The University of Georgia is legally and ethically obligated to protect the confidentiality of students’ records. The Office of the Registrar provides several resources to help faculty and staff learn about student privacy rights and responsibilities.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies
to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department
FERPA affords students certain rights with respect to their education records. Specifically, it affords students the right to:
- Inspect and review their education records
- Request the amendment of inaccurate or misleading records
- Consent to disclosure of personally identifiable information contained in their education record
- File a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures of the institution to comply with this law
The University of Georgia strives to fully comply with this law by protecting the privacy of student records and judiciously evaluating requests for release of information from these records. FERPA authorizes the release of Directory, or Public, Information without the student’s prior written consent under certain conditions set forth in the act.
Who must comply with FERPA?
Any educational institution or educational agency that receives funds under any program administered by the U.S. Secretary of Education.
Who is covered?
- Any individual who is taking or has taken a course at UGA regardless of age.
- In addition to degree-seeking students, this includes:
- Joint enrollment students
- Move On When Ready students
- Transient students
- Students auditing a course
- Distance education students
How does this affect parents?
University employees may not discuss a student's education record with a parent or guardian over the phone or in person without signed consent (PDF) from the student. Further, if the student has placed a restriction on the disclosure of Directory Information, University employees will not even be able to identify the student to a parent or guardian in order to comply with the law. Please also see 'What are the exceptions to Prior Consent?'
Can students control disclosure of Directory Information?
Yes, students are notified of their right to control the disclosure of Directory, or Public, Information in the UGA Bulletin, on the Office of the Registrar’s web site, and through means of an annual email. Students who wish to have access to their Directory Information restricted must notify the Office of the Registrar in writing (PDF). Upon receipt of this notification, a restriction will be placed on the student’s record. A restriction means that a student’s name will not appear in the online campus directory and will not be included in any news releases (such as those on Dean's list, graduation, etc). Information will not be released to prospective employers, insurance companies, credit agencies, etc. If anyone requests information for a student or former student who has a restriction, UGA will respond to the requestor with the following statement: “We do not have any information available on this individual.”
The restriction remains in place until the student submits a written and signed statement to the Office of the Registrar requesting to have the restriction removed. Restrictions will thus remain on a student's record after he or she has graduated from UGA until such a request is received by the Office of the Registrar.
What is an Education Record?
- Any record, with certain exceptions, maintained by an educational agency or institution or a party acting for the agency or institution that is directly related to a student or students
- This record can contain a student’s name, or students’ names, or information from which an individual student or students can be personally (individually) identified
- Both current and previous mediums for maintaining records are included, such as the Internet, mainframe systems, print, disks, tapes, film, microfilm, microfiche, etc
What is not an Education Record?
- Law enforcement records
- Grades on peer-graded papers before they are collected and recorded by an instructor
- Doctor-patient privilege records
- Alumni records
What is "Prior Consent for Release" ?
Students must provide a signed and dated written consent (PDF) before a school official may disclose education records, or Non-Directory Information. The consent must:
- Specify records that may be disclosed
- State purpose of disclosure
- Identify party or class of parties to whom disclosure may be made
Examples of items needing prior consent include:
- Grades and/or GPA
- Letters of recommendation which will contain information on grades and/or GPA (see below for further information)
What are the exceptions to Prior Consent?
- Directory Information
- To school officials with legitimate educational interests
- To federal, state, and local authorities conducting an audit, evaluation, or enforcement of education programs
- To organizations conducting studies on behalf of UGA
- To accrediting organizations
- To comply with a judicial order or subpoena
- In a health or safety emergency (see below)
- Disclosure to parent of a student under 21 if the institution determines that the student has committed a violation of its drug and/or alcohol rules or policies
- In connection with financial aid
What is a school official?
A school official is defined by the University as any faculty or staff member who needs to access student data for the fulfillment of his or her professional responsibilities at the University.
What is a legitimate educational interest?
A legitimate educational interest, or "need to know", is defined by the University as the justification by a faculty or staff member to access student data for the fulfillment of his or her professional responsibilities at the University.
Health or Safety Emergencies
FERPA allows institutions to release, without consent, information in connection with an articulable and significiant threat to the health or safety of a student or other individuals. Please review information provided by the UGA Behavioral Assessment and Response Council (BARC) for guidance on how to address concerns related to student behavior that presents a threat to oneself or others.
If a student needs to be located for emergency reasons, please contact the Office of Student Care and Outreach.
For other health and safety emergencies, please review information provided by UGA police.
How does FERPA apply to faculty and staff?
The law requires faculty and staff to treat students’ education records in a legally specified manner.
- Grades: Students' grades should not be displayed publicly. Posting by name, SSN (all or partial), or UGA ID (CAN or 810 number) must not be used. If scores or grades are posted, use a code known only to the respective instructor and the individual student. In no instance should the list be posted in alphabetical sequence by name. Grades, transcripts, and degree audit reports should also not be placed in plain view in open, public mailboxes.
- Papers: Graded papers or tests should not be left unattended on a desk in a public area, nor should students sort through graded papers or tests in order to retrieve their own work.
- Class rosters/grade sheets: These reports should be handled in a confidential manner, and the information contained on them should not be redisclosed to third parties.
- Parents: Parents and significant others do not have a right to information contained in a student’s education record.
- Employers: Employers do not have a right to educational information pertaining to a student.
- Student Information System: Access to the Student Information System is not tantamount to authorization to view the data. Faculty are deemed to be “school officials” and can access relevant data in the system. UGA staff may obtain access if they have a legitimate educational "need to know" to fulfill their professional responsibilities. Neither curiosity nor personal interest qualifies as a legitimate educational need to know instance. If a faculty or staff member obtains access to student data, it does not mean that faculy or staff member can have access to all student data in the student information system.
- Letters of recommendation: Statements based on your personal observation or knowledge do not require signed consent (PDF) from the student. However, you must have signed written consent to include information
about a student's grades, grade point average, or class rank.
- Please do not assume that it is OK with the student to include his or her grade or GPA even if you have received a verbal request from the student. It is vital that you have this permission in writing with the signature of the student.
- Class schedules: Do not provide anyone with a student’s schedule. As well, do not assist anyone other
than an authorized university employee in finding a student on campus.
- If someone indicates it is necessary to contact a student due to a family emergency, refer them to the Office of Student Care and Outreach for assistance.The number is 706-542-7774.
More about FERPA.
Still unsure about FERPA?
- Releasing a student’s information to the student when his or her identity can be positively identified
- Remember, telephone and non-UGA email are not reliable methods to make positive identification. UGAMail is allowed.
- Posting grades to ELC
- Protecting or securing confidential information on computer screens or desks from unauthorized individuals
- Handing students graded work directly to each student in or out of class
- Making sure that grades are not visible when returning student work
- Providing student information to school officials with a legitimate educational need to know
- Paying attention to any confidential indicators, such as a FERPA restriction on class rolls
- Understanding that Directory Information can be shared with third parties without student consent if the student does not have a FERPA restriction
- See your class roll to learn who has this restriction and who does not.
- Shredding or destroying unneeded confidential documents (i.e. personal notes and emails about specific students)
- Sharing information about students with third parties, parents, or others unless the student is present and provides consent (PDF), or the student has voluntarily provided a written request specifying what information you may share (i.e. letters of recommendation)
- Sharing Directory Information without a written release from a student who has a FERPA restriction.
- Emailing students any confidential information, including grades, unless specifically requested through their UGAMail account.
- This information can only be released directly to the student in person, on ELC, or through UGAMail. Posting confidential information to other websites, email addresses, blogs, etc. is not allowed.
- Releasing a student’s class schedule
- If there is an emergency in which an individual needs to locate a student, refer them to Student Care and Outreach (706-542-7774).
- Asking students in the class to hand back graded work to other students
- Leaving graded student work in a public area
- Sharing or discussing education records with your colleagues or co-workers unless a legitimate educational need exists
- Throwing away education records
Directory Information (Public Information) is information contained in an education record of a student which would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed. As per guidelines provided by the FERPA Compliance Office, UGA defines the following as Directory Information:
- A FERPA quiz which is required for anyone requesting access to the student information
systems. From the link, click on "Employee Certification"
- Group training
- One-on-one consultation