FERPA is short for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, a federal law that was enacted in 1974. FERPA protects the privacy of student education records. All educational institutions that receive federal funding, including Cornell, must comply with FERPA.

Why should I care about FERPA, Policy 4.5, or the Student Record Privacy Statement?

If you are a current or former student, it is important for you to understand your rights under these policies. If you are a parent, you will need to understand how FERPA may impact your access to information about your student once they enter Cornell University. If you are an employee of Cornell University with access to student education records, you are obligated to comply with FERPA and University policies to protect those records according to the law.

What are students’ rights under the above policies?

FERPA gives students four basic rights with respect to their education record:

  1. The right to inspect and review their education records.

  2. The right to some control over the disclosure of their education records.

  3. The right to request the amendment of their education record if the student believes it is inaccurate.

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

When do I become protected by FERPA and for how long?

When you become a Cornell student you are protected by FERPA for your lifetime.

What are education records?

Education records are defined as paper or electronic records, files, documents, email messages, and other materials that contain information directly related to a student and are maintained by Cornell University or by a person acting for the University. Education records include grades, class lists, course schedules, disciplinary records (including Judicial Administrator letters), financial records, and payroll records for students who are employed as a direct result of their status as students (e.g. work study, fellowships).

Are there any records maintained by the University that are not considered education records?

The following are excluded from the definition of education records:

  • Individual records made by faculty and staff for their own use as reference or memory aids and are not shared with others.

  • University law enforcement records.

  • Medical and mental health records (these are covered under HIPPA).

  • Alumni records.

Are there any conditions under which student education records may be disclosed without the student's consent?

Yes. Education records may be disclosed with school officials at another school where a student seeks or intends to enroll, with a 3rd party with whom the University has a contract, or in a health or safety emergency where the student’s safety is at risk.

Is there any student information that can be released without the student's permission?

Yes. FERPA permits each institution to define a class of information as directory information. FERPA permits disclosure of directory information without the student's consent. Directory information is defined and outlined by the University in the Student Record Privacy Statement and includes name, local and cell phone numbers, email address, photograph, major field of study and college attended, academic level, dates of attendance, enrollment status, participation in officially recognized activities and sports, weight and height (of members of athletic teams), and any degrees earned and awards received. Address information is not publicly available.

Can a student prevent the release of their directory information?

Yes. As a student you may choose to prevent the release of your Directory Information. FERPA holds can be added or removed by adjusting the privacy settings in Student Center. Here are some practical implications if a student chooses to invoke this restriction:

  • Student’s name will not be released to honor societies and award programs even if honors criteria are met.

  • Name and email will not appear in the electronic directory.

  • Student’s name will not appear in the commencement program.

  • Name will not be shared with parties attempting to verify enrollment or degree.

Even if a student has chosen to block the release of directory information, the
institution may nevertheless continue to disclose that student's directory information under any other exception that may be applicable or with the student's case-by-case consent.

Do parents have any rights under FERPA?

When a student reaches the age of 18 or begins to attend a post-secondary institution, regardless of age, all FERPA rights belong to the student. This can be a major shift for families as students begin college. Before a student begins attending Cornell University, families are encouraged to discuss how they will keep an open dialogue about student experiences, enrollment, and grades.