FERPA FAQs

What is FERPA?
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) governs student education records. Under FERPA, a student may inspect his or her education records. FERPA also provides that a student's personally identifiable information may not be released to someone else unless (1) the student has given a proper consent for disclosure or (2) provisions of FERPA or federal regulations issued pursuant to FERPA permit the information to be released without the student's consent. For more information, see the U.S. Department of Education FERPA website.

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At what point does the student fall under FERPA guidelines?
At UNCW, a student falls under FERPA guidelines, at the point of registration. For new students, this is usually at the completion of their orientation.

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What is an education record?
In the broadest sense, education records are any records maintained by the institution from which a student can be personally identified. As a result, almost all of the information that UNCW maintains on students is considered a part of the education record, regardless of the format in which the information is kept.

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What is “directory information”?
The university defines the following as “directory information”:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Telephone number
  • UNCW email address
  • Student classification
  • Major fields of study
  • Participation in officially recognized activities & sports
  • Weight, height, and date of birth of members of athletic teams
  • Dates of attendance
  • Degrees and awards received
  • Place of birth
  • The most recent previous educational agency or institution attended
  • Membership in honorary societies
  • Scholarships received
  • Dean’s List honors
  • Offices held
  • Annual commencement program information

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When is the student's consent not required to disclose information?
When the disclosure is (one or more of the following):

  • School employees 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 the University
  • 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.
  • Certain government officials of the U. S. Department of Education, the Comptroller General for law enforcement purposes, or state or federally supported education programs
  • Individuals who have obtained a North Carolina 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 with the results of a disciplinary proceeding with respect to that crime
  • Parent or legal guardian of a student under the age of 21, i.e., 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
  • Student recuitment information, for branches of the United States military, requested under the Solomon Act

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How long are records kept?
Documents are maintained, according to the General Records Retention and Disposition schedule, established by the University of North Carolina System (UNC) and the Department of Cultural Resources (DCR). The schedule varies depending on the type of document. The range can vary from 1 year to indefinitely. To review this schedule, go to http://www.ah.dcr.state.nc.us/records/schedules/unc_system_general_schedule.pdf

How do I verify my identity to UNCW?
FERPA designates privacy guidelines for student-education records. To stay compliant with FERPA, we need to verify your identity whenever you request information from us.

The best long-term method of verifying your identity is to have your signature on file. If you appear in person, we can check your government-issued ID, UNCW ID, or UNCW email account. It becomes much more complicated once you leave campus for good.

Since UNCW applications went digital in 2010, we no longer automatically maintain handwritten application signatures. If you would like to place a copy of your handwritten signature on file with the Office of the Registrar you can do so by visiting our office, showing us your ID, and giving us your signature. Alternatively, you can send a digital copy of your signature from your UNCW email account to registrar@uncw.edu.

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In addition to the student, who has access to the education record?
Within the University, an employee or other person ("University official") who has a "legitimate educational interest" in the record.

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What is "legitimate educational interest"?
A University official has a "legitimate educational interest" if the official is:

  • performing a task that is specified in his or her position description or by a contract agreement
  • performing a task related to a student's education
  • performing a task related to the discipline of a student
  • providing a service or benefit relating to the student or student's family, such as advising, job placement, financial aid or housing assistance
  • maintaining the safety and security of the campus

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Can parents or legal guardians get access to my records?
Parents and legal guardians do not automatically have access to their student’s records. Access may be granted in one of two ways:

  • The student can grant parent or guardian access to view their student information on SeaNet by assigning them as a proxy. The student has the control on what the parent or guardian has access to including course registration, viewing grades, and so on. For steps to setup a proxy please visit http://uncw.edu/reg/students-assignProxy.htm.

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How is “directory information” made public?
Directory information can be made public in many ways. Some examples include the online directory, published Dean’s List and Chancellor’s Achievement Award, and the Commencement Program. In addition, outside entities may request student directory information for mailing lists, e-mail lists, and other uses.

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What if I don’t want my “directory information” to be distributed?
Students who do not wish to have their “directory information” made public without their prior consent must submit a Request To Prevent or Allow Disclosure Of Directory Information form to the Office of the Registrar. Students should be aware that by suppressing their directory information, their names will not appear in the Commencement Program* upon graduation, Dean’s List, Chancellor’s Achievement Award, the online directory, and other published information.
* Students with their directory information suppressed who would still like to have their name appear in the Commencement Program should contact the Office of the Registrar after applying for graduation.

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Are there any exceptions to the suppression of my “directory information”?

  • University officials with a legitimate educational interest (as described above) have access to all pertinent student records.
  • The National Student Clearinghouse acts as the University’s agent for providing enrollment and degree verifications. Student enrollment data is periodically reported to the Clearinghouse for this purpose. If a directory information block flag exists on the student’s record to prevent the disclosure of directory information, this flag is sent along with the enrollment data. The Clearinghouse is bound by the same laws as the University and will honor the directory information block flag.

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What if I have a complaint about access to my records?
A student has the right to file a complaint at any time with the US Department of Education. However, it is expected that the student normally would exhaust the available administrative remedies for relief according to the university grievance procedures before filing such a complaint.

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