Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

FERPA and Student Education Records Policy

Policy Statement

The institution maintains the privacy of student education records in its possession with the exception of those situations in which the law or consent of the student permits disclosure according to FERPA legislation.



FERPA (Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974) helps protect the privacy of student education records.  FERPA gives students the right to inspect and review education records, the right to seek to amend those records, and to limit disclosure of information from the records in general or to specific individuals.  The intent of FERPA is to protect the student, and to ensure the privacy and accuracy of student educational records.

FERPA does allow SMC to disclose directory information about students without written permission upon request from third parties without violation.  SMC has defined directory information as:  student’s name, SMC email address, curriculum, participation in officially recognized activities, dates of attendance, and degrees and awards received.  Students have the option to restrict release of this information by providing written notice to the Records Office.

Student Rights

The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) affords students certain rights related to their educational records.  They are:

  • The right to grant access to record(s) to specific individuals or an outside party through fulfillment of a written permission.  At SMC, written permission is provided from the student to the college through use of a specific form found in the Records Office.
  • The right to inspect and review the education records within 45 days of the day the college receives a request for access.  The student must submit to the Registrar a written request that identifies the record(s) to be inspected.  The college will make arrangements for access and notify the student of the time and place where the record(s) may be inspected.  If the college official to whom the request was submitted does not maintain the record(s), that official shall advise the student of the correct official to whom the request should be addressed.
  • The right to request an amendment to the student’s education record(s) the student believes is inaccurate or misleading.  The student may ask the college to amend a record believed to be inaccurate or misleading.  The student should write the college official responsible for the record, clearly identifying the part of the record to be changed, and specify why it is inaccurate or misleading.  If the college decides not to amend the record as requested by the student, the college will notify the student of the decision and advise the student of the right to a hearing regarding the request for amendment.  Additional information regarding the hearing procedures will be provided to the student when notified to the right to a hearing.
  • The right to consent to disclosures of personally identifiable information contained in the student’s education record, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent.  One exception, which permits disclosure without consent, is disclosure to school officials with legitimate educational interests.  A school official is a person employed by the college in an administrative, supervisory, academic, or support staff position (including law enforcement unit and health staff); a person or company with whom the college has contracted (such as an attorney, auditor, or collection agency); a person serving on the Board of Trustees; or a student serving on an official committee, such as disciplinary or grievance committee, or assisting another school official in performing his/her tasks.  A school official has a legitimate educational interest if the official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill her/his professional responsibility.  Upon request, the college discloses education records without consent to officials of another school to facilitate the student’s transfer and enrollment.
  • The right to file a complaint with the United States Department of Education concerning alleged failures by Southwestern Michigan College to comply with the requirements of FERPA.
    The complaint can be sent to the following office that administers FERPA:
    Family Policy Compliance Office
    U.S. Department of Education
    600 Independence Avenue, SW
    Washington, DC  20202-4605

Education Records

FERPA applies to the education records of persons who are or have been in attendance at postsecondary institutions.  FERPA does not apply to records of applicants for admission who are denied acceptance or, if accepted, do not attend an institution.

A student educational record includes all data; any form (paper, film, electronic, etc.) owned by the college and used to conduct business by school officials.  The records are directly related to a student (personally identifiable) and maintained by an education agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution.

The follow are examples of student educational records:

  • Personal information (race, gender, social security number, country of citizenship, address, telephone number)
  • Enrollment records
  • Grades
  • Student class schedules
  • Class attendance records

The following are not included in an education record:

  • Sole possession records (that is, private notes that a college employee makes about a student)
  • Law enforcement unit records
  • Employment records
  • Medical records
  • Post-attendance records

Access and Use

The following individuals or entities may have access to student education information:

  • The student and any outside party who has the student’s written permission
  • School officials who have “legitimate educational interest”
  • Parents of a dependent student as defined by the internal revenue code (proof must be provided)
  • A person in response to a lawfully issued subpoena or court order (the college must first make a reasonable attempt to notify the student)
  • Such other entities as permitted by federal regulations

Security and confidentiality are matters of concern to all SMC employees and faculty who hold a position of trust relative to student academic records.  Faculty and staff must comply with the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act in order to have access to any student records.  Only authorized individual and those who have the permission of the student should have access to student records, regardless of the age of the student.

Sending any student information by email is a violation of this act unless that email is secured.  College email accounts are the only email accounts that are considered secure for these purposes.  Final course grades and other personal information is not to be given to any caller over the telephone or to a third party (parents, friends, employer etc.). This includes parents of all college students regardless of the age of the student.  If the student wishes to have specific information released to a specific person or agency, the student should provide a written and signed request to the Records Office.  Employees of the college participate in training related to FERPA regulations in order to appropriately understand the implications of the law to their institutional role.  Employees who have questions regarding FERPA and its implementation should contact their supervisor and the Registrar for assistance in practicing the law appropriately.