Family Education Rights and Privacy Act

Union College Policy--Access to Student Information
Responsible Office:
College Records Office
Telephone 402.486.2529
Updated November 2009

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Policy Statement

Union College students have specific rights and privileges regarding the college's maintenance, disposal, and release of personal information and records.

Reason for Policy

Union College maintains students' personal information and records and is responsible for their custody, release, and alteration. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) requires that students be advised of their rights concerning certain personal or education records maintained by an institution or by a party acting on behalf of that institution.

Entities Affected by the Policy

The Act applies to all institutions that receive funds administered by the Secretary of Education.

Anyone employed by or under contract with Union College and in possession of, or has access to, education records (see below for definitions).

Who Should Read This Policy?

  • Faculty and staff with access to Union College student education records
  • All Union College students
  • Parents/guardians of Union College students

Definitions

These definitions apply to these terms as they are used in this policy.

Custodian - Anyone possessing information about a current or former student. Each custodian has the responsibility for proper maintenance, disposal, and release of education records.

Directory Information - Personal information about a student. Specifically, name, home town, home address, local address, local telephone number, photograph, e-mail address, birth day and month, dates of college attendance, major field of study, degrees and awards received, participation in officially recognized activities and sports at Union College only.

Education Records - Education Records are defined as those records, directly related to a current or former student containing a student's name, social security number or other personally identifiable information. This includes information or data recorded in any medium. Education records are those maintained by anyone employed by or under contract with Union College but do not include records which are the sole possession of the maker and are not accessible or revealed to any individual.

FERPA - The Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974. Also known as the Buckley Amendment.

Legitimate Educational Interest - The official need to review an educational record by a school official in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibility.

Other Information - Personal information, other than education records, about a student, maintained in a variety of places and released only under very specific circumstances. This information is not protected by FERPA.

Counseling/pastoral and health records are protected under the patient/client confidentiality policy.

Strategies for Compliance

Union College information about present and former students is divided into two categories: Education Records and Other Information. The Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) covers education records, and gives students:

  • the right to inspect their own education records;
  • the right to challenge information in those education records as inaccurate, misleading, or in violation of their privacy rights;
  • the right to keep their education records private.
  • Students are also notified of the FERPA rights in the college bulletin and on the college website.

Caution: If there is any conflict or inconsistency between the provisions of FERPA and this policy, the provisions of FERPA prevail.

Custodianship

The custodian of information was, until recently, considered to be a single person in an office with responsibility for its maintenance and release. As more information is stored electronically its access becomes substantially simpler and more widespread. It is therefore necessary to deem anyone with access to information about a current or former student, either electronic or otherwise, a custodian of this information.

Releasing Education Records

The following information may be released without the student's knowledge or consent, subject to certain restrictions:

  1. Directory Information may be released unless a student indicates otherwise at the time of registration. Students who wish no release of their Directory Information must inform the Records Office in writing. A student may rescind a "no release" request at any time in writing to the Records Office.
  2. Education records may be released to a college official with legitimate educational interest in this information.
    1. A college official is:
      1. A person employed by the college in an administrative, supervisory, academic, research/assessment position;
      2. A person employed by or under contract to the college to perform a special task, such as an attorney or auditor.
    2. This college official has a legitimate education interest if:
      1. Performing a task specific to his or her job description or contract agreement;
      2. Performing a task related to the student's education;
      3. Performing a task related to discipline of the student; or
      4. Providing a service or benefit relating to the student or student's family, such as health care, job placement, or financial aid.
    3. Caution: Education records may be released to a college official over the telephone, but only if the identity of the inquirer can be personally authenticated, and he or she has a legitimate interest in the education records.
  3. Education records, to certain officials of the U.S. Department of Education, state or local educational authorities, or the Comptroller General, in connection with certain state or federally supported educational programs.
  4. Education records, in connection with a student's request for or receipt of financial aid, when necessary to determine the eligibility, amount, or conditions, of the financial aid, or to enforce the terms and conditions of the aid.
  5. Education records, to accrediting organizations to carry out their functions.
  6. Education records, to comply with a judicial order or a lawfully issued subpoena.
  7. Education records, to appropriate parties in a health or safety emergency.

Recording Requests for Release of Information

A custodian who releases education records must maintain a record of all releases of this information. The record will indicate the name of the party making the request, any additional party to whom it may be released, and the legitimate interest the party had in requesting or obtaining the information. The student may inspect this record of requests.

Student's Inspection of Education Records 


A student may inspect and review his or her own education records after a written request to the appropriate custodian of that education record. The request must identify  the education record or education records desired. An appropriate college staff person will make the needed arrangements for access.

Rights of the College to Refuse to Provide Access

Union College reserves the right to refuse a student to inspect the following information:

  • financial records of the student's parents;
  • letters and statements of recommendation; 
  • education records connected with an application to attend the college if that application was denied or the student never attended Union College.

Union College reserves the right to deny transcripts or copies of information not required to be made available by FERPA in either of the following situations:

  • the student has an unpaid financial obligation to the college;
  • there is an unresolved disciplinary action against the student.

Service of Subpoena

If a custodian of an educational record is served with a subpoena, appearance and/or release of education records, the custodian must consult the Records Office of Union College before complying.

USA Patriot Act

Due to the events on September 11, 2001, a new law was enacted in October 2001 called the USA Patriot Act.

Although the law is not specifically aimed at colleges, it gives the government the power to search and seize college records. Authorities can browse medical, financial, educational, computer, and any other records without showing evidence of a crime. The law overrides existing state and federal privacy laws if the FBI claims that the information is connected to an intelligence investigation.

In response to this law, Union College has implemented the following procedure:
If any employee of Union College is asked to disclose information about student records to a federal law-enforcement agent, the employee is to contact the Director of Records who will then consult with the College Vice President of Academic Administration and the college's legal counsel on how to proceed.

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