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:
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.
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).
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.
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 My VWCC account. Once this request has been made, every reasonable effort will be made to safeguard the confidentiality of directory information.
Once an official request of non-disclosure has been made, the student will not be permitted to request an official or unofficial transcript online in the college’s student information system. The student will be required to submit written authorization, with proof of identity, to the Records Office before a transcript will be released. Additionally, Virginia Western staff will not respond to phone calls from potential employers to verify enrollment for students who have submitted an official request of non-disclosure without the student’s written authorization. This request will remain in effect until the student submits a written notice to remove the restriction or they update their My VWCC account.
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 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:
There are several exceptions to releasing information without a student's written approval. Some examples are:
Disclosure means to permit access to or the release, transfer or other communication of personally identifiable information contained in education records by any means (oral, written, electronic, etc.), to any party except the party that provided or created the record.
Generally, the college must have written permission from a student before releasing information from the student’s record. One exception to this rule is categorized as "Directory Information."
Directory Information is personally identifiable information which includes educational information/records that would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of a student’s privacy. This information may be disclosed to a third party without a student’s written authorization. Although directory information may be disclosed, the college is in no way obligated to release such information.
Additionally, even though these items have been deemed Directory Information, it is the practice of the college to avoid releasing a student’s address or telephone number without written authorization.
Virginia Western has classified the information listed below as Directory Information.
Please Note: The college reserves the right to publish the names of students who receive academic honors.
The following information does not fall into the category of Directory Information at Virginia Western.
Outside of the exceptions listed below, this information cannot be disclosed without the
student's written authorization:
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
P.O. Box 14007
Roanoke, Virginia 24038-4007
A copy of the FERPA Guidelines is available from the Records Office or can be accessed here (PDF).
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