Student Records and FERPA
UC Davis researchers who wish to obtain student data for research are responsible for compliance with:
- UC Davis Policy and Procedure 320-21
- Federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), and
- UC Policy PACAOS-130: Disclosure of Information from Student Records
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g) is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law and its regulations (34 CFR Part 99) apply to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education (ED).
FERPA regulates the disclosure of personally identifiable information from education records in all public elementary and secondary schools, school districts, intermediate education agencies, state education agencies, and any public or private agency or institution that uses funds from ED. The purpose of FERPA is to protect all student and parent information maintained in an Education Record.
In This Section
Federal regulations require FERPA compliance.
FERPA requires prior consent to disclose personally identifiable information from an education record. When accessing education records for research purposes, investigators are responsible for compliance with FERPA in addition to general human subject protection regulations (IRB requirements).
FERPA stipulates that an educational institution has the authority to determine what information may be accessed from an Education Record. If an institution denies an investigator access to information in an Education Record, the IRB cannot overrule the decision. Here, at University of California, Davis, the Office of the University Registrar requires review of the research prior to accessing Education Records.
Note that projects aimed at educational improvement for the instructor’s own students, without the intention of applying the information learned to a broader population or in other settings, does not meet the definition of research. When conducting course evaluation and improvement programs that do not meet the definition of research, there is the possibility of approval to access identifiable records without consent. This involves being recognized as a Campus Official performing assigned duties relating to improving UC Davis students’ education.
Visit The Office of the University Registrar Official Privacy Notifications and Preserving Student Privacy for more information about accessing education records for students on the main campus, students in the School of Veterinary Medicine, or students in the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing.
There are three ways to comply with FERPA when accessing student records for research:
- Obtain Consent to Access Education Records for Research
- Access Education Records as a Campus Official
- Receive De-identified Data
Obtain Consent to Access Education Records for Research
When a researcher wishes to access identifiable education records solely for research purposes, FERPA consent will be required. FERPA consent is an additional protection and should not be confused with consent for participation in the research. The researcher must document the FERPA consent by having the parent or Eligible Student sign and date a FERPA Waiver of Records Release .
Access Education Records as a Campus Official
When a research project has the dual aims of educational improvement for the instructor’s own students and generation of knowledge that can be applied broadly outside of the research setting, there is the possibility of approval to access identifiable education records without consent. This involves being recognized as a Campus Official performing assigned duties relating to improving UC Davis students’ education. Contact The Office of the University Registrar for more information about this process.
Receiving De-identified Data
Education records may be released without consent under FERPA if all personally identifiable information has been removed including:
- Student’s name and other direct personal identifiers, such as the student’s social security number or student number.
- Indirect identifiers, such as the name of the student’s parent or other family members; the student’s or family’s address, and personal characteristics or other information that would make the student’s identity easily traceable; date and place of birth and mother’s maiden
- Biometric records, including one or more measurable biological or behavioral characteristics that can be used for automated recognition of an individual, including fingerprints, retina and iris patterns, voiceprints, DNA sequence, facial characteristics, and
- Other information that, alone or in combination, is linked or linkable to a specific student that would allow a reasonable person in the school community, who does not have personal knowledge of the relevant circumstances, to identify the student with reasonable
- Note: The US Department of Education indicates that “data that cannot be linked to a student by those reviewing and analyzing the data are not ‘personally identifiable.’ As such, the data are not “directly related” to any students. Accordingly, a document containing only non-personally identifiable data, even when originally taken from a student’s Education Record, is not a part of the student’s Education Records for purposes of FERPA.”
- Directory Information means information contained in an Education Record of a student that would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed. It includes, but is not limited to, the student’s name, address, telephone listing, electronic mail address, photograph, date and place of birth, major field of study, dates of attendance, grade level, enrollment status (e.g., undergraduate or graduate; full-time or part-time), participation in officially recognized activities and sports, weight and height of members of athletic teams, degrees, honors and awards received, and the most recent educational agency or institution attended.
- Disclosure means to permit access to or the release, transfer, or other communication of Personally Identifiable Information contained in Education Records to any party, by any means, including oral, written, or electronic means.
- Education Records means records that contain information directly related to a student and that are maintained by an educational agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution. These include, but are not limited to, academic evaluations, including student examination papers, transcripts, test scores and other academic records; general counseling and advising records; disciplinary records; and financial aid records, including student loan collection records.
- Eligible student means a student who has reached 18 years of age or is attending an institution of postsecondary education.
- Personally Identifiable Information is the student’s (or family member’s) name, address, personal identifier, and personal characteristics or other information that would make the student’s identity easily traceable.
- Record means “any information recorded in any way, including, but not limited to, handwriting, print, computer media, video or audio tape, film, microfilm, and microfiche.”
- UC Davis Office of the University Registrar Official Privacy Notifications
- UC Davis Office of the University Registrar Preserving Student Privacy
- UC Davis FERPA Faculty Primer
- FERPA Waiver for Records Release – Used when the researcher’s role is of legitimate educational interest. Do not submit to the IRB.
- Data Use Agreement – Used when the researcher’s role has not been determined to be of legitimate educational interest. Do not submit to the IRB.