Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) affords students certain rights related to their educational records. They are:

  • The right to inspect and review the education records within 45 days of the day the college receives a request for access. The student must submit to the registrar a written request that identifies the record(s) to be inspected. The college will make arrangements for access and notify the student of the time and place where the record(s) may be inspected. If the college official to whom the request was submitted does not maintain the record(s), that official shall advise the student of the correct official to whom the request should be addressed.
  • The right to request an amendment to the student’s education record(s) the student believes is inaccurate or misleading. The student may ask the college to amend a record believed to be inaccurate or misleading. The student should write the college official responsible for the record, clearly identifying the part of the record to be changed, and specify why it is inaccurate or misleading. If the college decides not to amend the record as requested by the student, the college will notify the student of the decision and advise the student of the right to a hearing regarding the request for amendment. Additional information regarding the hearing procedures will be provided to the student when notified of the right to a hearing.
  • The right to consent to disclosures of personally identifiable information contained in the student’s education record, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent. One exception, which permits disclosure without consent, is disclosure to school officials with legitimate educational interests. A school official is a person employed by the college in an administrative, supervisory, academic, or support staff position (including the law enforcement unit and health staff); a person or company with whom the college has contracted (such as an attorney, auditor, or collection agency); a person serving on the Board of Trustees; or a student serving on an official committee, such as disciplinary or grievance committee, or assisting another school official in performing his/her tasks. A school official has a legitimate educational interest if the official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill her/his professional responsibility. Upon request, the college discloses education records without consent to officials of another school to facilitate the student's transfer and enrollment.
  • The right to file a complaint with the United States Department of Education concerning alleged failures by Southwestern Michigan College to comply with the requirements of FERPA. The complaint can be sent to the following office that administers FERPA:
    Family Policy Compliance Office
    U.S. Department of Education
    600 Independence Avenue
    SW Washington, DC 20202-4605
  • FERPA applies to the education records of persons who are or have been in attendance at postsecondary institutions. FERPA does not apply to records of applicants for admission who are denied acceptance or, if accepted, do not attend an institution.
  • A student educational record includes all data in any form (paper, film, electronic, etc.) owned by the college and used to conduct business by school officials. The records are directly related to a student (personally identifiable) and maintained by an education agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution.
  • Some information (directory information) is considered public. This information can be released without the student’s written permission. However, the student has the option to request that the college keep this information confidential.

The following is SMC’s designated Directory Information:

  • Student’s name
  • Student's SMC email address
  • Curriculum
  • Participation in officially recognized activities
  • Dates of attendance
  • Degrees and awards received

The following are not included in an Educational Record:

  • Sole possession records (that is, private notes that a college employee makes about a student)
  • Law enforcement unit records
  • Employment records
  • Medical records
  • Post-attendance records

The following individuals or entities may have access to Student Education Information:

  • The student and any outside party who has the student’s written permission.
  • School officials who have “legitimate educational interest”.
  • Parents of a dependent student as defined by the internal revenue code (proof must be provided).
  • A person in response to a lawfully issued subpoena or court order (the college must first make a reasonable attempt to notify the student).
  • Such other entities as permitted by federal regulations.