FERPA: Frequently Asked Questions

FERPA Issues For Faculty:

How may I post class grades?
The public posting of grades, either by the student's name, institutional student identification number, social security number, or any part there of, without the student's written permission, is a violation of FERPA. Even with names obscured, numeric student identifiers are considered personally identifiable information and therefore violate FERPA. Instructors can assign students confidential unique numbers or codes that can be used to post grades. However, the order of the posting must not be alphabetic.

Are there restrictions on returning assignments and examinations?
Leaving personally identifiable, graded papers or examinations unattended for students to view is no different from posting grades in the hallway. If these papers contain personally identifiable information, then leaving them unattended for anyone to see is a violation of FERPA if the instructor has not obtained the written permission of each student to do so. Possible solutions would be either to leave the graded papers (exams, quizzes, and homework) with an assistant or secretary who would ask students for proper identification prior to distributing them or to leave them in a sealed envelope with only the student's name on it, to be released to the student with proper identification. If handing graded papers during class, instructors should assure that students are not able to see any evaluative marks.

Can I send final grades to students?
Instructors can notify students of their final grades via the U.S. Postal Service if the information is enclosed in an envelope. Notification of grades via a postcard violates a student's privacy.  Electronic notification of grades to individual students can be sent via email or posted on the web, so long as the student can only view his or her grade.

Can I access student records?
Faculty members are normally considered "school officials." But, the faculty member will have to demonstrate "a legitimate educational interest" in their request to access student records, e.g. advising students, retention study, etc. However, faculty do not have access to student academic records unless their normal job duties specifically require access.

How do I know if a student has restricted access to his/her directory information?                       It is best to assume that the student has restricted access to his/her directory information.  Please remember it is MiraCosta College’s general practice not to release student directory information. Please contact the Registrar for further information.       

What if parents call me requesting information?
Such things as progress in a course, deficiencies in a subject area, scores and grades on papers, exams, or even telling anyone that an individual is enrolled in your class are all examples of personally identifiable information that make up part of the student's education record. This information is protected by FERPA.

Students may grant their parents (or others) permission to access their educational records by filing a “Release of Student Information to Parent/Guardian” form with the Admissions and Records Office.

Are there restrictions on writing letters or recommendation?
Written permission of the student is required for a letter of recommendation if any information included in the recommendation is part of the "education records" (grades, GPA and other non-directory information). The authorization remains in effect until it is cancelled by the student in writing.  Faculty should only provide information requested in the letter.