Faculty & Staff FERPA FAQs

May I access confidential information about students? Access to personally identifiable information contained in educational records may be given to appropriate University administrators, faculty members, or staff members and appropriate administrators or staff members of Grand Valley State University who require this access to perform their legitimate educational duties. Faculty members do not have access to student academic records unless their normal job duties specifically require access. This type of access is termed "legitimate educational interest." Items defined as directory information (name, local phone number, email address, dates of attendance, enrollment status (less than half-time, half-time, or full time), degrees and certificates earned, date of degrees and certificates, and majors) may be released without a student's written permission, provided that the student has not chosen to restrict his or her directory information.

What are education records? Handwriting, print, computer, videotape, audiotape, film, microfilm, microfiche or email – of an institution that contain information directly related to the student and are maintained by an agency or institution or party acting on its behalf.

Education records do not include:

  • Private notes in your possession that are not accessible or revealed to any other persons and are not stored in the student's record
  • Medical records
  • Employment records when employment is not contingent on being a student, provided the record is used only in relation to the individual's employment
  • Records created and maintained by a law enforcement unit used only for that purpose, is revealed only to law enforcement agencies of the same jurisdiction, and the enforcement unit does not have access to education records
  • Information obtained when a person is no longer a student (i.e., alumni records) and does not relate to the person as a student.

How does FERPA affect letters of recommendation? Writing a letter of recommendation may require express, written permission from the student to allow you 1) to access the student's educational records and 2) to disclose confidential information about the student to a third party. A faculty member, or any other appropriate University official, may not disclose confidential information from a student's educational records to a third party without express, written permission from the student. Students can submit a FERPA Release for Reference Request form to be completed by the student requesting a letter of recommendation from a staff or faculty member.

What information may I disclose to parents? Without the express, written permission of the student, parents, like all other third parties, may have access only to the student's directory information. Students who wish to authorize a faculty member or university official to speak with an individual on their behalf need to complete a FERPA Permission to Release Non-Public Information form. If a student has restricted his or her directory information, then directory information is also considered confidential.

Does FERPA affect the return of assignments? Personally identifiable information about a student may not be disclosed without the student's express, written permission. Therefore, extreme care should be used to protect such information when returning assignments to students.

Does FERPA affect the posting of grades? University policy prohibits the disclosure of any confidential student information in a personally identifiable manner without the student's written consent. Faculty members may use student-specific, password-protected systems (such as Blackboard) to communicate academic work grades or other confidential information to students on an individual basis. Students may also access their final course grades using myBanner.

How do I properly dispose of confidential information? Dispose of all material containing confidential information (such as tests, papers, class rosters) by shredding or by placing them in a receptacle intended for the collection of material to be disposed of in a secure manner.

Do I have to release information from a student's educational record? FERPA regulations state that you MAY release directory information about a student, but FERPA does not require or compel you to do so.  

Do I have to keep a record of the release of information from a student's educational record? A record of each request for access and each disclosure must be kept, unless the request was made by or the disclosure was made to one of the following: The student; a school official who has legitimate educational interest; a party with written consent from the student; a party seeking directory information only.  These records must be kept with the educational records of the student as long as the educational records are maintained by the University.  

Whom should I contact with questions or concerns? Direct general questions to the Registrar's Office or University Counsel.

Click for a handout of Faculty and Staff Responsibilities Under FERPA.

Page last modified July 14, 2017