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Family Education Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA)

Wofford College complies with the amended Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (commonly referred to as the “Buckley Amendment or ‘FERPA’”). FERPA is designed to protect the confidentiality of records that educational institutions maintain on their students and to give students the right to access those records to assure the accuracy of their contents. Generally, FERPA requires that written consent from the student be received before personally identifiable information about the student is released. Institutions may release, without written consent, those items specified as public or directory information.

Rights Designated by FERPA
Exceptions Provided to Federal and State Authorities
Directory Information at Wofford
Withholding Directory Information
A Special Note Regarding Parents, Students, and Grades
Definitions

Rights Designated by FERPA

The following is a brief summary of your rights, as a student, under the Family Education Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA). 

  1. The right to inspect and review your education record within 45 days of the day the College receives a request for access. Students should submit to the Registrar, Dean, or Department Chair, a written request that identifies the record(s) they wish to inspect. (If the records are not maintained by the individual who received the request, that person will advise the student of the correct official to contact). The College official will make arrangements for access and notify the student of the time and place where the records may be inspected.  The student must provide photo id, in order to review the records.  The College is not required to provide copies of materials in the records unless, for reasons such as great distance, it is impossible for the student to inspect the records in person.
  2. The right to request an amendment of your education record if you believe it is inaccurate or misleading. If you feel there is an error on your record, you should submit a statement to the College official responsible for the record, clearly identifying the part of the record you want changed and why you believe it is inaccurate or misleading. That official will notify you of their decision and advise you regarding appropriate steps if you do not agree with the decision.  The rights of challenge under FERPA are not intended to allow students to contest, for example, a grade in course, because they felt the assigned grade should have been higher.
  3. The right to consent to the disclosure of personally identifiable information contained in your education record, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent. Examples of exceptions to consent of disclosure include:
    1. Access of education records by Wofford College officials and agents having a legitimate educational interest in the records.  A school official has a legitimate educational interest if the official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibilities for the College.
    2. Parents who establish the student’s dependency for federal income tax purposes according to the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, Section 152.  Please refer to the Special Note Regarding Parents, Students & Grades.  
    3. Upon request, Wofford will disclose education records without consent to officials of another college or university to which the student seeks or intends to enroll.
  4. The right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by the College to comply with the requirements of FERPA. The name and address of the office that administers FERPA is:

                    Family Policy and Compliance Office
                    U.S. Department of Education
                    400 Maryland Avenue, SW
                    Washington, DC 20202-4605

Additional information about FERPA can be found at the on the U.S. Department of Education’s website at: http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/index.html.

Exceptions Provided to Federal & State Authorities

As of January 3, 2012, the U.S. Department of Education's FERPA regulations expand the circumstances under which your education records and personally identifiable information (PII) contained in such records — including your Social Security Number, grades, or other private information — may be accessed without your consent. First, the U.S. Comptroller General, the U.S. Attorney General, the U.S. Secretary of Education, or state and local education authorities ("Federal and State Authorities") may allow access to your records and PII without your consent to any third party designated by a Federal or State Authority to evaluate a federal- or state-supported education program. The evaluation may relate to any program that is "principally engaged in the provision of education," such as early childhood education and job training, as well as any program that is administered by an education agency or institution. Second, Federal and State Authorities may allow access to your education records and PII without your consent to researchers performing certain types of studies, in certain cases even when we object to or do not request such research. Federal and State Authorities must obtain certain use-restriction and data security promises from the entities that they authorize to receive your PII, but the Authorities need not maintain direct control over such entities. In addition, in connection with Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems, State Authorities may collect, compile, permanently retain, and share without your consent PII from your education records, and they may track your participation in education and other programs by linking such PII to other personal information about you that they obtain from other Federal or State data sources, including workforce development, unemployment insurance, child welfare, juvenile justice, military service, and migrant student records systems.  

Directory Information at Wofford

The law allows the College to designate personally identifiable information contained in the student's educational record as "Directory Information."  This information may be disclosed, at the College's discretion, without the student's prior consent.  Wofford College currently designates the following items as Directory Information:

  • Student’s full name
  • Local and permanent address
  • Local and permanent telephone number
  • Email address
  • Hometown
  • Dates of attendance
  • Major and minor fields of study
  • Enrollment status
  • Class standing (e.g. junior)
  • Previous educational institutions attended
  • Participation in officially recognized sports and activities
  • Height and weight of student athletes
  • Awards and honors (e.g. Dean’s List)
  • Degree(s) conferred
  • Photographic or videotaped images of the student

Withholding Directory Information

FERPA grants Wofford the right to disclose Directory Information to anyone inquiring without having to ask for permission, unless you, the student, specifically request in writing that all such information remain confidential.

The decision to withhold directory information and enforce your rights of confidentiality should be made carefully. For example, in honoring your request to restrict directory information Wofford will NOT display your contact information in the online directory.  The College will refuse any future requests for such information from non-institutional persons or organizations.  The College will not release or verify your status as a student to a third party without your prior and express written permission for each instance. Third parties would include other institutions of higher education, scholarship foundations, family members, potential employers, colleagues, news/media outlets, etc. To prevent the release of Directory Information, a student must advise the Registrar's Office in writing, that any and all information with respect to that student will NOT be released.  The request for non-disclosure will remain in effect until such time, that the student, again, in writing revokes the request for non-disclosure (even after graduation).

A Special Note Regarding Parents, Students, and Grades

Grades and all other student education records are protected by FERPA. In compliance with the law, this ‘non-directory’ information requires the student’s written consent prior to its release by a school official to any source outside the College (including parents). Students are encouraged to provide to their parents a copy of each semester’s final grades available on myWofford or their degree audit available through DegreeWorks. As an alternative, students may request a transcript be sent to their parents, but this request must be submitted each semester.

Although FERPA allows post-secondary schools the discretion to release education record information to parents of tax dependent students upon presentation of tax returns to confirm dependency, the general practice at Wofford College, is to require written consent of the student, except where the release of education record information is otherwise authorized by law.

Definitions

For the purposes of this policy Wofford College uses the following definitions:

Directory Information:  information contained in an education record of a student that would not generally be considered harmful or an invastion of privacy if disclosed.
Disclosure:  to permit access to or the release, transfer, or other communication of personally identifiable information contained in education records to any party, by any means, including oral, written or electronic.
Education Records:  records that are directly related to the student and maintained by an educational agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution.  The term does NOT include:  records maintained by law enforcement, records maintained by Student Health Services, records maintained by the Alumni Office, records kept in the sole possession of the maker and not accessible by or revealed to any other person.
Personally Identifiable Information:  includes but is not limited to the student's name, name of parent or other family member, personal identifier such as the social security or student id number, a list of personal characteristics or other information that would make the student's identity easily traceable.
Record:  any information recorded in any way, including, but not limited to handwriting, print, computer media, video or audio tape, film, microfilm, and microfiche.
School Official:  a person employed by the institution in an administrative, supervisory, academic or research, or support staff position; a person or company with whom the institution contracted as its agent to provide a service; a person serving on the Board of Trustees; or a student serving on an official committee or assisting another school official in performing his or her tasks.
Student:  an individual who previously attended or is currently enrolled at an educational agency or institution.  Individuals that applied and/or registered, but never attended class are NOT considered students.