Take home message: Many faculty and staff at U-M have access to confidential student information. Everyone must take all necessary measures to protect the privacy of students’ education records, in line with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
of 1974 (FERPA).
- Students enroll, submit assignments and receive grades and any related information forms part of their education record, which is protected by a Federal law called the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA). Student records must be handled in accordance with that law by all those who have access to them. For instance, FERPA prohibits the posting of grades by the student’s name or ID number; and a system must be used in returning student tests and papers to prevent access and/or release to anyone other than the student.
- What is an “education record”? Under FERPA, any record that is maintained by the institution and is directly related (that is, personally identifiable) to the student forms part of their “education record”. There are some exceptions, such as medical treatment records, law enforcement records, employment records and alumni records (but each of these kinds of records may be subject to other privacy restrictions or access requirements).
- University Policy: The University’s Policy Statement on Student Rights and Student Records, maintained by the Registrar’s Office sets out the rights of students with respect to their education records [see also the U-M Flint Registrar’s Office and U-M Dearborn Office of Registration and Records].
- Generally, the University cannot release material contained in student records to anyone other than the student without the student’s written permission; not even to a student’s parents or spouse. There are some exceptions: see the General Counsel’s guidance on student records.
- One exception allows disclosure of “public information”(or “directory information”) – but note that students may elect to have directory information withheld. If a student doesn’t show up in the U-M directory, that means they have elected for privacy, and NO information about them can be disclosed. Another exception allows disclosure of information necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or others, including in an emergency or disaster situation.
- FAQs: The Registrar maintains FAQs on student records and FERPA. The Office of the General Counsel maintains FAQs about student records law, which includes information about student record retention, exemptions, and when student information can and cannot be disclosed.
- The Federal Education Department’s Family Policy Compliance Office, who implements FERPA, publish a range of resources and FAQs relating to the legislation on their website.
- If you are involved in teaching, as a professor or a GSI, make sure you understand how FERPA applies. For instance, FERPA prohibits the posting of grades by the student’s name or ID number; and a system must be used in returning student tests and papers to prevent access and/or release to anyone other than the student. You should also password protect spreadsheets that contain student grades and information.
- Education records include student information in all forms and formats: whether electronic, paper, archived, or imaged.
- Education records are not considered the property of U-M, but of the student: we are only the custodians of those records, and must protect our students’ privacy by limiting access to staff and faculty with a legitimate educational interest in seeing the information.
- There may be information about students other than their “education record” that needs to be treated as private information: for instance, any other personal or sensitive information, such as health or financial information, their SSN or employment records (if they are a student employee) must also be protected – see our separate Privacy & Confidentiality page for more information.
- If you receive a Freedom of Information application related to student information, you should immediately contact the FOIA Office.
- If you receive a Subpoena related to student records, you should immediately contact Tim Taylor in the Registrar’s Office.
The Registrar’s Office is charged with ensuring the accuracy, integrity and security of the academic records of the University, and can answer your questions about the management of student records. See the Registrar’s contact details and service hours for specific contacts on the Ann Arbor campus; see the U-M Flint Registrar’s Office for and the U-M Dearborn Office of Registration and Records for contacts on those campuses.
Established 3/4/11, last updated 2/23/17 – Contact us if you believe any information is incorrect or outdated