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Frequently Asked Questions

FERPA is an acronym for the Family Educational Rights and privacy Act of 1974, also known as the Buckley Amendment. This federal enactment establishes the legal parameters governing access to and release of student educational records.

Any educational institution or educational administrative service that receives funds from the United States Secretary of Education must comply with the terms set forth in FERPA.

The Act encompasses six basic requirements of colleges and universities.

  1. Students must be annually notified of their FERPA rights. At the University of Tennessee, FERPA information is included in our student handbook, Hilltopics, in the Graduate and Undergraduate catalogs, on the FERPA Web site, at Orientation for new students, in the Teaching Guide for new instructors, and at Orientation for new faculty and teaching assistants. In addition, students annually receive an email notice reminding them of rights extended under FERPA.
  2. Students must be allowed to review their education records.
  3. Students must be allowed to request to amend their education records, with limited exceptions.
  4. Students must be allowed to limit disclosure of personally identifiable information contained in their education records.
  5. The college or university must undertake reasonable efforts to ensure that third parties do not re-disclose personally identifiable information and that the information is utilized by third parties only for its intended purpose.
  6. Records must be maintained of requests for and disclosure of student education records.

FERPA defines education records as any record that directly relates to a student and is maintained by an educational agency or a party acting on behalf of the institution. Examples of education records include, but are not limited to

  • Transcripts
  • Degree Audit Reports
  • Schedules of Classes
  • Class Rolls
  • Academic History Reports
  • Grade Rolls

The following items are NOT education records, as defined by FERPA

  • Sole possession records (records kept in the sole possession of the maker, used as a personal memory aid and not revealed to others)
  • Law enforcement records
  • Employment records
  • Medical records
  • Post-attendance records
  • Psychological or mental health records

The consequences of non-compliance with FERPA requirements are serious. The Department of Education may cite the offending institution with official notice to cease the practice of non-compliance, and all funds administered by the Secretary of Education could be withheld from the institution.

Student: Any individual who is or has been in attendance at the University of Tennessee and for whom the University maintains education records. An individual is considered to be in attendance when he or she registers for an academic offering at the University, whether or not the academic offering is offered for credit or no credit, and whether or not the academic offering is offered in person or by paper correspondence, videoconference, satellite, internet, or other electronic information or telecommunications technologies for students who are physically present in the classroom. The following persons are not students: (1) applicants who were denied admission to the University; and (2) applicants who were admitted to the University but did not register for courses.

FERPA allows individuals with ‘legitimate educational interest’ to access personally identifiable education records. University officials and officials of agencies acting on behalf of the university, with demonstrated ‘need to know’ status may have access. Such persons include but are not limited to faculty, administrators, and clerical and professional employees.

  • Parents of students may NOT have access to personally identifiable student records without the written consent of the student.

Directory information is information about a student that is not generally considered harmful if disclosed. Directory information may be disclosed UNLESS the student has invoked the FERPA right to limit disclosure of that information.

All non-directory information the university maintains about a particular student, including such information as

  • Social security number
  • Student ID number
  • Grades
  • Term and cumulative GPAs
  • Student schedule
  • Academic history
  • Academic standing

Student directory information is included in the online Web Directory. Students wishing limited disclosure may submit a request, form is available on the FERPA Web site. University Registrar personnel will suppress the requestor’s directory information from visibility on the Web Directory. Students who wish more stringent measures of privacy may contact Charlene Ingle in the Office of the University Registrar, 209 Student Services Building, 865-974-1501, to discuss their needs.

Students whose needs for privacy exceed non-disclosure on the Web Directory and in the Student Telephone Directory may request that a ‘privacy’ notation be attached to their academic history reports and to their electronic records accessible by departmental personnel in colleges and administrative offices. It is strongly recommended that no information be disclosed without first checking for privacy notations. Please contact the Office of the University Registrar if you have questions about this issue.

Grades MAY NOT be publicly posted by student names, by Student ID numbers, by Social Security Numbers, or by any other personally identifiable means, unless students give permission in writing. Public posting includes printed lists or Web sites. Grades may be posted if the instructor has implemented a system of code words or randomly assigned numbers known only by the instructor and the individual student. Under these conditions, posting should NOT be done alphabetically.

Recommendations that are made by personal observation or knowledge do not require a student’s written permission. If personally identifiable information from a student’s education record, such as grades or GPAs, is included, a signed release from the student is required. The release must

  • Specify the records that may be disclosed;
  • State the purpose of disclosure;
  • Identify the party or class of parties to which disclosure may be made;
  • Be signed and dated by the student.

Web page revised 5-20-14