What Is FERPA Compliance?

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a U.S. federal law enacted in 1974 that regulates access to education records as well as sensitive data around public entities such as employers, educational institutions, and foreign governments. FERPA applies to all schools that receive federal funding from the U.S. Department of Education.

FERPA’s objective is to safeguard the privacy of students and their parents. In addition to protecting student privacy, it was also intended to assure that students and their parents can access student education records and challenge the release of their student data to third parties.

FERPA requires that federally funded educational agencies, as well as secondary and postsecondary institutions, comply with certain protocols regarding handling and disclosure of student information to third-party vendors and other entities.

image

Why Is FERPA Compliance Important?

FERPA compliance is important not only because it’s a legal requirement, but also because it provides students and their parents with data privacy protections as well as the ability to exercise more control over the student’s education records.

Over time, FERPA has become the cornerstone of educational privacy rights for students and parents. It provides key privacy rights regarding students and their personal data including:

  • The right to opt-out of having personally identifiable information (PII) included in directory information; and
  • Health treatment in the school setting in conjunction with HIPAA regulations.

Without a proper compliance program that meets FERPA requirements, schools and other education organizations run the risk of FERPA violations that can cost them federal funding and their good reputation.

FERPA Requirements at a Glance

The following is a brief summary of FERPA requirements and rights guarantees:

  • FERPA grants data privacy to students regarding grades, enrollment, and even billing information
  • FERPA permits schools to disclose PII of eligible students to their parents if the student is a dependent
  • FERPA gives students and their parents access to the student’s education records
  • FERPA gives students and their parents the right to seek amendments to records
  • FERPA gives students and their parents the right to control the disclosure of student records
  • FERPA governs how state agencies sent educational records and testing data
  • FERPA allows students permission to view recommendations by others during the application process
gears with security-related icons

FERPA Compliance Checklist

To achieve FERPA compliance, educational institutions should consider the following recommended steps:

1

Advise students of their FERPA rights on an annual basis

2

Obtain written consent from a student before releasing personally identifiable information

3

Train faculty and school officials on adherence to FERPA protocols and violation penalties

4

Communicate to students what information is disclosed in directory information as well as the right to decline inclusion

5

Obtain new consent when student information changes

6

Create, maintain, and routinely update information security policies that help uphold FERPA requirements

7

Include business continuity and data breach protocols to be enacted in the event of an incident

8

Assure all third-party vendors adhere to agreements that they comply with FERPA

9

Advise students of the implications inherent in waiving their rights to inspect their own education records

Learn about Top 5 Information Security Trends for 2021

WATCH WEBINAR

Reciprocity Has Your Solution for FERPA Compliance

Achieving FERPA compliance can mean spending a considerable investment in time and resources, particularly if your institution is still using legacy tools and spreadsheets to achieve and maintain FERPA compliance. This burden is further compounded by the reality that public education institutions are often strapped for budget resources as it is.

At Reciprocity, our compliance experts can help you to prepare your FERPA compliance and minimize the burden on your team.

The ZenGRC SaaS platform is an efficient solution to achieving continuous compliance with government regulations.

Institutions don’t have to worry about their compliance posture because ZenGRC monitors that posture over the entire lifecycle, and keeps up with the latest data protection regulations and requirements.

image

ZenGRC FERPA Capabilities

  • User-friendly dashboard with real-time metrics on prioritized risks
  • Pre-built templates that can help you to make compliance audits as cost-effective as possible
  • A central repository for all audit-ready documentation
  • Universal Control Mapping to streamline multiple requirements with a single control
  • Insight into team member progress at fulfilling FERPA requirements
  • Automation to track outstanding requirements for third-parties
image

Frequently Asked Questions

FERPA stands for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. It is a federal law that affords parents and students the right to have access to education records, seek to have records updated, and the right to control the disclosure of that information to third parties.

Yes, FERPA is a legally enforceable privacy law created by the U.S. Congress to safeguard the privacy of students and their parents.

If an educational institution or an educator denies a student or parent access to the student’s records, or discloses them without the consent of the student, this is a violation of FERPA.

Educational records as well as PII such as Social Security numbers and addresses are protected information under FERPA.

  • FERPA gives students and their parents access to the student’s education records
  • FERPA gives students and their parents the right to seek amendments to records
  • FERPA gives students and their parents the right to control the disclosure of student records