Understanding FERPA

Here are five frequently asked questions about FERPA to help students and families better understand what FERPA is and how it impacts you.

What is FERPA?

FERPA is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, which limits the sharing of students’ information that universities can provide to third parties. In other words, it helps protect student privacy and safeguard students’ educational records.

Under FERPA, students can inspect and review their educational records, request to amend their records, and have some control over the disclosure of their records. Records are considered education records when they are directly related to students and are maintained by an educational agency or institution, or by someone working on the agency or institution’s behalf. Education records continue to be protected by FERPA even after a student has left an institution.

Learn more about student privacy rights.

Who does FERPA apply to?

FERPA applies to parents of K-12 students and all college students, regardless of their age. All documents and information in regards to college students’ academics are confidential between the institution and the student and cannot be shared without students’ consent.

Information that falls under this protected category includes academic progress and grades, financial information, residential life, student life activities, disciplinary action, etc.

Note: Education records do not include sole possession records, medical or psychological treatment records, employment records, law enforcement records, grades on peer-graded papers before collected and recorded by a teacher, and records collected after someone is no longer a student.

If an institution receives funding from the federal government, it is required to comply with FERPA. Noncompliance means a loss of federal funding, but since its implementation, no institution has yet lost funding as a result of FERPA law.

When do rights transfer from parents to students?

FERPA allows parents to have rights to their children’s education records, which transfers to the student when he or she turns 18 or attends a postsecondary school (any education beyond high school). The latter is important to note: If a student attends a postsecondary institution, they are covered by FERPA regardless of their age.

What information can parents and families access?

Parents and family members who want to know about their college student’s or spouse’s progress in school are encouraged to discuss early on mutual expectations in sharing information. It’s important to note that FERPA regulations apply, even if a parent or spouse is paying the bills.

Universities can only speak with parents or a designated family member regarding educational records if the student has first given a signed and dated written consent. The form must specify which records can be disclosed, the purpose for the disclosure, and identify who may see the records. Family members of APU students can work with their daughter or son to gain permission to access certain information by having them go to home.apu.edu to give authorization through their privacy settings. Learn more about this process.

However, parents can request access to education records if the student is a dependent, while students are still claimed by their parents on taxes and until students are 24 years old and, after the parent writes a formal request and provides documentation that the student is their dependent.

Universities may disclose information to parents of students under 21 if the student violates university policy, such as in the use of drugs or underage alcohol, in specific cases.

What are FERPA exceptions?

Information that may be released to anyone without the consent of the student, unless the student indicates otherwise, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent. As a matter of California law, a student’s address and course schedule may not be disclosed as “directory information.”

Azusa Pacific University has designated the following categories as directory information, which may, at the university’s discretion, be released to the public without consent of the student:

  • Name of Student
  • Email addresses
  • Telephone numbers (local and permanent)
  • Photographs
  • Dates of registered attendance
  • Enrollment status (e.g., full time or part time)
  • School or division of enrollment
  • Major field of study
  • Nature and dates of degrees and awards received
  • Participation in officially recognized activities and sports
  • Weight and height of members of athletic teams

Learn more:

FERPA for Students

FERPA for Parents and Families

FERPA for Faculty and Staff