Student Records and Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) Policy | Policies

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Student Records and Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) Policy

Policy regarding student records and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

Owner: Enrollment Services

Tags: Student Affairs

  1. General Background

    1. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”) gives “students” a right of access to their "education records.” It also limits the disclosure of a student's education records by the College without the student's written permission.

    2. Under this policy, “students” are individuals who are or were registered students in attendance at Teachers College.  Persons who unsuccessfully applied for admission or who were accepted but never attended the College are not “students.” An unsuccessful applicant for admission to the College is not a College "student," even if the applicant is, or was, in attendance at another Columbia University school.

    3. Records Covered:

      1. A student’s "education records" include records, files, documents, and other materials regularly maintained by the College that contain information directly related to the student.

      2. Certain types of records are excluded from the scope of FERPA. For example, a student is not entitled to examine:

        1. Records maintained personally by an individual faculty member that have not been shared with and are not accessible by others.

        2. Records created or maintained by a physician, psychologist, or other recognized health care provider that are created, maintained, or used only in connection with the provision of treatment to the student and are not available to anyone other than persons providing such treatment.

        3. Records that are confidential as a matter of law, such as those that might be maintained by the College's attorneys. 

        4. Records containing financial information about a student’s parents, such as information submitted with an application for financial aid.

        5. Records made and maintained by the College’s law enforcement unit for law enforcement purposes.

  2. Maintenance of Education Records

    A student’s official academic record is maintained by the Registrar, and its use is carefully controlled. Official records include the transcript, certain documents submitted in support of admission to the College and degree programs, and the doctoral student’s record maintained by the Office of Doctoral Studies.  Documents may be kept in digital form.  In accordance with established records management procedures, some records are purged periodically.

    Teachers College students, alumni and former students may inspect their student records in accordance with FERPA. With the exceptions set out below, such records are generally not available to anyone other than College representatives with an institutional reason for reviewing them. Transcripts and other student records are released only in accordance with the College’s FERPA policy.

  3. Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) Statement

    FERPA affords students certain rights with respect to their education records. These rights include:

    1. The right to inspect and review the student’s education records within 45 days of the day the College receives a request for access. Students should submit to the Registrar a written request that identifies the record(s) they wish to inspect. The Registrar will make arrangements for access and notify the student of the time and place where the records may be inspected. The student must bring valid photo identification to the appointment. Students will not be provided with copies of any part of their records other than the College transcript unless the inability to obtain copies of any part of their record other than the transcript would effectively prevent them from exercising their right to inspect and review their education records.

    2. The right to request the amendment of any parts of the student’s education records that the student believes are inaccurate or otherwise in violation of the student’s privacy rights under FERPA.  If the College decides not to amend the record as requested by the student, the College will notify the student of the decision and advise the student of the right to a hearing regarding the request for amendment. Further information regarding the student’s request for an amendment and the hearing procedures can be found in Section D. below.

    3. The right to withhold consent to disclosures of personally identifiable information (“PII”) contained in the student’s education records, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent.  It shall be a condition of the College’s disclosure of PII to a third party (1) that the party to which the information is released will not permit any other party to have access to such information without the written consent of the student and (2) that the released information may be used only for the purposes for which the disclosure was made. These conditions do not apply to certain subpoenas and court orders.

      Under FERPA, records containing PII may be disclosed without a student’s consent as follows:

      1. To “School Officials” with legitimate educational interests. A “School Official” includes a person employed by the College in an administrative, supervisory, academic, research, or support staff position; public safety officials, members of the Board of Trustees; or a student serving on an official committee, such as a disciplinary or grievance committee or admission committee, or assisting another School Official in performing their tasks for the College. In addition, a School Official may be a contractor who performs an institutional service or function for which the College would otherwise use its own employees and who is under the direct control of the College with respect to the use and maintenance of PII from education records such as an attorney, auditor or collection agent.  A School Official has a legitimate educational interest if the official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill their professional responsibilities for the College.

      2. Upon request and in the discretion of the Registrar, to officials of another school in which the student seeks or intends to enroll. 

      3. To authorized representatives of the U.S. Controller General, Attorney General, or Secretary of Education, or to State and local educational authorities.  Disclosures under this provision may be made, subject to the FERPA requirements, in connection with an audit or evaluation of Federal or State-supported education programs, or for the enforcement of or compliance with Federal legal requirements that relate to those programs.  These entities may make further disclosures of PII to outside entities that are designated by them as their authorized representatives to conduct any audit, evaluation, or enforcement or compliance activity on their behalf. 

      4. In connection with financial aid for which the student has applied or received, if the information is necessary to determine eligibility for the aid, the amount of the aid, or the conditions of the aid; or enforce the terms and conditions of the aid.

      5. To organizations conducting studies for, or on behalf of, the College, in order to: (a) develop, validate, or administer predictive tests; (b) administer student aid programs: or (c) improve instruction.

      6. To accrediting organizations to carry out their accrediting functions.

      7. To comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena.

      8. If designated as “directory information.” The College has designated the following categories of information as “directory information” with respect to each student: name, mailing, campus and permanent addresses, photo, email address, Columbia University Network ID (UNI), degree program and major field of study, dates of attendance at the College, full-time, half-time or part-time status, degrees conferred and their dates, dissertation title and dissertation committee members and master’s essay title and sponsor. A student who does not wish to have directory information released to third parties should notify the Office of the Registrar in writing of their wish to withhold such information in the future.

      9. Under limited circumstances, to a victim of an alleged perpetrator of a crime of violence or sex offense.  The disclosure may only include the final results of the disciplinary proceeding with respect to that alleged crime or offense, regardless of the finding.

      10. Under limited circumstances, to the general public, the final results of a disciplinary proceeding, if the College determines the student has committed a violation of the College’s rules or policies with respect to the allegation against the student.

      11. To appropriate officials in connection with a health or safety emergency subject to the provisions of the Regulations.

      12. To parents of a student under the age of 21 regarding the student’s violation of any Federal, State, or local law, or of any rule or policy of the College, the use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance if the College determines the student committed a disciplinary violation.

    4. The right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by the College to comply with FERPA. More information about FERPA is available at www.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa. FERPA is administered by:

      Family Policy Compliance Office
      U.S. Department of Education
      400 Maryland Avenue, SW
      Washington, DC 20202-8520

  4. Right to Seek Amendment of the Contents of Education Records

    Students have the right to seek amendment of the education records that they believe to be inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise in violation of their privacy rights under FERPA. The process includes the right to a hearing if the outcome of the challenge is unsatisfactory and the right to submit an explanatory statement for inclusion in the education record if the outcome of the hearing is unsatisfactory.

    Important note: This amendment procedure may be used only to challenge facts that are inaccurately recorded by the College since FERPA was intended to require only that schools conform to fair recordkeeping practices. This amendment procedure may not be used to challenge an academic grade, performance evaluation, disciplinary decision/ruling, opinion, or other substantive decision made by the College about a student.

    A student who wishes to challenge the contents of their education records should first discuss the matter with the College official who has control over the records in question.

    1. If the matter cannot be resolved within seven (7) days, the student may submit a written request to the Registrar, who will respond within seven (7) days. The written request to the Office of the Registrar must clearly identify the part of the record(s) they want changed and why it is inaccurate.

    2. If the outcome is unsatisfactory to the student, the College will advise the student of the right to a hearing regarding the request for amendment. The student then may submit a written request for a hearing to the Vice Provost for Student Affairs. A hearing will be conducted, within forty-five (45) days of the request, by the Vice Provost or by another College official who does not have a direct interest in the outcome of the hearing.  The student will be informed of the date, time, and place of the hearing in advance of the hearing.

    3. The student will be entitled to present evidence at the hearing and be assisted by an adviser of their choice, at their own expense. If the student desires to have an adviser present, the student must notify the hearing officer of this fact, in writing, no later than two (2) business days before the hearing. An adviser is to be a member of the Teachers College community. The adviser serves as a support person and is intended to be of direct assistance to the student before and during the hearing. The adviser may not speak for the student or address the hearing officer during the hearing.

    4. Within 30 days after the hearing, a written decision based on the evidence presented at the hearing will be issued, which will be the College's final decision. If the amendment to the records that the student requested is denied, the student may place a statement in their records commenting on the accuracy of the information in the record and/or explaining their disagreement with the College. This statement will become part of the education record and will be disclosed whenever the contested portion of the education record is disclosed.

  5. Student Requests for Release of Records

    Upon written request by a student, the College may release information in that student’s Teachers College education records to third parties. The student should make a request for such release in writing with the student’s signature to the Registrar.   The third-party designated by the student will ordinarily not be provided with copies of any part of the student’s record other than the College transcript. The College may impose a charge for copying a student’s records in connection with such a release, generally 20 cents per page.   Transcripts are covered by a one-time fee paid by students upon registration.  Questions should be referred to the College Registrar, Megan Massaro, at mrm2276@tc.columbia.edu.



Responsible office:  Enrollment Services 
Updated:  April 2021

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