Why FERPA Matters for Colleges and Universities

How to protect student privacy while keeping parents informed

Many parents of college students are surprised to learn that they don’t automatically have access to their students’ educational records. To avoid confusion, and to comply with the law, obtain written permission before sharing protected information and communicate the requirements of FERPA to your parents, students, faculty, and staff.

What is FERPA

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. It applies to educational agencies and institutions that receive funding under any program administered by the Department of Education.

Christian colleges and universities that receive federal funding administered by the Department of Education are required to comply with FERPA.

What does FERPA require of colleges and universities?

FERPA requires covered colleges and universities to obtain written consent from an eligible student before it can disclose protected information to a third party, including a student’s parents. An eligible student is a student who reaches the age of 18 or attends a college at any age. The protected information generally applies to a student’s educational records (such as graded papers, exams, transcripts, class schedule, student financial aid, and others), but also includes other personal information (such as country of citizenship, religious affiliation, or disciplinary status).

Sample Consent Form

Brotherhood Mutual provides a sample FERPA Consent Form for your institution to use as a reference when it creates its own form with the assistance of a local attorney.

In certain situations, FERPA does allow disclosure of these records without consent to:1

  • School officials with legitimate educational interests.

  • Other schools to which a student is transferring.

  • Specified officials for audit or evaluation purposes.

  • Appropriate parties in connection with financial aid to a student.

  • Organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the school.

  • Accrediting organizations.

  • Comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena.

  • Appropriate officials in cases of health and safety emergencies.

  • State and local authorities, within a juvenile justice system, pursuant to specific state law.

Additionally, FERPA requires covered educational institutions to annually notify students of their rights under FERPA, which include, but are not limited to:2

  • The student’s right to inspect and review his or her education record.

  • The right to seek to amend the student’s records.

  • The right to consent to disclosure of personally identifiable information contained in the student’s records.

  • The right to file a complaint with Office of Family Policy Compliance Office regarding an alleged failure by a school to comply with FERPA.

The annual notification is not required to be distributed directly to each student or parent. Many colleges and universities choose to make the annual notification available on their websites, but they should also make it available in student handbooks, a calendar of events, or posted in various locations throughout campus.

Below are additional FERPA resources created by the U.S. Department of Education:

FERPA General Guidance for Students

FERPA General Guidance for Parents

FERPA Regulations


Family Educational Rights and Privacy (FERPA), Department of Education, 2018, https://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html; See also 34 CFR § 99.31

2 FERPA Regulations 34 CFR Part 99. U.S. Department of Education, 2011, https://studentprivacy.ed.gov/node/548/#0.1_se34.1.99_15

December 30, 2019