Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

Frequently Asked Questions

What is FERPA?

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, also known as FERPA, protects the privacy of student records.  The Act provides a student the right to limit disclosure of information from the records, the right to inspect and review educational records, and the right to seek to amend those records.  The Act applies to all higher education institutions that are the recipients of federal funding.

Who is protected under FERPA?

Students who are currently enrolled and former students at Saint Mary’s College are protected, regardless of their age or status with respect to parental dependency. 

What are educational records?

Educational records include paper and electronic records, files, documents and data directly related to the student that are maintained by the College or any employee acting for the College. The records may be hand-written or in the form of print, magnetic tape, film, CD, or some other medium.  This would include transcripts or other records obtained from a school in which a student was previously enrolled, as well as files maintained in any academic or administrative department.  With  certain exceptions, a student has a right of access to those records which are directly related to her.


What is not included in an educational record?

  • Sole possession records or private notes held by educational personnel which are not accessible or released to other personnel.
  • Campus security records which are solely for law enforcement purposes.
  • Employment records of individuals who are employed by the College (unless employment is contingent upon enrollment; e.g. employment records of work-study students are educational records).
  • Records relating to treatment provided by a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist or  other recognized professional or paraprofessional and disclosed only to individuals providing treatment.
  • Records of the College that contain information about an individual obtained after she is no longer a student at Saint Mary’s (i.e., alumnae records).


What is directory information?

Directory information is defined as personally identifiable information contained in an education record of a student which would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed.  The College has defined directory information within the FERPA guidelines, and may disclose this information on a student without her consent or violating FERPA.  At Saint Mary’s College directory information includes: 

  • name
  • local and permanent addresses (including e-mail)
  • telephone number
  • date and place of birth
  • program of study
  • classification
  • dates of attendance
  • full-or part-time status
  • participation in officially recognized activities and sports
  • height and weight of athletes
  • photographs or videos
  • degrees and awards received
  • parent/guardian name
  • previous educational institution(s) attended    

Saint Mary’s College publishes our policy and provides procedures for students to restrict releasing their directory information on the Office of the Registrar homepage.


Who is entitled to obtain student information?

  • The student and any outside party who has the student’s written consent.
  • School officials who have “legitimate educational interests” as defined in FERPA.
  • Parents of a dependent student as defined by the Internal Revenue Code
  • A judicial order or subpoena which allows the institution to release records without the student’s consent (however, a “reasonable effort” must be made to notify the student before complying with the order).


When is consent from the student required to disclose information (other than directory information) from her record ?

Except for specific exceptions listed in the next question, a signed and dated consent by the student must always be obtained before any disclosure is made. The written consent must specify the records that may be released, state the purpose of the disclosure and identify the party to whom the disclosure may be made.


When is the student’s consent not required to disclose information?

Request to disclose information should always be handled with caution and approached on a case-by-case basis.   The exceptions that do not require prior consent include: 

  • directory information
  • information given to the student
  • to parents of a dependent student (information predetermined by the College)
  • to college officials
  • to colleges in which a student seeks to enroll
  • to accrediting organizations
  • in connection with Financial Aid
  • to Federal, State and local authorities involving an audit or evaluation of compliance with education programs
  • to State and local authorities pursuant to a State law adopted before November 1974
  • to organizations conducting studies for or onbehalf of Saint Mary’s or other educational institutions
  • to comply with judicial order or subpoena
  • health or safety emergency
  • results of disciplinary hearing to an alleged victim of a crime of violence


How does the increasing use of technology impact FERPA on our campus?

The same principles of confidentiality must be applied to electronic data that apply to paper documents. We can anticipate that electronic data may eventually replace most paper documents.  Appropriate policies will be continually revisedand amended to protect the confidentiality of those records within the FERPA guidelines.



The College uses an opt-out approach to verifying dependency.  At Enrollment at the beginning of each semester, students under age 24 are given an opportunity to opt-out, indicating they are not dependents as defined in the Internal Revenue Code.  A student who is not a dependent must advise the Registrar in writing and provide documentation of financial independence.  Where a student does not opt-out, she will be considered a dependent.  A student may advise the registrar in writing and provide documentation of independence at any time during her enrollment at the College.

The College may release education records of a dependent student (as that term is defined in the Internal Revenue Code) to parents and legal guardians, when the College believes that it is in a student’s best interest, in health and safety emergencies, and in certain other circumstances, generally limited to the following information:

  • a student has voluntarily withdrawn from the College or has been required by the College to withdraw
  • a student’s academic good standing is at issue
  • a student has been placed on academic or disciplinary probation
  • a student has financial obligations to the College
  • in exceptional cases when a student otherwise engages in behavior calling into question the appropriateness of the student’s continued enrollment in the College.


QUESTIONS?  This information is intended to be a guideline for compliance with FERPA.  If you have any questions regarding this information or FERPA, please contact the Registrar at  Detailed information regarding FERPA may be found at the following website: Department of Education, Family Policy Compliance Office.


Office of the Registrar

161 Le Mans Hall
Notre Dame, IN  46556
Phone: 574-284-4560
Fax:  574-284-4842   


Updated: 10.1.09