Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act

Rights of students under FERPA

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act affords eligible students certain rights with respect to their education records. (An “eligible student” under FERPA is a student who is 18 years of age or older or who attends a postsecondary institution at any age.) These rights include:

1. The right to inspect and review the student's education records within 45 days after the day Virginia Commonwealth University receives a request for access. A student should submit to the registrar, dean, or head of the academic department, a written request that identifies the record(s) the student wishes to inspect. The university 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 university official to whom the request was submitted, that official shall advise the student of the correct official to whom the request should be addressed.

2. The right to request the amendment of the student’s education records that the student believes is inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise in violation of the student’s privacy rights under FERPA. A student who wishes to ask the university to amend a record should write the university 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 university decides not to amend the record as requested, the university 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.

3. The right to provide written consent before the university discloses personally identifiable information from the student's education records, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent. The university discloses education records without a student’s prior written consent under the FERPA exception for disclosure to school officials with legitimate educational interests. A school official is typically a person employed by the university in an administrative, supervisory, academic, research, or support staff position (including law enforcement unit personnel and health staff); a person serving on the board of trustees; or a student serving on an official committee, such as a disciplinary or grievance committee. A school official also may include a volunteer or contractor outside of the university who performs an institutional service or function for which the university would otherwise use its own employees and who is under the direct control of the university with respect to the use and maintenance of personally identifiable information from education records, such as an attorney, auditor, or collection agent or a student volunteering to assist another school official in performing their tasks. A school official typically has a legitimate educational interest if the official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill their professional responsibilities for the university. FERPA permits the university to disclose education records without consent subject to certain requirements, including as follows: to officials of another school in which a student seeks or intends to enroll or is already enrolled; to specified local, state or federal government officials for audit or evaluation purposes; to appropriate parties as necessary in connection with financial aid to a student; to accrediting organizations; to comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena; to appropriate parties as necessary in connection with a health or safety emergency; to parents of a dependent student; and information the university has designated as “directory information” that would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy.

Students have the right to refuse to let the university designate any or all information about them as directory information by submitting to the Office of Records and Registration, at any time, a request written and signed that directory information not be released. Upon receipt of such a request, the university restricts the designation of the requesting student’s directory information within two working days or as soon as is reasonably practical thereafter.

VCU designates the following information from a student’s education record as “directory information:"*

  • Student’s name
  • Date admitted
  • Birthdate
  • Semesters of attendance
  • Major(s)
  • Minor(s)
  • Specialization
  • School
  • Full- or part-time status
  • Classification (freshman, sophomore, etc.)
  • Degree sought
  • Honors and awards
  • Degree(s) and date(s) received
  • Participation in officially recognized intercollegiate sports and weight, height, hometown, parents’ names and previous school(s) attended (for members of athletic teams)
  • Photograph

*While VCU also designates a student’s address, phone number and email address as “directory information” under FERPA, the Code of Virginia section 23.1-405(C), effective July 1, 2018, prohibits the university from disclosing that information pursuant to FERPA’s “directory information” exception, 34 C.F.R. § 99.31(a)(11), or the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, Va. Code § 2.2-3700 et seq., unless the student has affirmatively consented in writing to such disclosure. Accordingly, VCU may disclose this information when a student has consented in writing or another FERPA exception applies.

4. The right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by Virginia Commonwealth University 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

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