FERPA for Faculty, Staff and Student Workers

FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974) is federal legislation in the United States that protects the privacy of students’ educational record information. The act applies to all educational institutions that receive federal funds.  FERPA states eligible students (students in attendance at an educational institution) have the right to:

  • inspect and review the education records the school is keeping on the student.
  • request a correction to those records.
  • control the disclosure of certain aspects of the student’s education record.
  • file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education.

FERPA also mandates that higher ed. institutions must obtain written permission from eligible students in order to release any personally identifiable information that is “non-directory” information but allows colleges and universities to classify part of the education record as “directory” information.

As the Records Custodian and FERPA Coordination unit for the institution, the Registrar’s Office is responsible for reviewing and approving requests from campus partners related to the release of student record information to 3rd party vendors. These requests must meet the following criteria:

  • Data is related to an application or service-specific need for information about students
  • Data use is only for official UWM administrative or academic purposes
  • Data use is Consistent with the Board of Regents Acceptable Use Policy https://www.wisconsin.edu/regents/policies/acceptable-use-of-information-technology-resources/
  • Data Request should be focused on a direct relationship between the data elements requested, purpose of the application and the potential benefit of the campus community
  • Data requester must be aware of the Information Security Policy (S-59)

Please complete the Access to Services Data Request (pdf) and submit it to the Registrar’s Office in these situations.

Directory Information

Directory information is information contained in a student’s education record that would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed. FERPA requires each institution to define its directory items. UWM designates the following information as Directory Information:

1) Student’s name, address (mailing, home, email), telephone number;
2) Date (month and day) and place of birth;
3) Designation of school/college and level in school;
4) Major field of study;
5) Dates of attendance, including whether or not currently enrolled;
6) Enrollment status, including semester credit load and part/full time status;
7) Degrees earned and dates of graduation (includes anticipated graduation dates);
8) 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);
9) Participation in officially recognized activities and sports;
10) Height and weight of members of athletic teams;
11) Previous higher education institutions attended;
12) Enrollment Delivery Mode.

Non-Directory Information

Non-directory information is any education record not classified as directory information. Non-directory information in an education record that cannot be released without prior written consent from the student. Some examples of non-directory information include: birth year. religious affiliation, grades, class schedule, etc.

This private information must not be released to anyone, including parents of the student, without written consent from the student. This applies to all student records, whether or not directory information has been excluded. University staff may access this information only if they have a legitimate need to use it in fulfillment of official duties.

Conditions for Release of Education Records

Designated University employees may release non-directory information under certain strictly defined conditions. If someone outside your college or department requests non-directory information, refer the requestor to the Registrar’s Office.  The Registrar’s Office Staff can evaluate the request and ensure that it is handled according to FERPA and University policy.

Important note: In the event of a health or safety emergency, student information may be released to appropriate persons as required to protect the safety of students.

Who Is Responsible?

YOU!!  If you have access to student data, you are responsible for its proper handling. No matter what the form or content, you are accountable for handling student records in accordance with FERPA and University policy.

Where do I get Training for FERPA?
Before receiving access to student records within PAWS, UWM faculty, staff and student workers are required to complete online Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) training.  The online FERPA tutorial and quiz require approximately 15 to 25 minutes to complete (requires Macromedia’s Flash plugin).

In addition to the required online training, staff in the Registrar’s Office are available if further information or training are needed. Contact the Registrar’s Office with any questions or requests for more information.

What constitutes student consent?
According for FERPA, an eligible student has the right to consent to the disclosures of non-directory information contained in the student’s educational records, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent.

Student Consent to disclosure of information

Should a student wish to consent to the release non-directory information contained within their educational records to third parties, UWM provides two primary ways for students to give third parties access to their educational record information: PAWS Designate Access, and Student Consent release. For more detailed information see the One Stop website.

Exceptions to student consent

In most cases student consent is required in order to release information contained within a student’s educational record to third parties. However, FERPA allows schools to disclose records, without written consent, to the following parties or under the following conditions:

  • UWM officials with legitimate educational interests. A school official has a legitimate interest if the official needs to review an educational record in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibility.
  • 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 university
  • Accrediting organizations
  • To 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.
Quick FERPA guidelines

The following quick guidelines that should be followed by ALL UW-Milwaukee faculty, staff, and student workers:

#1: FERPA recognizes a person enrolled in post-secondary education as a “student” and provides that individual certain rights, regardless of age. Therefore, a parent does not have an inherent right to access his/her child’s education records.
#2: Faculty, staff and student workers have access to education records for the sole purpose of performing their jobs professionally and responsibly. They have a responsibility to protect the confidentiality of education records in their possession, regardless of the medium in which the records are presented.
#3: Education records are considered confidential and may not be released without the written consent of the student, with the exception of unrestricted Directory Information. It is the responsibility of faculty, staff and student workers to verify that student Directory Information is not restricted before releasing it.
#4: School officials, including field supervisors for student teachers and student interns, must protect the privacy of education records and not disclose personally identifiable information about a student or permit inspection of the student’s records without his or her written consent. The student’s written signed consent must contain three elements:

  1. Specify the records to be released
    Examples: grades; notes based on observations; general assessment of performance of student in a class or in a field-based experience
  2. Identify the party or class of parties to whom the records should be released
    Examples: prospective employer, non-UW-Milwaukee school official, scholarship committee member
  3. Indicate the reason for the release
    Examples: as part of an application for employment, admission into a graduate program, application for a scholarship or grant