FERPA

What is FERPA ?

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law under which schools must generally afford certain rights to students who are 18 years or over, or attending a postsecondary institution, including:

  • Access to their education records
  • An opportunity to seek to have the records amended
  • Control over the disclosure of information from the records

How am I informed about my rights under FERPA?

Dickinson College notifies students of their FERPA rights in the annual publication of the policy in the Student Handbook.

Under what circumstances may Dickinson College disclose information from education records without my consent?

Dickinson College may disclose information if:

  • College officials who have been determined by the College to have a legitimate educational interest in the information
  • The student is seeking or intending to enroll in another college
  • The disclosure is to certain authorized State and Federal government authorities as set forth in the FERPA regulations
  • The disclosure is in connection with financial aid for which the student has applied or which the student has received
  • The disclosure is to State and local officials or authorities to whom this information is specifically allowed to be reported or disclosed pursuant to State statutes
  • The disclosure is to organizations conducting studies for, or on behalf of, educational agencies or institutions to develop, validate, or administer predictive tests, administer student aid programs, or improve instruction
  • The disclosure is to accrediting organizations to carry out their accrediting functions
  • The disclosure is to comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena
  • Subject to additional FERPA requirements, the disclosure is to a victim of an alleged perpetrator of a crime of violence or a non-forcible sex offense
  • Subject to additional FERPA requirements, the disclosure is in connection with a disciplinary proceeding
  • The information disclosed has been appropriately designated as directory information by the college
  • Dickinson College may disclose education records to parents if the student is a dependent as defined by the Internal Revenue Code
  • Dickinson College may disclose education records to parents if a health or safety emergency involves their son or daughter
  • Dickinson College may inform parents if the student who is under age 21 has violated any law or its policy concerning the use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance

Who are the college officials with legitimate educational interest to whom my records may be disclosed without my consent?

Records can only be disclosed to those persons employed by the college in administrative, supervisory, academic, research or support staff positions, members of the Board of Trustees, or persons employed by or under contract to the college to perform a special task, such as attorneys or auditors performing tasks that are specified in their position descriptions or by a contractual agreements. The legitimacy of the educational interest in the records to be disclosed is determined by the college, not the individual, and is generally determined based upon the person’s position description, the performance of tasks related to a student’s education, discipline, or providing a service or benefit relating to the college, the student or the student’s family, such as health care, counseling, job placement or financial aid.

What is "Directory Information"?

FERPA defines "directory information" as information contained in the education records of a student that would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed. Typically, "directory information" includes information such as name, address, telephone listing, date and place of birth, participation in officially recognized activities and sports, and dates of attendance. A college may disclose "directory information" to third parties without consent if it has given public notice of the types of information which it has designated as "directory information," the student's right to restrict the disclosure of such information, and the period of time within which a student has to notify the college in writing that he or she does not want any or all of those types of information designated as "directory information." Dickinson College has designated the following information as directory information:

  • Full name
  • Home address and telephone number
  • Date and place of birth
  • Campus address, local address, e-mail address, and telephone number
  • Matriculated status (full-time, part-time, or non-matriculated) plus College major and class
  • Dates of college attendance
  • Most recent previous institution attended by student
  • Date of graduation
  • Degrees, honors and awards received
  • Participation in officially recognized activities and sports
  • Weight and height of members of athletic teams
  • Photograph or likeness

If I am a parent of a Dickinson College student, do I have the right to see my child's education records, especially if I pay the bill?

As noted above, the rights under FERPA transfer from the parents to the student once the student enters a postsecondary institution, regardless of the student’s age. Although the rights under FERPA have now transferred to the student, a school may disclose information from a student’s education records to the parents of the student, without the student's consent, if the student is a dependent for tax purposes. Neither the age of the student nor the parent's status as a custodial parent is relevant. If a student is claimed as a dependent by either parent for tax purposes, then either parent may have access under this provision. A copy of the tax return from the most recent year will be required for verification of dependent status.

While Dickinson reserves the right to rely on the provisions of FERPA that permit disclosure to parents without consent under these circumstances, it is not our custom to do so. Normally, Dickinson College works exclusively with the student without engaging the parents as part of our educational philosophy to encourage and empower students to accept responsibility and accountability for their actions and affairs. Nothing in FERPA prevents the student himself or herself from notifying his or her parents of any engagement with the College and seeking the advice, counsel and support of his or her parents as the student deems it appropriate. Deciding when and under what circumstances to include parents in decision-making is another educational opportunity for the student.

Can Dickinson College disclose financial records of an eligible student with the student's parents?

If the student is a dependent for income tax purposes, Dickinson College may disclose any education records, including financial records to a student's parents. If the student is not a dependent, then the student must generally provide consent for the school to disclose the information to the parents.

May Dickinson College disclose to a parent, without the student's consent, information regarding a student's violation of the use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance?

Yes, if the student is under the age of 21 at the time of the disclosure. Also, if the student is a "dependent student" as defined in FERPA, the institution may disclose such information, regardless of the age of the student, subject to the institution’s philosophy on such disclosures set forth in the FAQ about "Directory Information" above.