The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) is a federal law designed to:
- Protect the privacy of student education records.
- Establish the right of students to inspect and review their education records.
- Provide guidelines for the correction of inaccurate and misleading information.
UNC Asheville has adopted institutional policies and procedures with regard to disclosure of information from the education records of current and former students to comply with FERPA.
Student Rights Under FERPA
Primary rights under FERPA include:
- Right to inspect and review education records
- Right to seek to amend education records
- Right to have some control over the disclosure of information from educational records
Educational records are records that contain information directly related to a student in any medium (i.e. email, handwritten, print, faxes, etc.) and are maintained by an educational agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution.
The following are not considered educational records:
- Sole possession records kept by a university employee and not accessible or revealed to other persons except for a temporary substitute for the maker of the record
- Law enforcement records maintained by campus police
- Employment records as long as employment is not contingent on the fact that the individual is a student and provided the record is only used in relation to the individual’s employment.
- Medical records made or maintained by a recognized health professional such as a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist or other recognized health professional if the records are used only for the treatment of the student and released only to those persons providing treatment.
- Alumni records which contain information about a student after the student is no longer in attendance at the University and which do not relate to the person while he/she was a student.
To see their records, students must:
- Submit a written request specifying the record(s) they wish to inspect to the Office of the Registrar.
- Student will be contacted by the Office of the Registrar via the student’s official UNC Asheville email account to schedule an appointment to review the records as promptly as possible. Access must be provided within 45 days of receipt of the written request.
- The student or qualifying parent is required to review the records in the presence of a staff member from the Office of the Registrar. No copies of any documents or transcripts will be provided or allowed to be taken from the record. A student or qualifying parent who lives outside a commuting distance of 100 miles may request special permission for arrangements to be made in order to allow access to that student’s record.
Parents of dependent students:
Under FERPA, a postsecondary institution may disclose education records to parents of dependent students without consent. If a student is claimed as a dependent by either parent for tax purposes, then either parent may be given access under this provision regardless of the age of the student. However, to make the dependency determination, a school has the right to ask the parent to provide a copy of the most recent Federal income tax return showing the dependency.
UNC Asheville reserves the right to refuse to permit a student or third party, even with the student’s written consent, to inspect the following records:
- Financial statements of the student’s parents
- Letters or statements of recommendation for which the student has waived the right of access
- Those records which are excluded from the FERPA definition of education records if such records do not fall within the definition of “public records” under Chapter 132 of the NC General Statutes and records for which there is no other legal right of access under federal or state law.
The University reserves the right to deny transcripts or copies of records not otherwise required to be made available by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 in any of the following situations:
- The student or qualified parent lives within commuting distance (presumed to be within 100 miles) of the University.
- The student has unpaid financial obligations to the University.
- There are unresolved disciplinary actions against the student.
- There is unresolved academic action against the student.
Parent Rights Under FERPA
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 under the IRS rules. Under FERPA, a postsecondary institution may disclose education records to parents of dependent students without written consent. Neither the age of the student nor the parent’s status as custodial parent is relevant in this case. If the student is claimed as a dependent by either parent for tax purposes, then either parent may be given access under this provision. To make such a dependency determination, a school may ask the parent to provide a copy of the most recent federal income tax form.
In the event of a health or safety emergency, FERPA permits schools to disclose information from education records to parents.
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 student education records with parents.
Another provision in FERPA permits a college or university to let parents of students under the age of 21 know when the student has violated any law or policy concerning the use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance. Additionally, schools may disclose information from “law enforcement unit records” to anyone – including parents or federal, State, or local law enforcement authorities – without the consent of the eligible student. Many colleges and universities have their own campus security units. Records created and maintained by these units for law enforcement purposes are exempt from the privacy restrictions of FERPA and can be shared with anyone.
Nothing in FERPA prohibits a school official from sharing with parents information that is based on that official’s personal knowledge or observation and that is not based on information contained in an education record. Therefore, FERPA would not prohibit a teacher or other school official from letting a parent know of their concern about their student that is based on their personal knowledge or observation.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) is a law passed by Congress intended to establish transaction, security, privacy, and other standards to address concerns about the electronic exchange of health information. However, the HIPAA Privacy Rule excludes from its coverage those records that are protected by FERPA at postsecondary institutions that provide health or medical services to students. This is because Congress specifically addressed how education records should be protected under FERPA. For this reason, records that are protected by FERPA are not subject to the HIPAA Privacy Rule and may be shared with parents under the circumstances described above.
Granting Proxy Access
Students can release non-directory information to parents or other specified individuals, referred to as proxies, in OnePort. Students can authorize view access to their unofficial academic transcript, including grades, their schedule of classes, account summary for charges and financial aid. Proxies will then receive email instructions on how to access a separate, secure online portal. The portal does require a log in to view the information pages to which the student has granted them access.
Once the setup is completed, the parent or other defined proxy will have view access through the online portal to the authorized pages granted by the student.
All parents, or other third party proxies, must have a valid email address to be granted access. The same email address cannot be used more than once; i.e. each parent cannot establish a login with the same email address.
Parents, and other third party proxies, are encouraged to discuss with the student the need to establish a passphrase. The passphrase, if provided, would be used to verify the identity of the parent, or other third party proxy, when phone calls or other inquiries are received. The passphrase is, or can be, different for each individual proxy.
Students should communicate the passphrase to the proxy by clicking the “Email Passphrase” link in the proxy access pages through their OnePort account. If a passphrase is not provided, or the proxy forgets the passphrase, no information will be provided over the phone and the proxy should contact the student for the passphrase information.
In addition, establishing a passphrase does not guarantee that information requested can be released. Information directly related to the access granted by the student may be discussed. However, additional information about his/her student record or financial information may not be discussed if it is determined that it is not related to, or a part of, what has been authorized by the student.
Release of Student Directory Information
Directory Information is information not generally considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed. Unless a student requests in writing to the contrary, federal law permits the university to release directory information to the public without the student’s consent.
Directory information at UNC Asheville includes:
- Mailing and permanent address
- Major field of study
- Class (junior, senior, etc.)
- Enrollment status (full-time, part-time, etc.)
- Participation in officially recognized activities and sports
- Weight and height of members of athletic teams
- Dates of attendance at UNC Asheville
- Degrees and awards received (including Dean’s List and Chancellor’s List as well as scholarships)
II. Non-directory Information:
The university does not permit access to, or the release of education records, without proper authorization of the student with the following exceptions:
- to UNC Asheville officials, including faculty, who require such records in the proper performance of their duties;
- in connection with the student’s application for or receipt of financial aid or Veterans Administration benefits;
- to organizations conducting studies for educational and governmental agencies (in which case individual students are neither identified nor identifiable);
- to U.S. government agencies as listed in Public Law 93-380;
- to parents of a dependent student as defined in the Internal Revenue Code of 1954;
- to accrediting agencies;
- to comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena;
- to appropriate persons in connection with an emergency if the knowledge of such information is necessary to protect the health or safety of a student or any other person; and
- to other University of North Carolina system institutions if the student applies or is accepted for transfer to those institutions.
Opting Out of Online Directory
Students may choose to restrict disclosure of directory information by visiting the OneStop office and filing a Directory Restriction form. By signing this form, students request that no information be released about them outside the University. The student’s record is flagged as “confidential” which notifies University Officials that directory information cannot be released. Students are notified when they file this form that their name cannot be published for Dean’s List or other publications announcing student achievements. This remains in effect until the student notifies the Office of the Registrar in writing that they wish to have the directory restriction removed.
Updating Personal Information
Current students can update their information online via OnePort or in person in the OneStop Office.