Right to Privacy (FERPA)
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), also known as the Buckley Amendment, is a federal law that was enacted in 1974 to protect the privacy of students and their educational records. The intent of the legislation is to protect the rights of students and to ensure the privacy and accuracy of educational information.
The Act provides for the right of eligible students and parents to:
- Inspect and review their educational records. Additional information can be found in the policy regarding Student Permanent Records.
- Request an amendment to records that are believed to be inaccurate. Additional information can be found in the policy regarding Student Permanent Records.
- Require the College to obtain written consent prior to disclosure of personally identifiable information, except those items noted in herein.
- File a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by the College to comply with FERPA.
"Educational Information" ” is defined as any record maintained by an educational institution, including files, documents, and materials of any type which contain information directly related to students, and which allows a student to be identified.
"Educational Information" does not include:
- Sole possession records or private notes held by educational personnel which are not accessible or released to other personnel
- Law enforcement or campus security records which are solely for law enforcement purposes
- Records related to individuals who are employed by the College
- Records related to treatment provided by a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, or other recognized professional
- Records of the College which contain only information about an individual obtained after that person is no longer a student at the College (i.e., alumni records)
Virginia Western may disclose information from a student’s educational record without consent under certain conditions specified in the FERPA regulations at 34 CFR §99.31:
- To school officials with a legitimate educational interest.
- To officials of another school where the student seeks or intends to enroll.
- To government officials in connection with the audit and evaluation of federal- and state-supported education programs.
- To persons or organizations in connection with financial aid.
- To persons or organizations conducting research, studies or data collection on behalf of the College for the development of test, administration of financial aid, or the improvement of instruction.
- To accrediting organizations.
- To comply with the Solomon Amendment.
- To a parent or legal guardian of the student, provided the parent or legal guardian has demonstrated that the student is a dependent for tax purposes.
- In order to comply with a judicial order or subpoena provided, the College makes a reasonable effort to inform the student in advance so that the student may take protective action, except when the College is legally required to not disclose the existence of a subpoena.
- To appropriate officials in connection with a health or safety emergency.
- To the victim of an alleged perpetrator of a crime of violence or a non-forcible sex offense concerning the final results of a disciplinary hearing with respect to the alleged crime.
- To any third party, the final results of a disciplinary proceeding related to a crime of violence or non-forcible sex offense, if the student who is the alleged perpetrator is found to have violated College rules or policies.
- To the Virginia State Police and in accordance with the Wetterling Act regarding sexual offenders.
- To parents of a student under age 21 when the student has violated College rules or criminal laws concerning alcohol or drugs.
- To state and local authorities, within a juvenile system, pursuant to specific State law.
- In response to an ex parte order in connection with the investigation or prosecution of terrorism.
All officials shall document when information is disclosed.
Release of Educational Record
Students must authorize the release of their educational information/record by completing a Student Information Release form (PDF), identifying a PIN number and third parties to whom information should be released. Third parties will need to identify the PIN number that the student identifies before information can be released
Who Is An Eligible Student Under FERPA and How Are They Protected?
Students become "eligible" and are protected under FERPA when they begin attendance at a higher education institution or have been previously enrolled and have an education record, regardless of age or status in regard to parental dependency. Per VCCS Counsel, an individual is a student if he/she is or has attended a class and their information is in the Student Information System (SIS). FERPA rights continue after the student leaves the college and are only terminated upon the death of the student.
Either a parent or an eligible student—but not both—is entitled to assert rights under FERPA. Parents of eligible students do not have rights under FERPA (20 U.S.C. 123g(d); 34 C.F.R. 99.3).
A student does not need to be enrolled in a program of study to be an eligible student. If a student attends any kind of course or program offered by the College, he/she is then considered an eligible student.
Students who have applied, but not attended Virginia Western, and deceased students are not protected under FERPA guidelines.
Student's rights under FERPA
In order to review an educational record, a student or a parent of a dependent student must submit in writing a request to review such record to the Registrar. The request must identify the record(s) he or she wishes to review. If the request is from a parent, the parent must submit documentation indicated that the student is his or her dependent.
The Registrar will respond to the inquiry within a reasonable amount of time, but within the forty-five (45) day requirement prescribed by FERPA, informing of the date, time and place that the record(s) may be viewed. If the record is not housed within the Registrar’s Office, the staff will direct the student to the appropriate office in which the record is maintained. Virginia Western is not required to supply copies of records unless there are specific, mitigating circumstances (i.e., great distance from the college) that prevent the student from reviewing the records.
If a student believes their education records contain information that is inaccurate, misleading, or in violation of the student’s right to privacy, he or she may contact the Registrar to ask to amend the record. The Registrar of the unit that houses the record, will review the request and respond to the student.
If the student is dissatisfied with the College’s decision not to amend the record, the student may contact the Dean of Student Services in writing to request a hearing. The Dean of Student Services will arrange a hearing. The student should bring documentation supporting his/her request for amending the record(s).
Within ten (10) business days of the meeting, the Dean of Student Services will issue the decision of the request. If after the hearing, the College does not amend the record, the student may place a statement in the record. This procedure does not replace the Student Grievance Procedure, whereby a student may grieve an administrative decision related to his/her record.
A student may formally request that Virginia Western not release Directory Information on their behalf by submitting a Student Request for Non-Disclosure of Records (PDF) to the Records Office or by changing the privacy settings in the Student Center through their MyVWCC account. Once this request has been made, every reasonable effort will be made to safeguard the confidentiality of directory information.
Virginia Western staff will not respond to phone calls from potential employers to verify enrollment for students who have submitted an official request of non disclosure without the student’s written authorization. This request will remain in effect until the student submits a written notice to remove the restriction or they update their MyVWCC account.
The College makes a reasonable effort to inform the student in advance so that the student may take protective action, except when the College is legally required to not disclose the existence of a subpoena.
Lastly, students have the right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by the College to comply with FERPA.
Parents Rights Under FERPA
Parents lose rights under FERPA when their child turns 18 years of age or starts attending classes in any postsecondary institution, whichever happens first.
Under 20 USC 1232g(d), all rights of parents, including the right to inspect educational records and to consent to the disclosure of personally identifiable information, transfers to the student at the earlier of: 1) the attainment of age 18, or 2) attendance at an institution of postsecondary education.
Parents of a financially dependent student, as defined by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), may obtain their child’s records after submitting proof of the student’s dependency via the most recent federal tax form. Requested information will not be released prior to the submission of this documentation.
Students can authorize the release of their education information to a parent, spouse, or other third party by completing an Information Release Form (PDF).
Faculty and staff need to be very careful when a parent calls and asks for information about a student. If there is not a Student Information Release form on file, the parent cannot identify the PIN number assigned by the student, or proof of financial dependency has not been established, disclosure – even to a parent – is unlawful.
Spouses' Rights Under FERPA
Under FERPA, a student’s spouse is considered an “unrelated third party” and, therefore, has no rights under the Act. The College cannot disclose a student’s educational information to a spouse without consent, even if the spouse is supporting the student.
Again, students can authorize the release of their education information to a parent, spouse, or other third party by completing an Information Release Form. (PDF)
Release of Directory Information
As provided by FERPA, Virginia Western Community College designates the following categories of student information as "Limited Use Directory Information" and may disclose the following without the student's prior consent at the College's discretion:
- Student's Name
- Degree, honors, and awards received
Per VCCS Policy 22.214.171.124, Colleges shall not disclose the address, telephone number, or email address of a student as directory information or pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request without the prior written consent of the student. Colleges shall establish policies that allow students to opt-in to the disclosure of such information without prior written consent.
A student may formally request that Virginia Western not release directory information on their behalf by submitting a Student Request for Non-Disclosure of Records (PDF) to the Records Office or by changing the privacy settings in the Student Center of their MyVWCC account. Once this request has been made, every reasonable effort will be made to safeguard the confidentiality of directory information.
Virginia Western staff will not respond to phone calls from potential employers to verify enrollment for students who have submitted an official request of non-disclosure without the student’s written authorization.
Who Is Considered a "School Official"?
- A person employed by or under contract with the College in an administrative, supervisory, academic, or support staff position;
- A person serving on the Virginia Western Local Advisory board;
- A person or firm retained by the College to perform professional services, such as legal, accounting, or auditing services; or
- A person or company under contract with the College to manage or perform operations functions, such as the College bookstore.
What is "Legitimate Educational Interest"?
- Legitimate educational interest means a school official has a "need-to-know" regarding specific information in a student's record. It refers to any authorized interest or activity undertaken in the name of the College.
- Legitimate education interest exists when the school official is performing a task related to a student's education or is providing a service or benefit to the student.
- It exists when the school official is maintaining safety and security on campus.
- Access to an educational record must be necessary or appropriate to the operation of the College or to the proper performance of the educational mission of the College.
Effective October 23, 1998, all Colleges and Universities are required to comply with the final regulations of the Solomon Amendment. Failure to comply may result in the loss of federal funding including various forms of federal student aid. The purpose of this document is to explain the procedures at Virginia Western Community College regarding compliance with the Solomon Amendment.
The Solomon Amendment supersedes FERPA. Solomon is based on the definition of "Student Recruitment Information."
Definition - Student Recruitment Information
- Address (Main, Permanent)
- Telephone number (Main, Permanent)
- Class Level (e.g. First-Year, Sophomore)
- Degree awarded
Information released is limited to the current semester or the previous semester. If the request is received between semesters, the requestor must specify previous semester or upcoming semester.
Students must be enrolled.
If a student requests that their directory information be withheld under FERPA, this protection will be honored under Solomon; the student's records will not be released.
Sub-population definition under Solomon is limited to the data elements included in the definition of "Student Recruitment Information." Sub-population definitions according to the Solomon Act: veteran status, academic performance, ethnicity, nationality, social security numbers, religion, and gender are specifically excluded under Solomon.
Information released is limited to military recruiting purposes only. The request for information must be in writing on letterhead that clearly identifies the military recruiting organization. Military recruiters must be from one of the following military organizations:
- Air Force
- Air Force National Guard
- Air Force Reserve
- Army National Guard
- Army Reserve
- Coast Guard
- Coast Guard Reserve
- Navy Reserve
- Marine Corps
- Marine Corps Reserve
Requesting Recruitment Information
Military Recruiters are to submit their Solomon requests to:
Office of the Registrar
Virginia Western Community College
3094 Colonial Ave SW
Roanoke, VA 24015
If you have any questions or concerns regarding FERPA, please feel free to direct your questions (or requests for information) to:
VWCC Records Office
3094 Colonial Ave SW
Roanoke, Virginia 24015
Telephone: 855-874-6690 - 24/7 Student Support Center
A copy of the FERPA Guidelines is available from the Records Office or can be accessed here (PDF).
You may also call 800-USA-LEARN (800-872-5327) or visit
Family Policy Compliance Office
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue. S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20202-5920
Location: Chapman Hall C107
3094 Colonial Ave. SW
Roanoke, VA 24015