WPI Student Records Privacy Guidelines
Notification of rights under the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974
At WPI we are committed to safeguarding the privacy of student records in accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA). FERPA is a federal law that protects the rights of students by guaranteeing them access to their academic records while prohibiting unauthorized access by others.
- Students have a right to:
- All education records are confidential (except "directory information") and cannot be disclosed unless the student consents or the disclosure fits one of the exceptions (see below).
- Faculty and staff generally may not see a student's education records without first identifying a legitimate educational interest or an exception to the FERPA rules.
- Parents do not have an automatic right to view their children's postsecondary education records.
Here are some frequently asked questions about FERPA, with answers below:
- What is an education record? What is not an education record?
Education records include any information or data recorded in any medium, including but not limited to, handwriting, print, tapes, film, e-mail, microfilm, and microfiche, which is directly related to a student and maintained by WPI or a party acting in its behalf.
Examples of an education record include:
Education records do not include:
- Can a student review his/her education records?
Students may inspect and review their education records on written request to the person in charge of the records. That person will comply with the request as soon as reasonably possible, but in all events within 45 days after the request has been made, as required by law.
Students have the right to review and inspect all education records in their file except:
- Financial information submitted by their parents;
- Confidential letters and recommendations associated with admissions, honors, employment, or job placement to which they have waived their rights of inspection and review or which were placed in the file before January 1975;
- Education records containing information about more than one student, in which case the institution will permit access only to that part of the record pertaining to the inquiring student;
- Records connected with an application to attend WPI if that application was denied.
If, after inspecting and reviewing the records, a student believes that any information contained in them is inaccurate, the student may request in writing that the office holding those records amend them. That office will reach a decision and inform the student of this decision in writing within a reasonable time after receipt of the request. If the office refuses to amend the record in accordance with the student's request, WPI will notify the student of the right to a hearing.
- Where are these records located?
- Official education records, which include the University transcript, records relating to prior educational experience, and admissions documents, are on file in the Office of the Registrar.
- Financial aid records are maintained in the Financial Aid Office.
- Accounting records are maintained in the Accounting Office.
- Disciplinary records are located at the Student Affairs Office.
- Records related to nonacademic activities are usually maintained in other offices associated with those activities.
- When can an education record be released without student consent?
The law allows disclosure without consent to:
- School officials who have a legitimate educational interest
- Other schools, upon request, in which a student is seeking or intending to enroll
- Accrediting organizations
- Organizations doing certain studies for or on behalf of WPI
- Appropriate parties in connection with financial aid to a student to determine eligibility, amount or conditions of financial aid, or to enforce the terms and conditions of aid.
- Parents, when a student over 18 is still a dependent (see discussion of WPI policies and additional information regarding parents' rights, below.)
- Certain authorized representatives of the U. S. Department of Education, the Comptroller General, the Attorney General of the United States and state and local educational authorities, in connection with an audit of state or federally supported education programs or for the enforcement or compliance with Federal legal requirements which relate to those programs
- Individuals who have obtained a judicial order or subpoena
- School officials who have a need to know concerning disciplinary action taken against a student
- Appropriate parties who need to know in cases of health and safety emergencies when necessary to protect the health and safety of the student and/or others
- State and local authorities, within the juvenile justice system, pursuant to specific state law
- Alleged victim of a crime of violence, but only the results of a disciplinary proceeding with respect to that crime
- Parent or legal guardian of a student under the age of 21, but only information regarding any violation of university policy or state, federal or local law, governing the use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance
- Those requesting directory information on a student provided the student has not requested his or her information be withheld
- Who at WPI is considered a "school official"?
A school official is a person employed by WPI in an administrative, supervisory, academic, research or support staff position; a trustee or outside contractor, such as an attorney or auditor, acting as an agent for WPI; students or others who are serving on an official committee, such as a disciplinary or grievance committee, or who are assisting another school official in performing his or her school-related tasks.
- What is considered a "legitimate educational interest"?
A school official has a legitimate educational interest in the protected education records when performing a task that is specified in the official's position description or contract, which relates to:
- A student's education or the discipline of a student;
- A service or benefit provided to the student or student's family, such as health care, counseling, job placement, or financial aid; or
- Maintaining the safety and security of the campus.
Legitimate educational interest does not include simply having a curiosity about the academic record or disciplinary proceedings. Education records are not open for inspection by faculty and staff at WPI. School officials are not allowed access to education records unless the official has a legitimate educational interest that meets the conditions described above. Consult with the Office of the Registrar if you have any question about whether a legitimate educational interest exists in connection with a request for student data.
- What is considered "directory information" or public information?
The following student data is considered directory information or public information:
Directory information can NEVER include:
Note: Class schedules are not considered directory information and are only released to anyone within the WPI community who has a "need to know" status.
- Can directory information be released without student consent?
Yes, directory information is open to the public, provided the student has not requested that his/her directory information be withheld. When a student requests his/her directory information be withheld, directory information will only be released to school officials who have a "legitimate educational interest" or to others as allowed by law.
- How can a student withhold directory information?
During the Fall and Spring enrollment process, students are contacted by email and directed to the Registrar's Web page to update their biographical information, confirm their Confidentiality status, and enroll and register for classes. Once a student chooses to restrict directory information, a "withhold directory" flag is put on their academic record until the following enrollment period at which time the student information updating process occurs again.
- What are parents' rights under FERPA?
It is important to note that Worcester Polytechnic Institute gives parents of financially dependent students, as defined in Section 152 of the Internal Revenue Code, full access to their dependents' educational records. Access includes parents' receiving copies of their dependents' grade reports each semester from the Office of the Registrar. Worcester Polytechnic Institute assumes that its undergraduate students are financially dependent on their parents unless a parent or student informs us otherwise. If the student is financially independent the student must notify the Registrar of his or her independent financial statuses by using the financially Independent Student form. The form is available in our office for your convenience.
- What are WPI's FERPA notification policies?
Twice per year via e-mail, in a Notice such as this one, WPI will notify students of their rights under FERPA including their:
- Right to inspect and review education records
- Right to seek amendment or correction of educational records
- Right to control the disclosure of information from education records except when disclosure is permitted by law
- Right to file complaints with the Family Policy Compliance Office, United States Department of Education, within 180 days of alleged violation
- Where do you go with additional questions or for more information?
The Office of the Registrar is the first stop for any questions about FERPA. Please report any potential violations to the Office of the Registrar immediately.
- What if WPI does not comply with FERPA regulations?
FERPA provides for a complaint procedure to the United States Department of Education (see address below) with an ultimate sanction of withholding of federal funding. While there is generally no private cause of action directly under FERPA, students may seek to hold the WPI or individuals liable under common law tort theories such as invasion of privacy. Faculty, staff, administration or students who violate the WPI's FERPA policy will be subject to corrective or disciplinary action, depending on the individual circumstances.
The Family Policy Compliance Office
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20202-4605