Privacy of Education Records (FERPA)

Policy number: 1.10

Policy section: Institutional Affairs

Revised Date: January 2, 2019

1.  Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to comply with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 ("FERPA") and to apprise the University community of their rights and responsibilities under the act.

2.  Policy Statement

The University is bound by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 ("FERPA"), regarding the release of student education records. A guide to understanding FERPA is maintained by the University Registrar and is available to students, parents, faculty, and staff online at A statement regarding FERPA and the availability of the University's Guidelines to FERPA is published in the catalogs and other publications that include other University policies.  In addition, an annual FERPA notification will be sent to individual students.

3.  Students Inspecting and Reviewing Records

Under FERPA, students may inspect and review their education records, provided the records do not also contain information about other persons, by writing to the Department Chair or Vice President in the administrative area of the University responsible for maintaining those records. A list of education records, their definition, what is included and not included, and their campus locations is available in the University's online guidelines to FERPA. Within a reasonable time, usually less than five (5) days, but no more than forty-five (45) days after such request, the University shall allow the student to review those records, and if requested, may provide a copy of the records to the student. The University may charge a reasonable copying fee.

4.  Staff Training

SMU staff, including faculty in administrative roles, who have access to education records are required to complete an online FERPA tutorial every three years. Access to my.SMU can only be obtained after completion of the FERPA tutorial.

5.  Release of Education Records

Personally identifiable information from student education records will not be released to third parties without the prior written consent of the student, with the exception of records required to be released by the University under the following circumstances:

  1. Under court order or subpoena: The University will give ten (10) days' written notice to the student before releasing the required records so that the student may raise objection with the issuing entity, if desired, unless: a.) it is a federal grand jury subpoena, or other subpoena, issued for a law enforcement purpose, which orders no disclosure regarding the existence or contents of the subpoena or any information furnished in response to the subpoena; or b.) it is a federal court order requiring the University to release education records considered relevant to a federal investigation into terrorism.
  2. To other school employees, including faculty, who have a legitimate educational interest in the records and a bona fide need to know the information to carry out their assigned duties. Faculty shall have access to student education records when a student's academic progress is an issue. Deans shall have access to student education records in their Schools for proper administration of the Schools and their Departments. The Provost shall have access to student education records in order to administer properly the Schools and their academic programs. Other Vice Presidents shall have access to student education records in order to administer properly the educational functions of their respective areas. The Vice Presidents in areas where education records are maintained may establish written criteria for access to these records.
  3. To other institutions of higher education the student wishes to attend.
  4. To representatives of the Comptroller General of the United States, the Secretary of Education, or State and local educational authorities for evaluation of education programs or investigation into compliance with federal laws and regulations.
  5. To other State and local officials or authorities if any State statute adopted before November 19, 1974 specifically requires disclosure to those officials and authorities.
  6. To determine eligibility for student financial aid, determine the amount of such aid; determine the conditions for such aid, or to enforce the terms and conditions of student financial aid.
  7. To organizations conducting studies for educational agencies or institutions to develop, validate or administer predictive tests, to administer student aid programs, or to improve instruction.
  8. To accrediting organizations to permit them to carry out their accrediting functions.
  9. To the parents of a dependent student as defined by the Internal Revenue Code and the University's Undergraduate catalog.
  10. To those persons with a need to know in order to handle health or safety emergencies.
  11. To an alleged victim of any crime of violence, or a nonforcible sex offense, the final results of any disciplinary proceeding conducted by the University against the alleged perpetrator of that crime with respect to that crime, or to any person, the final results of any disciplinary proceeding conducted by the University against a student who is an alleged perpetrator of any crime of violence, or a nonforcible sex offense, if the University determines through the disciplinary proceeding that the student committed a violation of the University’s rules or policies with respect to such crime or offense. In either case, disclosure of the final results of any disciplinary proceeding will include only the name of the student, the violation committed, and any sanction imposed on that student by the University. Such disclosures may include the name of any other student, such as a victim or witness, only with the written consent of that other student.
  12. To University officials and faculty and/or school officials and faculty at other schools, who have legitimate educational interests in the student’s behavior, information concerning disciplinary action taken against a student that posed a significant risk to the student, other students, or other members of the University community.
  13. To the court, without a court order or subpoena, those records necessary to proceed with legal action against a student or parent as a plaintiff, or defend the University against a lawsuit brought by a student or parent.
  14. To a parent or legal guardian of a student, information regarding any violation of any Federal, state, or local law or of any University rule or policy governing the use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance if the student is under the age of 21 at the time of disclosure and the University determines that the student has committed a disciplinary violation with respect to such use or possession.
  15. To persons seeking "directory information": name, local and permanent addresses, local and permanent telephone numbers, E-mail address, , academic program (school of record, degree objective, majors, minors and anticipated date of graduation), classifications, participation in officially recognized activities and sports, including weight and height of members of athletic teams, dates of attendance, degrees and awards received, previous educational agency/institution attended, and current Enrollment Status (full, half, part-time, etc.)A student may restrict the release of directory information by submitting restrictions through their self service access to my.SMU.
  16. To a person or company with whom the University has contracted as its agent to provide a service instead of using University employees or officials including attorneys, auditors, bookstore, consultants and volunteers.

6.  Disclosure Records

Whenever records are disclosed under most of the circumstances discussed above, a record of the disclosure will be maintained with the education records. Students may access the disclosure record as well. The exception to the requirement to record disclosures applies to release of education records to federal law enforcement officials investigating terrorism.

7.  Standing Releases

The University allows students to establish standing releases of their educational records to individuals through my.SMU. This access may be updated at any time by the student.

8.  Corrections to Education Records

The University permits students to request correction of education records by writing to the Vice President in the area where the records are maintained; to obtain a hearing held by the Vice President or a designate in the area where the records are maintained, if such request for correction is denied; and to add a statement to the record, if after a hearing, the request for correction continues to be denied. This policy does not permit students to contest the grade given to a student's performance in a course, for example, but it does intend that there be proceedings by which a student may challenge the accuracy of institutional records which record the grade that was actually assigned to the student.

9.  Questions

Anyone needing assistance in interpreting or applying FERPA should contact the Office of Legal Affairs. Copies of this policy are available upon request to students and/or parents through the Office of Legal Affairs.

Revised: January 2, 2019

Adopted: April 29, 2002