FERPA FAQ - QCC

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)?

Also known as the “Buckley Amendment,” FERPA is a federal law enacted in 1974 which affords students certain rights with respect to their education records. Specifically, it affords students the right to:

  1. Inspect and review their educational records

  2. Request amendment of inaccurate or misleading records

  3. Consent to disclosure of personally identifiable information (PII) contained in their education records

  4. File a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by Queensborough Community College to comply with this law

QCC strives to fully comply with this law by protecting the privacy of student records and judiciously evaluating requests for release of information from those records. FERPA authorizes the release of “Directory Information” without the student's prior consent under certain conditions which are set forth in the Act. QCC has defined its “Directory Information” in accordance with the law and CUNY policy.

To what records does FERPA apply?

FEPRA applies to the education records of persons who are or have been in attendance at QCC. FERPA applies to all educational records in whatever medium (paper and/or digital, including email) they are maintained by QCC, or by a party acting for QCC, and that are directly related to the student.

What are education records?

Education records are records that are:

  1. Directly related to a student who is currently enrolled or has been enrolled at QCC, and has actually attended a class

  2. Maintained by an educational agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution

  3. Includes both Directory Information and Personally Identifiable Information (PII)

Who can access education records?

Access to education records is limited to those individuals who are college officials with a legitimate educational interest in the information.

What is a School Official?

A School Official is a person employed by the University in an administrative, supervisory, academic, research, or support staff position (including law enforcement and health services staff); a person or company with whom the college or University has contracted as its agent to provide a service instead of using University employees or officials; a student serving on an official college or University-wide committee, such as a disciplinary committee; or an individual assisting another School Official in performing his or her tasks. Members of the Board of Trustees are also School Officials. A contractor, consultant, volunteer or other party (collectively “contractor”) to whom a college or the University has outsourced institutional services or functions may be a School Official so long as the contractor is performing services that would otherwise be performed by employees, is under the direct control of the college or the University with respect to the use and maintenance of education records, and is subject to the requirements on use and re-disclosure of PII set out below. The State Comptroller, and his or her agents and representatives, are also School Officials for the purposes of auditing CUNY's educational programs.

What is “Directory Information?”

Directory Information is information contained in the education records of a student which would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed. A college may disclose Directory Information to persons with a legitimate interest in such information. At QCC Directory Information includes:

  1. Name
  2. Address (to limited recipients set forth below)*.
  3. Email address (to limited recipients set forth below)*.
  4. Telephone number (to limited recipients set forth below)*.
  5. Attendance dates (semesters and sessions, not daily records).
  6. Photograph.
  7. 8-digit student ID number (but only if the identifier cannot be used to gain access to education records except when used in conjunction with one or more factors that authenticate the user’s identity).
  8. Enrollment status (full or part-time, undergraduate or graduate, etc.).
  9. Level of education (credits completed).
  10. Degree enrolled for and major field of study.
  11. Participation in officially recognized activities and sports (teams).
  12. For members of athletic teams only, height and weight.
  13. Degrees, honors and awards received.

*Address, email address and telephone number may be released only to employees of the University and its constituent colleges for the purpose of conducting legitimate University business. They may not be shared with individuals and organizations outside the University. Directory information does not include a student’s social security number, identification number, race, ethnicity, or gender. This is considered Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and should not be disclosed.

What is Personally Identifiable Information (PII)?

PII includes, but is not limited to:

  1. The student’s name or preferred name
  2. The name of the student’s parent or other family member
  3. The address of the student or other family member.
  4. Personal identifiers, such as the student’s social security number or biometric record.  A biometric record means a record of one or more measurable biological or behavioral characteristics (such as fingerprints) that can be used for automated recognition of an individual.
  5. Other indirect identifiers, such as the student’s date of birth, place of birth, or mother’s maiden name
  6. Other information that, alone or in combination, is linked or linkable to a specific student, and which would allow a reasonable person in the school community to identify the student
  7. Information requested by a person who the college reasonably believes knows the identity of the student to whom the education record relates.

Does the request for the records need to be made in person?

No, the request for records can be made in any manner, including but not limited to emails, regular mail, phone calls, or in person. If you are not sure whether you should disclose information, please contact Lois Florman at lflorman@qcc.cuny.edu or 718-631-6379 for guidance before responding to a request for information.

Is prior consent always necessary before releasing information from a student's education record?

Prior consent is not necessary to release or confirm “Directory Information” from a student's education records unless the student has placed a non-disclosure request on his/her records. However, all requests of this nature should be referred to the Registrar's office staff. If you are not sure whether you should disclose information, please contact Lois Florman at lflorman@qcc.cuny.edu or 718-631-6379 for guidance before responding to a request for information.

Can students control disclosure of “Directory Information?”

Yes, students are notified of their right to control the disclosure of Directory Information in the Annual Notification of Rights under FERPA, which is published in the online bulletin. If the student wants to prevent disclosure of Directory Information, the student is required to complete a Request to Prevent Disclosure of Directory Information form and submit the form in person at the Registrar's Office with a photo ID. If a student elects to control disclosure, no information will be disclosed on the student, nor will verification of enrollment be given to any callers. This non-disclosure rule applies until the student revokes the document, including after the student leaves QCC.

How is compliance monitored?

The Family Policy Compliance Office (FPCO) monitors schools for compliance. Students have the right to file complaints with the FPCO alleging failure by QCC to comply with the requirements of the Act. Failure to comply may result in a loss of federal funding for financial aid and educational grants and/or civil litigation.

What are parents' and students' rights under FERPA?

When a student turns 18 years old or enters a postsecondary institution at any age, the rights under FERPA transfer from the student's parents to the student. Under FERPA, a student to whom the rights have transferred is known as an "eligible student." Although the law does say that the parents' rights afforded by FERPA transfer to the "eligible student," FERPA clearly provides ways in which an institution can share education records on the student with his or her parents.

Does FERPA give parents the right to see the education records of their son or daughter who is in college?

When a student turns 18 years old or enters a postsecondary institution at any age, all rights afforded a parent under FERPA transfer to the student ("eligible student"). However, FERPA provides ways in which a school may - but is not required - to share information from an eligible student's education records with parents, without the student's consent. For example:

  1. Under FERPA, schools may release any and all information to parents, without the consent of the eligible student, if the student is a dependent for tax purposes as defined in the Internal Revenue Code (Section 152). A copy of the parent's latest tax return may be requested as documentation.

  2. A college may disclose personally identifiable information from an education record to appropriate parties (including the student's parents) in an emergency if the information is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals. This exception applies where a college, taking into account the totality of the circumstances, is able to articulate a significant threat to the health or safety of a student or other individual and discloses information to any person whose knowledge of the information is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals. The Office of the General Counsel and Vice Chancellor for Legal Affairs should be consulted, if possible, prior to the release of information under this emergency provision.

  3. The disclosure is to a college official who has a legitimate educational interest in the record and the record is reasonable necessary in order to fulfill the official's professional responsibilities for the University.

  4. The disclosure is to an official or employee of another college, or other institution of postsecondary education, where the student seeks or intends to enroll or where the student is already enrolled so long as the disclosure is for purposes related to the student's enrollment or transfer, provided that the college also gives the student written notice of such disclosure, and upon request, a copy of the record that was disclosed.

  5. The disclosure is to authorized representatives of the Comptroller General of the United States; the Secretary of Education of the United States; the Attorney General of the United States; or State and local educational authorities, where access to the education records is in connection with an audit or evaluation of Federal or State supported education programs or for the enforcement of or compliance with Federal legal requirements which relate to those programs.

  6. The disclosure is in connection with financial aid for which the student has applied or which the student has received, if the information is necessary for purposes such as the determination of eligibility, and the amount thereof, and enforcement of the terms and conditions of the aid.

  7. The disclosure is to comply with a judicial order or court-ordered subpoena. In such instances, the college must notify the student by mail of the subpoena five days in advance of compliance, except a shorter period may be authorized by the General Counsel and Vice Chancellor for Legal Affairs, unless the disclosure is in compliance with a subpoena issued for law enforcement purpose where the court has ordered that the existence or the contents of the subpoena or the information furnished in response not be disclosed. The Office of the General Counsel and Vice Chancellor for Legal Affairs should be contacted if a law enforcement agency such as a District Attorney, United States Attorney, or Grand Jury issues a subpoena for a student's records and directs or requests that the student not be informed.

  8. The disclosure is to an organization conducting a study for or on behalf of the college, pursuant to a written agreement, to (A) develop, validate, or administer predictive tests, (B) administer student aid programs, or (C) improve instruction, so long as the study does not permit personal identification of parents and students by those other than representatives of the organization with legitimate educational interests, and so long as the information is destroyed or returned to the educational institution after the study is over.

  9. The disclosure is to accrediting organizations to carry out their accrediting functions.

  10. The disclosure is of the final results of a disciplinary proceeding against a student whom the college has determined violated an institutional rule or policy in connection with alleged acts that would, if proven, also constitute a crime of violence or non-forcible sex offense. The final results which may be released are the disciplined student's name, the violation committed, and the sanction imposed. The violation committed includes the rules violated and the essential findings of fact supporting the determination. This only applies to disciplinary proceedings in which the final results were reached after October 6, 1998. The information released may not include the name of any other student, such as a victim or witness, absent the consent of that student.

  11. The college may disclose the final results of a disciplinary proceeding to the victim of an alleged perpetrator of a crime of violence or non-forcible sex offense, even if the institution concluded that no violation was committed.

  12. If a college determines that a student under the age of 21 has committed a disciplinary violation with respect to the use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance, the parent or legal guardian may be informed. The determination may be made other than through a disciplinary proceeding. The student must be under 21 at the time of the disclosure.

  13. A student's records may be used in litigation brought by the student against CUNY, or litigation commenced by CUNY against the student. Information may also be provided to a third party when the student has made a complaint to a government or similar agency having the power to take official action against the institution.

  14. The disclosure concerns sex offenders and other individuals required to register under Section 170101 of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (Wetterling Act), 42 U.S.C . 14071, and the information was provided to the college under that statute and applicable federal guidelines.

If you are not sure whether you should disclose information, please contact Lois Florman at lflorman@qcc.cuny.edu or 718-631-6379 for guidance before responding to a request for information. This includes requests made in any manner, including but not limited to emails, phone calls, or in person.

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