FERPA Tutorial

What is FERPA?

FERPA stands for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (sometimes called the Buckley Amendment). Passed by Congress in 1974, the Act grants four specific rights to Eligible Students:

  1. The right to inspect and review their Educational Records
  2. The right to request the amendment of inaccurate or otherwise inappropriate Educational Records
  3. The right to consent to disclosure of their records
  4. The right to file a complaint with the Family Compliance Office in the U.S. Department of Education in Washington D.C. concerning alleged failure by an academic institution to comply with the requirements of FERPA


The Essence of FERPA

The Essence of FERPA can be summarized as follows:

  1. An Eligible Student must be permitted to inspect his/her own Educational Records.
  2. A University Official may not disclose Personally Identifiable Information about a student, nor permit inspection of his/her Educational Record by third parties; however, disclosure is permitted IF the official has the written consent of the student or such inspection is permitted by the exceptions written in the Act.


Key Terms

  • Eligible Student
    An Eligible Student is a student who is currently attending UWM or who has previously attended UWM. FERPA does not apply to applicants to UWM who have been admitted but who have not actually been in attendance. It does apply to students attending any educational program at UWM, whether credit, non-credit, degree, or non-degree.
  • University Officials
    University Officials are people employed by the University in administrative, supervisory, academic, research, or support staff positions, including university police and health services staff. University Officials also include people or companies, such as attorneys, auditors, collection agencies, or the National Student Loan Clearinghouse, with whom the University has contracted or to whom the University must report.
  • Educational Records
    An Educational Record is information recorded in any form that is directly related to a student and maintained by a college or university, or by those University Officials acting for the college or university.

    • Educational Records include:
      • Personal information
      • Enrollment records
      • Grades
      • Class schedules
      • Printed class lists
      • Graded test papers with Personally Identifiable Information related to the individual student

      The storage medium in which you find this information does not matter. A student’s Educational Record may be:

      • A document in the records and grades office
      • A computer printout in your office
      • A class list on your desktop
      • A computer display screen


    • Educational Records do not include:
        • Sole Possession Records: Records (desk drawer notes) of instructional, supervisory, and administrative personnel kept in the sole possession of the maker of the record and not revealed to anyone other than the maker’s substitute
        • Law Enforcement Records: Records of a campus law enforcement unit, created and maintained separately, and used solely for law enforcement purposes
        • Employment Records: Records relating to persons who are employees
          Note: records of individuals in attendance at UWM who are employed as a result of their status as students are Educational Records (e.g. work-study employees, graduate assistants)
        • Medical Records: Records kept and maintained by a health care professional, used solely in connection with treatment, and disclosed only to individuals providing treatment (e.g. records maintained by the Student Health and Wellness Center)
        • Alumni Records: Records that include information about an individual after he or she is no longer a student (e.g. information gathered on the accomplishments of an alumnus)


  • Personally Identifiable Information
    Personally Identifiable Information includes:

      • The names of the student, the student’s parents, and other family members
      • The student’s address
      • A personal identifier such as a Social Security Number (SSN) or student number (Campus ID)
      • A list of personal characteristics or other information that would make the student’s identity easily traceable


  • Directory Information
    • Directory Information is information contained in the Educational Record of a student that generally would not be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed. This includes:
      • Student’s name, address (mailing, home, email);
      • Date (month and day) and place of birth;
      • Designation of school/college and level in school;
      • Major field of study;
      • Dates of attendance, including whether or not currently enrolled;
      • Campus;
      • Enrollment status, including semester credit load and part/full time status;
      • Degrees earned and dates of graduation (includes anticipated graduation dates);
      • Honors and awards received, including academic awards (receipt of a scholarship or fellowship, inclusion on the Dean’s list, or receipt of other academic awards);
      • Participation in officially recognized activities and sports;
      • Height and weight of members of athletic teams;
      • Previous education institutions attended;
      • Enrollment Delivery Mode.

      UWM will not disclose Directory Information without first giving notice to Eligible Students of the categories of Personally Identifiable Information that shall be treated as Directory Information. All Eligible Students have the right to refuse the disclosure of Personally Identifiable Information as Directory Information, subject to other overriding provisions of law. To withhold Directory Information, students must contact Enrollment Services in Mellencamp Hall, Room 274.

      “If a student has chosen to restrict the release of Directory Information, how do I respond to a caller?”

      If the University receives an inquiry about an individual who has restricted the release of his/her Directory Information, the caller is told:

      “Our records do not reflect Directory Information for this individual. Either this person has not enrolled at UWM or the student has elected to restrict this information.”

    • Directory Information does not include:
      • Social Security Number
      • Campus identification number
      • Age/year of birth
      • Gender
      • Religious affiliation
      • Residency status
      • Marital status
      • Married name or previous name
      • Parent/guardian name(s) and address(es)
      • High school units
      • Transfer credits
      • Courses completed
      • Grades
      • Credits, and grade points
      • Grade point average and rank in class
      • Current class schedule
      • Advisor’s name
      • Academic actions
      • Current disciplinary actions

The items listed above should NEVER be released without the written consent of the student.

Written Consent

Detailed information regarding the items listed above can be found in the online FERPA manual available on the Registrar’s Office Web Site: http://ferpa.uwm.edu.

*The Social Security Number and/or student number (Campus ID) is shown on all student transcripts. This is a standard practice and does not violate the rules of FERPA.


Key Concepts

  • Legitimate Educational Interest
    A University Official exercises Legitimate Educational Interest if the official needs to review an Educational Record in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibilities.
  • Student Access
    What a Student May View
  • An Eligible Student must be given access to his/her records, files, documents, and other materials maintained by the University that contain information relating to the student. This request must be fulfilled within 45 days of the date of request.

What a Student May Not View

  • Parents’ financial records (without written consent from the parent)
  • Law Enforcement Records

In general, the student may not access letters/statements of recommendation. There are exceptions to this rule. If further information is needed, please contact Enrollment Services at 229-6431.

  • Rights of Parents
    Parents MAY NOT have access to student records unless:
  • The student signs a consent form.
  • Written Consent
    UWM must obtain Written Consent from a student before disclosing any Personally Identifiable Information from his/her Educational Record. The Written Consent must:


  • Specify the records to be released
  • State the purpose of the disclosure
  • Identify the parties to whom disclosure may be made
  • Be signed and dated by the student

When is Written Consent Not Required?

    UWM may disclose the Educational Record, or components thereof, without the Written Consent of the student under the following circumstances:

  • If it is Directory Information and the student has not requested that Directory Information be “withheld”
  • To University Officials that have a Legitimate Educational Interest within the University for disclosure of the Educational Record
  • To officials at an institution in which the student seeks to enroll
  • In connection with a health or safety emergency if necessary to protect the student or others
  • To parents of a student younger than 21 years of age if the disclosure concerns discipline for violation of the campus drug and alcohol policy
  • To financial aid lenders checking enrollment status for loan purposes
  • To authorized representatives of the:
    • Secretary of the Department of Education
    • Office of the Comptroller General
    • State and local education authorities as part of an audit or program review
    • Research firms working for the University
  • In response to a court order and/or subpoena, after reasonable effort to notify the Eligible Student (unless ordered by the Court not to contact the student)

Detailed information regarding the items listed above can be found in the online FERPA manual available on the Registrar’s Office Web Site: https://uwm.edu/registrar/ferpa-facultystaff/.


A Brief Review


IF IN DOUBT, DON’T GIVE IT OUT! Do not release information about a student if you have doubts or questions about confidentiality or privacy issues. Refer these requests for information to Resgistrar’s Office in Mellencamp Hall, Room 274 or call x3800.

You are responsible for protecting student information in your possession.

Educational Records may not be released without the prior written consent of the student.

An individual’s Directory Information may be released without written consent, except when the student has filed a “Request to Withhold Directory Information.”

University employees may access and use Educational Records only as necessary to conduct official business that is related to the educational interests of the student.

Student Educational Record information must not be released to third parties outside the University, including the parents of a student, without the prior written consent of the student.

We must take appropriate measures to protect student records that are stored on personal computers, in file cabinets, or other forms of storage.


The DOs and DON’Ts


DO refer requests for information from the Educational Record of a student to the proper Educational Record custodian: the record custodian in your college/school, the Office of Student Life, or the Registrar’s Office.

DO keep only those individual student records necessary for the fulfillment of your teaching and advising responsibilities.

DO keep any personal professional records relating to an individual student separate from his/her Educational Record. Private notes of a faculty/staff member concerning a student intended for the member’s own use are not a part of the student’s Educational Record.


DO NOT display student scores or grades publicly in association with names, SSN, student numbers (Campus IDs), or other personal identifiers. If scores or grades are posted, use some code known only to the student. If a partial SSN or student number (Campus ID) is used, use no more than the last four digits. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should the list be posted in alphabetic sequence by student name.

NOTE: While FERPA does provide that these numbers may be used in score or grade posting, UWM rules prohibit the use of any part of an identifying number for this purpose.

DO NOT put papers, graded exam books, or lab reports containing student names and grades in publicly accessible places. Students are not to have access to the scores and grades of other students in the class in ways that allow the other students to be identified.

DO NOT request information from the Educational Record custodian without a Legitimate Educational Interest and the appropriate authority to do so.

DO NOT share a student’s Educational Record information, including grades or GPAs, with other faculty or staff members unless their official responsibilities identify their Legitimate Educational Interest in that information for that student.

DO NOT share information from a student’s Educational Record, including grades or GPAs, with parents or others outside the institution, without written permission from the student. This includes letters of recommendation.

DO NOT allow students to grade each other’s work when the score will be recorded.