FERPA Information for Students

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Family Educational Rights Privacy Act (FERPA)

FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, is a federal law that pertains to the release of and access to educational records. The law, also known as the Buckley Amendment, applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education. To learn more, visit www.ed.gov.

For questions, contact:

Susan Neppl, registrar and director of financial aid
sneppl@nwhealth.edu
952-888-4777 ext. 387

FERPA applies to personally identifiable information in educational records

This includes items such as the student's name, names of family members, addresses, personal identifiers such as social security numbers, and personal characteristics or other information that make the student's identity easily traceable.

Definition of educational records

Educational records are all records that contain information directly related to a student and are maintained by an educational agency or institution, or by a party acting on its behalf. A record means any information recorded in any way, including handwriting, print, tape, film, microfilm, microfiche, and digital images.

Educational records do not include the following:

  • Sole possession records - records kept in the sole possession of the maker which are used only as a personal memory aid and are not accessible or reviewed by any other person except a temporary substitute for the maker of the record
  • Medical or psychological treatment records that include those maintained by physicians, psychiatrists and psychologists
  • Employment records, provided that employment is not contingent upon being a student
  • Law enforcement records
  • Records collected about an individual after that person is no longer a student

FERPA rights apply to students

At Northwestern, FERPA rights apply to students. A student is a person who is or has been in attendance at the institution, regardless of the person's age.  

Student rights under FERPA

Under FERPA, as a student, you have:

  • The right to inspect and review any of your educational records that Northwestern maintains
  • The right to seek amendment of these records
  • The right to consent to disclosure of these records
  • The right to file a complaint with the Family Policy Compliance Office, U.S. Department of Education

The University notifies students annually of their FERPA rights in the annual calendar booklet. If students believe that such rights have been violated, they may contact the Family Policy Compliance Office at the Department of Education, 400 Maryland Ave SW, Washington DC 20202-4605. Additional information is available at www.ed.gov.

A student's right to see and change educational records

Upon written request, the University shall provide a student access to his or her educational records except for financial records of the student's parents or guardian; and confidential letters of recommendation where the student has signed a waiver of right of access. If the records contain information on more than one student, the requesting student may inspect, review, or be informed on only the specific information about his or her own records.

A student may obtain copies of his or her educational records at a cost of 10 cents per page, an official transcript of academic record for $10.00, and an unofficial copy of the permanent academic record for $10.00. Educational records covered by FERPA normally will be made available within 45 days of the request.

The contents of a student's educational records may be challenged by the student on the grounds that they are inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise in violation of the privacy rights of the student by submitting a written statement to the custodian of records. The Registrar’s Office is the official custodian of records at the University.

Directory information

FERPA identifies certain information, called directory information that may be disclosed without the student's permission. The University has designated the following information as directory information:

  • Student's name
  • Local, permanent and email addresses
  • Telephone listing
  • Place of birth
  • Major fields of study
  • Dates of attendance
  • Enrollment status
  • Degrees, awards and honors received, including selection criteria
  • Most recently attended previous educational institution
  • Expected graduation date
  • Participation in officially-recognized activities
  • Student parking permit information
  • Job title and dates of employment when employed by the University in a position that requires student status

Restricting access to directory information (FERPA block)

A currently-enrolled student may restrict access to their directory information during the first 10 class days in any trimester. (Restricted information remains so until revoked by the student.)

FERPA block of an education record

A FERPA block on your education record means that no information is released about you to outside parties with the exception of third parties necessary for financial aid. In addition, you will not appear in the student directory and will have to sign special releases to appear in the yearbook, Student Senate directory or have your name appear publicly on an Academic Dean’s List.

Access to student educational records

According to FERPA, non-directory information may not be released without prior written consent from the student. Exceptions include access by appropriate University administrators, faculty members, or staff members who require access to educational records in order to perform their legitimate educational duties; officials of other schools in which the student seeks or intends to enroll; and in connection with a student's application for, or receipt of, financial aid.

Legitimate educational interest

Legitimate educational interest is access to educational records by appropriate University administrators, faculty members, staff members, appropriate administrators or staff members of Northwestern Health Sciences University, or contractors acting on behalf of the University, who require such access in order to perform their legitimate educational and business duties, when such records are needed in furtherance of the educational or business purposes of the student or University.

Authorization to discuss your information with outside parties

Students must give written permission for Northwestern to discuss their educational records with an outside party, such as a parent or a spouse. Concerns may include financial aid processing, account payment or academic performance. To grant permission, complete the Student Release of Information Form and return to the Office of the Registrar:

Permission for letter of reference and/or verbal recommendation

Students must give written permission for any Northwestern faculty member or administrator to write a letter of reference or provide a verbal recommendation for you that includes information that could be construed to be part of your student record (e.g. GPA, classroom observances).

Complete the Letter of Reference and/or Verbal Recommendation Form and provide it to the faculty member or administrator. If you want grade or GPA information included in the letter, you must provide the letter writer with a copy of your transcript (can be an unofficial copy).

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