate to or contain information about the person as a student (e.g., information collected by the University pertaining to alumni accomplishments).
  • Law enforcement records maintained by Campus Public Safety are not education records under FERPA, but may be subject to other restrictions

This is a list of examples only; it is important that all university records be maintained with appropriate restrictions.

Student Rights under FERPA

FERPA protects four specific rights of students. The right to:

Inspect
Students have the right to inspect and review their education records in a timely manner. Specifically, students have the right to inspect their records within 45 days of their request.

Amend
Students have the right to request the amendment of their education records that they believe are inaccurate or misleading.

Consent
Students have the right to consent to disclosures of the personally identifiable information contained in their educational records.

Complain
Students have the right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by Concordia University to comply with the requirements of FERPA.

Student education records may not be disclosed to anyone unless:

  • the student has given written consent, or
  • the request fits one of the legal exceptions.

However, FERPA allows an institution to define "directory information" that can be released. Consent from a student is not generally required for the release of directory information and it may be viewed and released to the public, unless the student has placed a confidentiality restriction on its release. Concordia defines directory information as the following:

  • Name
  • Address, phone & e-mail
  • Dates of attendance
  • The fact of enrollment, and whether full-time, half-time or less than half-time
  • Field(s) of study (major, minors, etc.)
  • Degrees, honors and awards
  • Number of credits earned, including class standing (i.e. freshman, sophomore, etc.)
  • Thesis title/topic
  • Status as a graduate teaching fellow and teaching assignment
  • Participation in officially recognized activities and sports
  • Weight and height of members of athletic teams
  • Photographs
  • Concordia Identification Number

Concordia University’s primary use of directory information is in writing press releases for students involved in music, drama, athletics or representing Concordia University in other public capacities.

The University may disclose directory information without the student’s prior written consent. Students have the right to establish a confidentiality restriction on the release of their records, including directory information. Please note that such withholding requests are binding for all information to all parties other than for educational purposes. Students should consider all aspects of a directory exemption prior to filing such a request. Request for nondisclosure will be honored by the institution for only one academic year commencing with fall semester; therefore, the exemption form must be filed annually in the Registrar’s Office within the first two weeks of the fall semester.

Restrictions to Student Access

Students have a right to access and review their education records, subject only to reasonable time, place and manner restrictions. However, a student does not have the right to see:

  • confidential letters of recommendation (those to which the student has waived access in writing),
  • financial information of their parents,
  • those items not defined as education records, or
  • records that contain information on more than one student, in which case the student may see only those portions of the record that pertain to herself or himself.

What about parents?

One area of FERPA that generates confusion is the right of a parent to access student record information. In this case, Oregon law applies as well as FERPA. Oregon law prohibits giving parents access to students' information except with the student's written consent.

Although FERPA is a federal law, it is written in such a way as to permit institutions to be more restrictive in some cases. Since FERPA is permissive regarding parents' access to information, and Oregon law is restrictive, Oregon law is what prevails in this case.

Get more information concerning FERPA at http://www.cu-portland.edu/academics/registrar/student-privacy and http://www.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html or contact the Registrar.