Student Services :: Student Records

Right To Privacy

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

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 the 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 (transcript) by completing and signing a transcript request form that is available in the VWCC Records and Admissions Offices. The form may also be downloaded from the VWCC website.

If a student is requesting an unofficial transcript of their records and has attended Virginia Western within the last three years, they may log on to the MyVWCC and download/print an unofficial copy of their transcript.

Who is protected under FERPA?

Students who are protected under FERPA are those students who are currently enrolled or formerly enrolled, regardless of their age or status in regard to parental dependency. Students who have applied but have not attended the college, and deceased students do not fall under FERPA guidelines.

Student's rights under FERPA

Eligible students have the right to inspect and review their educational records within 45 days of the day Virginia Western receives a request for access. The eligible student should submit the request to the Registrar and identify the record(s) they wish to inspect. The Registrar will make arrangements for access and will notify the student of the time/place where the records may be inspected.

An eligible student may also ask the college to amend a record believed to be inaccurate or misleading. If the school decides to not amend the record, the parent or student then has a right to a formal hearing. If, after the hearing, the school still chooses to not amend the record, the eligible student has the right to place a statement with the record commenting on the contested information.

Lastly, a student may formally request that VWCC not release Directory Information on their behalf. This request must be submitted to the Registrar in writing or added by the student in their on-line Student Center account. When this request is made, a notation will be flagged in the VWCC Student Information System and every reasonable effort will be made to safeguard the confidentiality of such information. In addition, once this request has been made, the student will not be allowed to request a transcript via the Web in the college's student information system, nor will the college provide employment (or other) authorizations for the student. If the student wishes for this information to be released, he/she will be required to submit written authorization, with proof of identity, to the college Records Office prior to releasing a transcript or other information. This request will remain in effect until the student submits a written notice to remove the restriction or they update their Student Center account.

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 IRS) may obtain their child's records, but must submit proof of the student's dependency (via most recent federal tax form) prior to receiving the requested information.

As far as FERPA is concerned, a student's spouse is an "unrelated third party", and therefore, has no rights under FERPA. While there is an exception that allows a college to disclose educational information to parents of a financially dependent student in the absence of consent, there is no such exception for spouses, even if the spouse is supporting the student.

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. A school official is a person employed by Virginia Western in an administrative, supervisory, academic or research, or support staff position (including law enforcement unit personnel and health staff); a person or company with whom Virginia Western has contracted (such as an attorney, auditor, or collection agent); a person serving on the Board of Trustees; or a student serving on an official committee, such as a disciplinary or grievance committee, or assisting another school official in performing his or her tasks. 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 responsibility. Note: VWCC teachers and other school officials have legitimate educational interests in students' education records to conduct educational research.
  • In connection with Financial Aid
  • Other schools to which a student is seeking to transfer/enroll
  • Parents of a dependent student, as defined by the IRS.  The college may release a student's records upon request, but the parent must submit proof of the student's dependency (via most recent federal tax form) prior to receiving the requested information
  • Specified officials for audit or evaluation purposes
  • Individuals who have obtained court orders or legally issued subpoenas
  • Certain government officials in order to carry out lawful functions
  • State and local authorities within a juvenile justice system, pursuant to specific State law
  • Health and safety emergencies
  • Accrediting organizations or organizations conducting studies for VWCC

Directory Information

Under FERPA guidelines, a student's record may not be disclosed without written authorization unless the requested information falls under the category of "Directory Information." VWCC may disclose information on a student without violating FERPA if it has designated that information as Directory Information. The following information has been classified as Directory Information by VWCC and 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, faculty and staff will avoid releasing a student’s address or phone number without written authorization.

  • Student name
  • Address, E-mail Address, Telephone Number
  • Dates of attendance
  • Number of credit hours enrolled
  • Grade level
  • Major field of study
  • Degrees received
  • Awards and honors
  • Photos
  • Most recent educational institution
  • Participation in clubs and activities
  • Weight/height of members of athletic teams

Please Note: The college reserves the right to publish the names of students who receive academic honors.

Non-Directory Information

The following information does not fall into the category of Directory Information at VWCC. Other than the exceptions listed below, this information cannot be disclosed without the student's written authorization:

  • Grades or GPA
  • Social Security # or EmplID
  • Student’s Race or Gender
  • Date and Place of Birth

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
Telephone: 540-857-7236
Fax: 540-857-6102

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