FERPA for Students

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974 is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records for current and former students of the university. FERPA applies to all schools that receive funds under applicable programs administered by the U.S. Department of Education.

In general, FERPA allows the University to disclose education records or personally identifiable information from education records in the following circumstances:

  • with the written consent of the student
  • if the disclosure meets a statutory exemption
  • if the disclosure is directory information and the student has not opted out of the sharing of directory information

What is an education record?

Education records are those records, files, documents and other materials that contain information that is personally identifiable to a student and are maintained by the university or by a party or organization acting on behalf of the university.

Student Rights Under FERPA

  1. Inspect and Review: students have the right to inspect and review their education records (WAC 516-26-030). Students should submit a written request to the University official who maintains the record, identifying the record they wish to inspect.
  2. Request an Amendment: students have the right to request the amendment of student education records that the student believes are inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise in violation of the student’s privacy rights under FERPA (WAC 516-26-050). This process cannot be used to challenge grades.
  3. Provide Written Consent: students have the right to provide written consent before the University discloses personally identifiable information from the student’s education records, except to the extent FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent (WAC 516-26-070).
  4. File a Complaint: students have the right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by the University to comply with the requirements of FERPA.

Student Directory Information

Directory information (WAC 516-26-090) at Western Washington University is defined as:

  • student’s name
  • local telephone number
  • dates of attendance
  • degrees and awards received
  • participation in officially recognized sports and activities
  • weight and height, if a member of an athletic team
  • most recent previous educational institution attended

FERPA allows the University to release a student’s directory information to anyone unless the student informs the Registrar’s Office that they do not want directory information released.

Restrict Release of Directory Information

Students who do not wish to authorize the release of directory information and do not want their directory information to appear in institutional directories must inform the Registrar by opting out of the sharing of directory information in Web4U:

  1. Log into Web4U.
  2. From the Student menu select Student Records and navigate to "Release of Directory Information."
  3. Select Yes to restrict the release of directory information.

Students may choose to opt-out of directory information release at any time via the steps above.

Change Release Restriction 

At any time after opting to restrict the release of directory information, students may change their mind and authorize the University to release directory information and for it to appear in institutional directories. Students can grant such authorization by following the same procedures outlined above through Web4U.

Consequences of Restricting Directory Information

Restricting the release of directory information has consequences that should be considered prior to opting out. For instance, a FERPA restriction makes it difficult or impossible for potential employers to verify enrollment or degree(s) earned from the University. The University cannot publish academic honors received at the end of a quarter or publish a student’s name and graduation in a commencement program.  The student’s email address cannot be listed in Western’s Global Address List (an internal list in Outlook).  For these and other reasons, many students choose to allow the sharing of directory information.