Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) affords students in “attendance” at Houston Community College certain rights with respect to their education records. “Attendance,” as defined by Houston Community College, begins on the first day of the term in which a student is enrolled. These rights include:

  • The right to inspect and review the student’s education records within 45 days of the day the College receives a request for access. A student should submit to the registrar a written request that identifies the record(s) the student wishes to inspect. The college official will make arrangements for access and notify the student of the time and place where the records may be inspected. If the records are not maintained by the college official to whom the request was submitted, that official shall advise the student of the correct official to whom the request should be addressed.
  • The right to request the amendment of the student’s education records that the student believes are inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise in violation of the student’s privacy rights under FERPA. A student who wishes to ask the College to amend a record should write the College official responsible for the record, clearly identify the part of the record the student wants changed, and specify why it should be changed. If the College decides not to amend the record as requested, the College will notify the student in writing of the decision and the student’s right to a hearing regarding the request for amendment. Additional information regarding the hearing procedures will be provided to the student when notified of the right to a hearing. See policy FJ (LOCAL) available at https://www.hccs.edu/about-hcc/policies/hcc-board-policy-manual-section-f/.
  • The right to provide written consent before the College discloses personally identifiable information from the student’s education records, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent. The College may disclose education records without a student’s prior written consent under several FERPA exceptions including:
  • Disclosure to school officials with legitimate educational interests
  • A school official is a person employed by the College in an administrative, supervisory, academic or research, or support staff position (including law enforcement unit personnel and health staff); a person or company with whom the College has contracted as its agent to provide a service instead of using College employees or officials (such as an attorney, auditor, or collection agent); a person serving on the Board of Trustees; or a student serving on an official committee, such as a disciplinary or grievance committee, or assisting another school official in performing his or her tasks.
  • A school official has a legitimate educational interest if the official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibilities for the College.
  • The student’s application for financial aid
  • Submitting proof of dependency
  • Response to a judicial order or subpoena
  • A bona fide health or safety emergency
  • Information requested by other schools in which the student seeks or intends to enroll
  • Directory information (described below)

 As of January 2012, the U.S. Department of Education’s FERPA regulations expand the circumstances under which a student’s education records and personally identifiable information (PII) contained in such records—including a student’s SSN, grades, or other private information – may be accessed without a student’s consent.

  • First, the U.S. Comptroller General, The U.S. Attorney General, the U.S. Secretary of Education, or state and local education authorities (“Federal and State Authorities”) may allow access to a student’s records and PII without a student’s consent to any third party designated by a Federal or State Authority to evaluate a federal or state-supported education program. The evaluation may relate to any program that is “principally engaged in the provision of education,” such as early childhood education and job training, as well as any program that is administered by an education agency or institution.
  • Second, Federal and State Authorities may allow access to a student’s education records and PII without a student’s consent to researchers performing certain types of studies, in certain cases even when HCC objects or does not request such research. Federal and State Authorities must obtain certain use-restriction and data security promises from the entities that they authorize to receive a student’s PII, but the Authorities need not maintain direct control over such entities.
  • In addition, in connection with Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems, State Authorities may collect, compile, permanently retain, and share without a student’s consent PII from a student’s education records, and they may track a student’s participation in education and other programs by linking such PII to other personal information about a student that they obtain from other Federal or State data sources, including workforce development, unemployment insurance, child welfare, juvenile justice, military service, and migrant student records systems.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974, as amended, designates certain information related to a student as “Directory Information.” FERPA gives the College the right to disclose such information to anyone inquiring without having to ask a student for permission, unless the student specifically requests in writing that all such information not be made public without written consent (see link to HCC Confidentiality Form below) except by the National Student Clearinghouse to loan guarantors.
Houston Community College has designated the following as “Student Directory Information:”

  • Student’s Name
  • Address and telephone number
  • Date of birth
  • Major field of study
  • Enrollment status (full/part-time)
  • Classification
  • Dates of attendance at HCC
  • Number of semester hours completed & in progress
  • Student classification
  • Degrees earned and dates awarded
  • Most recent previous educational institution attended

If a student does not want directory information released, the student must complete a confidentiality request form at the college campus and submit to the Registrar’s Office. The Confidentiality Form is located at https://www.hccs.edu/media/houston-community-college/district/pdf/confidentiality-form.pdf.

The right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by the College to comply with the requirements of FERPA. The name and address of the Office that administers FERPA is:
Family Policy Compliance Office
U.S. Department of Education 400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20202-5901
ferpa@ed.gov