Right to Privacy (FERPA)
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974 is a federal law that was enacted to protect the privacy of students and their educational records. The intent of the legislation is to protect the rights of students and to ensure the privacy and accuracy of "educational information."
The Act provides for the right of eligible students and parents to:
- inspect and review their educational records
- request an amendment to records that are believed to be inaccurate
- require the school to obtain written consent prior to disclosure of personally identifiable information, except those items noted herein
- file a complaint with the US Dept. of Education concerning alleged failures by the college to comply with FERPA
- You may also call 800-USA-LEARN (800-872-5327) or visit
- Family Policy Compliance Office
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue. S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20202-5920
- You may also call 800-USA-LEARN (800-872-5327) or visit
Educational Information refers to any record maintained by an educational institution, including files, documents, and materials of any type which contain information directly related to students, and which allows a student to be identified.
What is not considered Educational Information?
- Sole possession records or private notes held by educational personnel which are not accessible or released to other personnel
- Law enforcement or campus security records which are solely for law enforcement purposes
- Records related to individuals who are employed by the college
- Records related to treatment provided by a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist or other recognized professional
- Records of the college which contain only information about an individual obtained after that person is no longer a student at the college (i.e., alumni records)
Release of Educational Record
Students must authorize the release of their educational information/record by completing a Student Information Release form (PDF), identifying a PIN number and third parties to whom information should be released. Third parties will need to identify the PIN number that the student identifies before information can be released.
If a student is requesting an unofficial transcript of their records and has attended Virginia Western within the last three years, they may log into their MyVWCC account and download/print an unofficial copy of their transcript.
Current students may log into their MyVWCC account to request an official transcript of their records or complete, sign and submit a Transcript Request form (PDF).
Who Is An Eligible Student Under FERPA and How Are They Protected?
Students become "eligible" and are protected under FERPA when they begin attendance at a higher education institution or have been previously enrolled and have an education record, regardless of age or status in regard to parental dependency. Per VCCS Counsel, an individual is a student if he/she is or has attended a class and their information is in the Student Information System (SIS). FERPA rights continue after the student leaves the college and are only terminated upon the death of the student.
Either a parent or an eligible student—but not both—is entitled to assert rights under FERPA. Parents of eligible students do not have rights under FERPA (20 U.S.C. 123g(d); 34 C.F.R. 99.3).
A student does not need to be enrolled in a program of study to be an eligible student. If a student attends any kind of course or program offered by the college, he/she is then considered an eligible student.
Students who have applied, but not attended the institution, and deceased students are not protected under FERPA guidelines.
Student's rights under FERPA
Eligible students have the right to inspect and review their educational records within 45 days of submitting a written request to Virginia Western. The student must submit the request to the Registrar and identify the records they wish to inspect. The Registrar will then make arrangements for access and notify the student of the time/place where the records may be inspected. The college is not required to supply copies of records unless for reasons such as great distance where it is impossible for the student to review the records.
A student may also ask the college to amend a record believed to be inaccurate or misleading. If the school decides not to amend the record, the eligible student then has a right to a formal hearing. If, after the hearing, the school still chooses not to amend the record, the eligible student has the right to place a statement with the record commenting on the contested information.
A student may formally request that Virginia Western not release Directory Information on their behalf by submitting a Student Request for Non-Disclosure of Records (PDF) to the Records Office or by changing the privacy settings in the Student Center through their MyVWCC account. Once this request has been made, every reasonable effort will be made to safeguard the confidentiality of directory information.
Students must be notified when the college receives a subpoena or court order requiring disclosure of the educational record before the college complies with the request.
Lastly, students have the right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by the college to comply with FERPA.
Parents Rights Under FERPA
Parents lose their FERPA rights when their child turns 18 or starts attending or taking classes in college (or any post-secondary institution), whichever happens first.
Under 20 USC 1232g(d) all rights of parents (including the right to inspect educational records and to consent to the disclosure of personally identifiable information) transfers to the student at the earlier of: 1) the attainment of age 18, or 2) attendance at an "institution of postsecondary education".
However, as stated later in this document, parents of a financially dependent student, defined by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), may obtain their dependent student’s records, after submitting proof of the student’s dependency (via most recent federal tax form). Requested information will not be released prior to the submission of this documentation.
Students can authorize the release of their education information to a parent, spouse, or other third party by completing an Information Release Form (PDF).
Faculty and staff need to be very careful when a parent calls and asks for information about a student. If there is not a Student Information Release form on file, the parent cannot identify the PIN number assigned by the student, and proof of financial dependency has not been established, disclosure – even to a parent – is unlawful.
Other than the financial dependent exception - which, again, requires documentation - the college may disclose non-directory information to a parent in these specific instances:
- Upon the student completing a Student Information Release form naming the parent and identifying a PIN number that the parent can identify. (Preferred)
- When the student is under the age of 21 and violates college rules regarding the use of alcohol or controlled substances.
- In the case of a health or safety emergency, if the knowledge of the information is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or others.
When is a student's consent not required?
There are several exceptions to releasing information without a student's written approval. Some examples are:
- school officials with "legitimate educational interests", i.e. dual enrollment high schools;
- other schools to which a student is enrolled or seeking to transfer;
- parents (or Custodial Parents) of a dependent student (defined by the IRS). A parent may obtain their dependent student’s records, but must submit proof of the student’s dependency (via most recent federal tax form) prior to receiving requested information. This information must be updated yearly for the parent to continue to have access to their dependent student’s records.
- specified officials for audit or evaluation purposes;
- appropriate parties in connection with financial aid;
- organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the school;
- to comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena;
- to comply with the Solomon Amendment;
- appropriate officials in cases of health and safety emergencies;
- the Virginia State Police and in accordance with the Wetterling Act regarding sexual offenders;
- State or local authorities auditing or evaluating federal or state supported education programs or enforcing federal laws which relate to those programs;
- state and local authorities, within a juvenile system, pursuant to specific State law; and
- parents of a student under the age of 21 who violates the college rules and/or federal/state or local laws regarding the use of alcohol or controlled substances.
Who Is Considered a "School Official"?
- a person employed by or under contract with the college in an administrative, supervisory, academic, or support staff position;
- a person serving on the Virginia Western Local Advisory board;
- a person or firm retained by the college to perform professional services, such as legal, accounting, or auditing services; or
- a person or company under contract with the college to manage or perform operations functions, such as the college bookstore.
What is "Legitimate Educational Interest"?
- Legitimate educational interest means a school official has a "need-to-know" regarding specific information in a student's record. It refers to any authorized interest or activity undertaken in the name of the college.
- Legitimate education interest exists when the school official is performing a task related to a student's education or is providing a service or benefit to the student.
- It exists when the school official is maintaining safety and security on campus.
- Access to an educational record must be necessary or appropriate to the operation of the college or to the proper performance of the educational mission of the college.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding these guidelines, please feel free to direct your questions (or requests for information) to:
VWCC Records Office
3094 Colonial Ave., SW
Roanoke, Virginia 24015
A copy of the FERPA Guidelines is available from the Records Office or can be accessed here (PDF).
Location: Chapman Hall C107
3094 Colonial Ave. SW
Roanoke, VA 24015