FERPA

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, as amended (also sometimes referred to as the Buckley Amendment), is a federal law regarding the privacy of student records and the obligations of the institution, primarily in the areas of release of records and the access provided to these records. Any educational institution that receives funds under any program administered by the U.S. Secretary of Education is bound by FERPA requirements. Institutions that fail to comply with FERPA may have funds administered by the Secretary of Education withheld.

Under FERPA, education records are defined as records that are directly related to a student and are maintained by an education agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution. Education records can exist in any medium, including: typed, computer generated, videotape, audiotape, film, microfilm, microfiche and email, among others.

Education records DO NOT INCLUDE such things as:

  • Sole possession records such as records or notes in sole possession of the maker, used only as a personal memory aid and not revealed or accessible to any other person except a temporary substitute for the maker of the record. (This might include notes an instructor makes while providing career or professional guidance to a student.)
  • Medical treatment records that include but are not limited to records maintained by physicians, psychiatrists and psychologists.
  • Employment records when employment is not contingent on being a student, provided the record is used only in relation to the individual’s employment.
  • Records created and maintained by a law enforcement unit used only for only that purpose and revealed only to law enforcement agencies of the same jurisdiction, as long as the enforcement unit does not have access to education records.
  • Post-attendance records such as information about a person obtained when the person was no longer a student (e.g., alumni records) and does not relate to the person as a student.

According to FERPA, personally identifiable information in an education record may not be released without prior written consent from the student. Some examples of information that may not be released without prior written consent of the student are:

  • Birth date
  • Religious affiliation
  • Citizenship
  • Disciplinary status
  • Ethnicity
  • Gender
  • Grade point average (GPA)
  • Marital status
  • SSN and student ID number
  • Grades and exam scores
  • Test scores (such as SAT, GRE, etc.)
  • Progress reports such as STARS

The university will not release personally identifiable information from a student’s education record without the student’s prior written consent. Even parents are not permitted access to their child’s education records unless the student has provided written authorization permitting the parents’ access. Exceptions are noted in the university’s policy (located in the Office of the General Counsel and in the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs) concerning the privacy of student education records and include: access by school officials the institution has determined to have a legitimate educational interest; access by school officials at other schools where the student seeks to enroll; access for the purpose of awarding financial aid; and subpoenas.

At USC these terms are defined below:

“University officials” typically include anyone employed by the university in an administrative, supervisory, academic, research, or support staff position; any person elected to the Board of Trustees; students serving on official university committees; and people employed by or under contract with the university to perform a specific task.

A university official has a “legitimate educational interest” if the official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill their professional responsibility. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Students and former students have rights to inspect and review their education records within 45 days after the university receives the request for access. The right of inspection and review includes: the right to access, with an explanation and interpretation of the record, and the right to a copy of the education record when failure to provide a copy of the record would effectively prevent the student from inspecting and reviewing the record. The institution may refuse to provide a copy of a student’s education record provided such refusal does not limit access.

Limitations exist on students’ rights to inspect and review their education records. For example, the institution is not required to permit students to inspect and review the following:

 

  • Financial information submitted by parents.
  • Education records containing information about more than one student. (However, the institution must permit access to that part of the records that pertains only to the inquiring student.)
  • Confidential letters and recommendations placed in the student’s file before January 1, 1975.
  • Confidential letters and statements of recommendation placed in the records after 
January 1, 1975, to which the student has waived his or her right to review and that are related to the student’s admission, application for employment or job placement, or receipt of honors. Upon a request from a student, they will be notified of the names of the persons making the recommendations and that such recommendations cannot be used other than for their intended purposes.

A student has the right to request amendment to any of their education records that they believe are inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise in violation of their privacy rights under FERPA. Should a student believe an education record is inaccurate or misleading, a request for amendment or correction should be addressed, in writing, to the university office maintaining the record in question. The custodian of records for that office may correct or amend the record in question or may determine that the record is accurate as it stands. 

In instances when a dispute cannot be resolved between the student and the office maintaining the record in question, the student may request a formal hearing by the university to resolve the issue. Questions about and requests for formal hearings should be directed to the Office of the General Counsel. This provision for amendment does not apply to disputed grade information on academic transcripts.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

TypeLocationCustodian
Academic Records
(Dental students)
Registrar, School of MedicineRegistrar, Dental School
Academic Records
(Medical students)
Late July through Mid-MayKeith Administration Building
Academic Records
(Law students)
Law School
LAW 300 MC 0071
Registrar, Law Center
Academic Records
(Undergraduate/graduate students)
Registration & Records
JHH Lobby
Registrar
Financial Aid RecordsAdmission/Financial Aid
JHH 340 MC 0911
Associate Dean
Financial RecordsFinancial Services
UGB 203 MC 8002
Executive Director
Health RecordsStudent Health Center
ESH MC 3261
Director, Patient Care
Student Conduct RecordsStudent Judicial Affairs and
Community Standards Office
STU 206 MC 4894
Director

FERPA has specifically identified certain information called directory information that may be disclosed without student consent. Although directory information may be disclosed without student consent, USC is not required to release directory information.

USC has designated the following information as directory information and may release this information, unless the student has submitted a request for non-disclosure:

  • Address (local and permanent)
  • Telephone number (local and permanent)
  • University email address
  • Student photo
  • USC attendance dates
  • USC degrees earned (with dates)
  • Academic honors
  • Major, minor and degree objective
  • Expected date of graduation
  • Previous schools attended
  • Enrollment status (class level)
  • Currently enrolled (Y/N)
  • Participation in officially recognized activities and sports

According to FERPA, a student can request that the institution not release directory information about them. Students who wish to restrict the release of their information must submit an email with “Request to Restrict Directory Information” in the subject line. The email request must originate from the student’s USC email account. In the request, the student must specifically state whether to:

  1. restrict the listing of their information on the university’s student directory, which is available only to USC students, faculty, and staff;
  2. restrict the release of their information to any inquirer (for example: current enrollment at USC, class level, major, expected graduation date, degrees earned); or
  3. restrict both of the above (remove student’s listing on the USC student directory AND refuse to provide any information about the student to an inquirer).


Students who request that USC restricts the release of their information acknowledge that their names will not appear in the commencement bulletin or other university publications. Employers, credit card companies, loan agencies, scholarship committees and other similar entities will be denied any of the student’s information and will be informed that we have no information available about the student’s attendance at USC.

Consistent with its obligations under FERPA, USC annually notifies students of the rights accorded them by FERPA.

USC students are notified of their FERPA rights in SCampus.

The notification must inform students that they have the following rights:

Students have three primary rights under FERPA. They have the rights to inspect and review their education records; have some control over the disclosure of information from their education record; and seek to amend their education records, under certain circumstances. These rights are described in detail in SCampus.

All faculty and staff, as well as any other agents of the university who request access to student academic records, must complete the FERPA tutorial and submit a signed acknowledgement form. Access to student records, including the academic records database, will be denied until the tutorial has been completed and the form submitted. The tutorial is intended to ensure that anyone accessing student records understands the obligations under FERPA for proper use and protection of student records. All questions in the tutorial are supported by information found in this website. Before beginning the tutorial,  please review all the topics found on the FERPA homepage.

The tutorial will take approximately 10 to 15 minutes to complete.

General questions may be directed to the Office of the General Counsel or the Office of Compliance, the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs, the Office for Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards, or the Office of the Registrar, as appropriate.

Comments or suggestions should be addressed to the USC Registrar’s Office, registrar@usc.edu, 
(213) 740-4623, at (mail code) MC 0912.

If a parent or eligible student feels that the institution has not fully honored their privacy rights under FERPA, a written complaint may be filed with the Family Compliance Office, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue Southwest, Washington, D.C. 20202-4605.

The Family Compliance Office investigates each timely complaint to determine if the educational agency or institution has failed to comply with the provisions of FERPA. A timely complaint is defined as an allegation that is submitted within 180 days of the date of the alleged violation or of the date that the complainant knew or reasonably should have known of the alleged violation.