FERPA

What is FERPA?

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law protects the privacy of, and limits access to, student educational records. Please visit the following link to learn more: www.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco

What are educational records?

Educational records are all records that are directly related to a student and that are maintained by an educational institution (or its agents). A record means any information recorded in any way. Examples may include, but are not limited to, handwriting, print, tape, film, e-mail, microfilm, microfiche, and digital images.

Educational records do not include the following:

  • “sole possession records” - faculty and staff personal records not shared with others and only for the personal use of the maker (e.g. gradebook);
  • records made or maintained by a physician or psychologist;
  • employment records, unless employed due to status as a student (e.g. a staff member who happens to be pursuing a degree at the institution, as opposed to a student employed under the work study program);
  • law enforcement records created by RUPD; and
  • alumni records which do not contain information about the person as a student.

Who has FERPA rights?

  • FERPA rights belong to the student at Rice regardless of the student's age
  • Student applies to all students in attendance. Beside the traditional degree seeking students, this also includes (but is not limited to): visiting students, continuing education students, executive education students, students auditing a class, distance education students, former students

When do FERPA Rights Begin and End?

Beginning of FEPRA Rights

FERPA rights begin when a student is considered "in attendance." At Rice, "in attendance" begins:

  • For all incoming undergraduate students:
    • Early matriculants (admitted for Fall but attend classes in summer): the first day of classes or the date the student first registers (whichever is first)
    • Fall semester matriculants: at the matriculation ceremony during O-Week
    • Spring semester matriculants: the first day of classes
  • For all incoming graduate students:
    • Early matriculants (admitted for Fall but attend classes in summer): the first day of classes or the date the student first registers (whichever is first)
    • Fall semester matriculants: the first day of classes or the date the student first registers (whichever is first)
    • Spring semester matriculants: the first day of classes

Note: visiting students would follow the student level of the corresponding degree-seeking student level. In other words, visiting undergraduate students would follow the "incoming undergraduate students" and visiting graduate students would follow the "incoming graduate students."

Ending of FERPA Rights

FERPA rights continue after a student leaves Rice for whatever reason, and the rights only end with the death of the student.

Despite FERPA rights ending, Rice's practice has been to not release those records subject to FERPA. If you have a situation like this, you should contact the Office of the Registrar.

What is directory information?

FERPA provides for each institution to identify certain information as directory information, which may be disclosed without the student's permission. The university has designated the following information as directory information:

  • Name; permanent, local, mailing, and campus address; Rice employment (job title[s], teaching appointment[s], employing department[s], and dates of employment) and work location(s); residential college affiliation; telephone and mobile number(s); campus email address(es); and Net ID
  • Date and place of birth
  • Classification, degrees or programs, and majors and minors
  • Participation in officially recognized activities and sports
  • Weight and height of members of athletic teams
  • Dates of attendance, degrees, honors, and awards received
  • The most recent previous educational agency or institution attended by the student
  • Photograph

Who has access to student educational records?

A student’s consent is required for the disclosure or publication of any information that is a) personally identifiable and b) a part of the educational record. However, certain exceptions to this general rule, both in types of information that can be disclosed and in access to that information, are allowed by the regulations of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Rice may allow access to personally identifiable information without a student’s prior consent to its faculty or staff who legitimately require this information to perform their instructional, supervisory, advisory, administrative, or other duties for Rice.

What about student medical or mental health counseling records?

Under FERPA, all student medical and mental health records maintained by Rice University are either “Treatment Records” or “Education Records.” The majority of records maintained by Student Health Services (SHS) or Rice Counseling Center (RCC) are considered “Treatment Records” under FERPA. “Treatment records” are those made or maintained by a health care professional, are used only for a student's medical or psychological treatment, and maintained only in connection with providing the student treatment. Treatment records from SHS or RCC are always subject to state law protections. And if a treatment record becomes an education record it is also subject to protection and rights under FERPA. (HIPAA does not apply to either Rice treatment records or education records.)

Related FERPA Links

Additional resources covering FERPA are available here:

FERPA Training

Rice provides a FERPA tutorial available here. Successful completion of the training is required before access to student records is given.

FERPA FAQs

For a list of frequently asked FERPA questions for students, click here.

For a list of frequently asked FERPA questions for faculty & staff, click here.