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FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act)

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (also referred to as FERPA) is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records.  It applies to all educational institutions that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education.  FERPA is enforced by:

The Family Policy Compliance Policy, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Ave., SW, Washington, D.C. 20202

FERPA allows for the designation of certain academic record information as “directory” or public information [academic record information which would generally be considered more sensitive]. Williamson College defines directory information as follows:

  • Student’s name
  • Local and permanent address
  • Telephone number(s)
  • Williamson College email address
  • Photograph
  • Date and place of birth
  • Major field of study (including second majors, minors, etc.)
  • Whether a student is currently enrolled
  • Enrollment status (full-time, part-time, etc.)
  • Class (freshman, sophomore, etc.)
  • Academic level (associate, undergraduate, graduate, professional)
  • Anticipated graduation date
  • Dates of enrollment
  • Degree(s) earned, including date and level of distinction
  • Most recent institution attended
  • Participation in officially recognized activities
  • Electronic Theses and Dissertations (ETD)

FERPA gives eligible students certain rights with respect to their educational records. These rights include:

  • The right to inspect and review their education records within 45 days of the day the university receives a request for access. Eligible students will submit a written request to the Registrar identifying the record(s) they wish to inspect. The Registrar will make arrangements for access and notify the student of the time and place where the records may be inspected. If the Registrar does not maintain the records, the student will be directed to the college official to whom the request should be addressed.
  • The right to request an amendment of any part of their education records that a student believes is inaccurate or misleading. Students should write the college official responsible for the record, clearly identify the part of the record they want changed, and specify why it is inaccurate or misleading. If the college decides not to amend the record, the student will be notified of the decision and of their right to a formal hearing.
  • The right to consent to disclosures of personally identifiable information (PII) contained in the student’s education records to third parties, however, FERPA allows schools to disclose those records, without consent to the following parties or under the following conditions:
  • School officials with legitimate educational interests. A “school official” is a person employed by the university in an administrative, supervisory, academic, research, or support staff position; contractors, consultants, and other outside service providers with whom the university has contracted; a member of the Board of Trustee; or a student serving on an official university committee, such as a grievance committee, or assisting another school official in performing his or her tasks; A “legitimate interest” is a school official requiring information to perform his/her duties. College administrators are considered advisors with legitimate educational need for their enrolled students, those seeking to enroll, or those they advise.
  • Other schools to which a student is transferring;
  • Specified officials for audit or evaluation purposes;
  • Organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the college;
  • Parents, if the student is a dependent for tax purposes;
  • Appropriate individuals (e.g., parents/guardians, spouses, health care professionals, police) where disclosure is in connection with a health or safety emergency and knowledge of such information is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals;
  • State and local authorities, within a juvenile justice system, pursuant to specific State law.
  • Lawfully issued subpoenas**
  • The right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education for any violation of FERPA. If a student believes the college has failed to comply with FERPA, a student may file a written complaint with the Family Policy Compliance Office.

**Williamson College will make a reasonable effort to notify a student who is the subject of a subpoena or court order before complying, so that the student may seek protective action (unless the court or issuing agency has prohibited such disclosure).

Williamson College will obtain the student’s written consent before disclosing personally identifiable information about the student from their records, unless the consent is not required by the law or the regulations.

Students may choose to designate some or all of their directory information confidential. Students often choose to mark their address or email confidential to decrease the receipt of mailings from third party vendors. However, choose carefully the option of marking your entire record confidential. Doing so will result in the following:

  • Student Name and Address excluded from web and printed directories (including Deans List)
  • Student Name and degree information excluded from all commencement programs and dean’s lists and award listings
  • Verification of enrollment, graduation, or degrees awarded will not be provided to third parties, including potential employers.
  • Alumni mailings

To mark part or all of your record confidential, you may do so via the Registrar’s office by calling 615-771-7821. You may choose to mark all or a portion of your record confidential. Confidentiality designations remain in effect until you remove or request removal including after graduation or discontinuation of enrollment at Williamson College.

Williamson College will keep within the student’s education record a list of individuals or organizations that have requested or obtained a specific student’s education record and their specific interest in that record.

MISSING Person Contact: Student(s) may denote a specific third party as emergency contact as primary in cases of missing person(s). In case of such an emergency, the university will first contact the missing person designee before any alternate emergency contact(s). To designate your Missing Person Contact(s), contact the Registrar’s office.

Reporting FERPA Complaints: If you wish to report a concern regarding exposure of your personally identifiable information without your permission, please contact the Registrar, Karen Hudson; phone (615) 771-7821. A complaint must be submitted within 180 days of any alleged violation.  Please specify the violation that occurred.  You may also file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education: Family Policy Compliance Office U.S. Department of Education 400 Maryland Avenue, SW Washington DC 20202-5901.

PROTECT YOUR RECORDS!!

Financial Records: Williamson College maintains compliance with the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and subsequent regulations as published by the Federal Trade Commission.

Use of Social Security Numbers: Williamson College uses a student information system generated number as the student identifier. However, in some instances, students are required to disclose their social security numbers (e.g., recipients of Financial Aid and employees of the University.)

If you have any questions or concerns relative to this information, please email us at info@williamsoncc.edu.

FERPA -Frequently asked Questions

Why should I care about FERPA?

Employees, of Williamson College with access to student education records, are obliged to comply with FERPA to protect those records according to the law.

Who are eligible students?

FERPA gives parents certain rights with respect to their children’s education records.  These rights transfer to the student when he/she reaches the age of 18 or attends a school beyond the high school level.  Students to whom the rights have transferred are “eligible” students.

When do FERPA rights begin?

A student is defined as someone currently or previously enrolled in an academic offering of the college.  This does not include prospective students.  For those newly admitted to Williamson College, FERPA becomes effective on the first day of classes for students who have enrolled in at least one course.

What if I sign the Non-Directory Information Release?

If you sign the form, the person(s) you designate will be given access to discuss and review your student record or student accounts with school officials, without providing your written consent each time. This stays on your record unless you request in writing it be changed or removed.

What if I sign the Nondisclosure of Directory Information request?

You have a right to decline to consent to the college’s disclosure to third parties of personally identifiable information.  There can be some negative consequences to blocking access to public information.  Williamson College will not be able to certify your enrollment status to agencies and schools upon graduation, to list your name and home town in any University Commencement Program, or to confirm your enrollment or degree, once it is earned, upon request.

Is it okay to send FERPA-protected data via email?

FERPA-protected data should never be sent via email, this is not a secure method of transmitting sensitive data.  Restricted information such as grades, GPA or personally identifiable information such as SSN should not be sent through email.  Please take care not to forward or reply to emails which are sent to you containing sensitive data without removing the data prior to transmission.

What is Personally Identifiable Information (PII)?

According to FERPA, personally identifiable information in an education record may not be released without prior written consent from the student.  Examples that may not be released without prior consent are social security number, grades and GPA, current class schedule, parent name and address, race/ethnicity, gender, country of citizenship, religious affiliation, disciplinary status, marital status, and test scores.

 What is the annual notification of student privacy rights?

Williamson College is responsible for notifying all enrolled students annually of their rights under the FERPA which include:

  • The right to review their education records;
  • The right to request an amendment to their education record and their right to a hearing if the request is unsatisfactory;
  • The right to request that the institution not disclose their directory information;
  • The right to file a complaint for any FERPA violation with the U.S. Department of Education.