The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), also known as the “Buckley Amendment”, is a federal law regarding the privacy of student records and the obligations of the institution, primarily in the areas of release of the records and the access provided to these records. Any educational institution that receives funds under any program administered by the U.S. Secretary of Education is bound by FERPA requirements.
Under federal law, eligible students have:
- The right to inspect and review the student's education records.
- The right to request the amendment of the student’s education records that the student believes is inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise in violation of the student’s privacy rights under FERPA.
- The right to provide written consent before personally identifiable information (PII) from the student's education records can be disclosed, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent.
- The right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by postsecondary institutions to comply with the requirements of FERPA.
While FERPA guarantees eligible student access to their education records, all such records are the property of the University.
Eligible Students include all students in attendance at a postsecondary institution (regardless of age). FERPA rights are effective the first day of classes of student’s initial registration. FERPA applies to all students past and present.
The education records of individuals who applied to but have not attended an institution are not subject to FERPA guidelines.
Under FERPA, education records are defined as records that are directly related to a student and are maintained by an education agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution. Education records can exist in any medium, including: typed, computer generated, videotape, audiotape, film, microfiche and email, among others.
Education records do not include such things as:
- Records of instructional, supervisory and administrative personnel which are in the sole possession of the maker thereof, and which are not accessible to other persons.
- Information obtained through personal knowledge that is not recorded.
- Employment records (unless employment is contingent upon attendance; e.g. work study, graduate assistants).
- Records created or maintained by a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, or other recognized professional or paraprofessional which are used only in connection with the provisions of treatment of a student, and are not available to persons other than those individuals providing such treatment.
- Records and documents of a law enforcement unit, including those of the Department of University Police, except those available under the Freedom of Information Act.
- Financial records of student's parents.
- Alumni records.
Institutions may disclose “directory information” about a student without violating FERPA. At Oswego, directory information is defined as:
Address (including e-mail address)
Major field of study
Class Year (freshman, sophomore, etc.)
Dates of Attendance
Degrees, honors, and awards received
Previous educational institution attended
Expected date of graduation
Enrollment status (Full/Part-time)
Participation in officially recognized University activities and sports, including height and weight of student-athletes
All other portions of student educational record (e.g. grades, GPA, class schedule, gender, ethnicity, etc.) are considered “non-directory”.
Directory information may be made public unless the student requests, in writing, to the Registrar, that such information be released only upon his/her consent.
Access to Education Records
Student Education records may be accessed by:
The student (or outside parties specified and authorized by the student)
School Officials with legitimate educational interestPersons in response to a lawfully executed subpoena or court order. SUNY Oswego will make a reasonable attempt to notify the student prior to release, normally complying with the subpoena after two weeks have elapsed from the day of notifying the student.
Members of the institution who act in the student’s educational interest within the limitations of their “need to know.” These may include faculty, administrators, campus law enforcement staff, SUNY System Administration staff, clerical and professional employees and other persons who manage student education record information including student employees or agents. It may also include contractors, volunteers and others performing institutional functions.
Legitimate Educational Interest
A school official has a legitimate educational interest if the official requires the information in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibilities for the school.
When student consent is not required for disclosure of Education Records
Under FERPA, student consent for disclosure is not needed when the disclosure is (one or more of the following):
Releasing directory information.
In a health or safety emergency.
To school officials who have a legitimate educational interest.
In connection with financial aid; this includes Veterans’ benefits.
To officials of other schools in which the student seeks to enroll or is enrolled.
To accrediting organizations.
To comply with a judicial order or subpoena.
To organizations conducting studies for or on behalf of educational institutions.
To federal, state and local authorities involving an audit or evaluation of compliance with educational programs.
In response to requests submitted under the Solomon Amendment.
Releasing the results of a disciplinary hearing to an alleged victim of a crime of violence (as mandated by the Clery Act).
To parents or legal guardians of students who are under the age of 21 and who have been found in violation of University disciplinary policies (Code of Student Rights, Responsibilities and Conduct) with respect to any violation of any Federal, State, or local law, or of any rule or policy of the institution governing the use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance.
When the disclosure concerns a registered sex offender, including a student, and is information received under a community notification program under 42 USC § 14071.