FERPA FAQs

Q: I have been here at OSU for 18 years! Why do I need to re-do my FERPA training?

A: The Office of the Registrar serves as the steward of student education data. Part of responsible stewardship is ensuring that those to whom the stewards provide access to student education data demonstrate proficiency in understanding their responsibilities under the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974. To ensure we are in compliance with federal law, the institution must have documentation that employees with access to student education data have successfully passed FERPA training. If someone completed FERPA training prior to January 2005, we will not have record of their proficiency and the employee or designated agent will be asked to take the training and quiz, as the law has changed since 2005. Additionally, we highly encourage parties to reengage in FERPA training biannually to remain current with one's FERPA knowledge.

Q: Is it legal for me to email my class about class assignments and other work?

A: Use of students' email addresses is acceptable for academic and educational purposes; the students' ONID addresses are the only officially recognized OSU email addresses and are available on Banner and Canvas rosters. Email addresses other than ONID are not directory information and cannot be released. If you plan to make electronic communication a part of class requirements, be sure to include that information in the course syllabus that every student receives. Students who do not want to use email for their class work need to be aware of the requirement so that they can adjust their schedule accordingly. Many professors find it useful to set up a list serve for their class. Network Engineering has a useful site for list serves, see OSU List Support. Use of students' ONID email addresses is acceptable for academic and educational purposes, and they must only be distributed to people who have an educational need to know. When in doubt, contact the Office of the Registrar.

Q: Doesn’t it violate FERPA if I include confidential students (students who have established confidentiality of their records) in a mass email to all of my students?

A: Yes, it does. When you send email to a list of students in the To: line, then everyone can see all of the members on the list. It is important to exclude confidential students from the list. Then, you can send an individual email, with the same content as for all the other students, but addressed only to the confidential student. If you have more than one confidential student, you should send an individual email to each one of them.

Q: May I post grades?

A: You may post grades as long as only you and the individual student know who the grade is for. That is, you cannot use the students' names or their Student ID numbers. You can create a unique identifier (such as a number, NOT part of the Student ID number) for each of your students and post grades by that identifier. Be sure NOT to arrange the list in alphabetical order, even though the names are not printed. (NOTE: Do not pass a sign-up sheet around the class asking students to write down their unique identifier. All of the students who see the list will have access to the identifiers of other students.)

Q: May I distribute students' graded exams and papers by putting them in a self-serve box so that students can easily pick up their papers?

A: Distributing students' exams and papers in this way violates their confidentiality by making confidential records available to the public. This is not an acceptable practice.

Q: I want to have my students use a social media platform to engage about our course content. Can I do this?

A: Yes, you can. However, there are some guidelines to consider. Please see this resource guide on how to do so while maintaining students' FERPA rights.

Q: What information may I give to a parent who wants to know how their student is doing—what their grade is in a particular class, or what their overall GPA is? What if the parent says they know their student got a D- and wants to know what can be done.

A: You cannot discuss any specifics about the student's grades. Use a conditional response: "If a student in my class earned a D-, I would suggest…" You also can advise the parent on how the student can get their grades if they don't have them: Web or student transcript from the Office of the Registrar.

Q: What information may I give if the student is a dependent and the parent can prove it with tax records?

A: While federal law authorizes the release of records to parents of dependent students, it does not require it. The Oregon statute does not include release to parents as an authorized disclosure; since state law is more restrictive than the federal law, the university is bound by the state law. Only directory information may be released to parents of dependent or independent students.

Q: What information may be given if the student is no longer enrolled?

A: Only the same information as if the person were still enrolled as a student. Be sure to check whether the student had imposed confidentiality before leaving the university; if so, the confidentiality remains in effect.

Q: If a student filed a confidentiality request when they were a student, but have since graduated, does that confidentiality request get revoked?

A: No. A student, whether current or former, remains confidential until they revoke the confidentiality request.

Q: What information may be given if the student is deceased?

A: When a student dies, FERPA no longer applies, but since there may be other issues related to disclosure, the inquiry should be referred to the Office of the Registrar.

Q: What if the caller is the Corvallis police, the FBI, or a representative of a government agency?

A: A student's permission is required to release their records to these representatives. Refer the caller to the Office of the Registrar.

Q: What if the Corvallis police, the FBI, or a representative of a government agency only want the student's class schedule?

A: Class schedules are not directory information and may not be released. FERPA restrictions apply equally to law enforcement officials. Do not release the class schedule; refer the caller to the Office of the Registrar.

Q: What if the FBI or federal agent says they need information about a student under the new anti-terrorism legislation?

A: The USA PATRIOT Act (2001) and other legislation specify guidelines for release of information. Refer all such inquiries to the Office of the Registrar so that we can assure appropriate compliance.

Q: What information may I write in a letter of recommendation?

A: You can discuss information provided to you by the student, such as information from their resume, and information that you have gained in your academic relationship with the student. You cannot discuss any non-directory information (e.g. their grade in a course you taught) without the student's specific written consent.

Q: The student organization I advise wants to invite all of the students in our major to their meeting. May they get a list of all students in our major along with their addresses?

A: Yes, major is directory information as are student name and current address. The current address is maintained by the student, and may be the student's address in Corvallis or at some other location. Other addresses are not releasable. You should address your request for this information to the Office of the Registrar. For more information on requesting information, see our Data Requests page.

Q: What if a student organization wants a list of X ethnicity students to invite them to their function. May they get a list of all X ethnicity students?

A: Student organizations should work with Student Leadership and Involvement on submitting requests for this data. The contact for these type of requests is Danté Holloway.

Q: What if someone requests a list of all of the students from X country?

A: Refer all such requests to the Office of the Registrar.

Q: My advisee is at home ill with a bad cold, so her sister stopped by to pick up her PIN. Is it OK to give it to her so that my advisee can register?

A: The PIN is not directory information and may not be released to anyone but the student.

Q: A community organization that I belong to wants to sell exam week care packets to parents; our organization will then deliver them to the students. May we get a list of parents' names and addresses?

A: Parents' names and addresses are not directory information and may not be released.