• Compliance
  • Report
  • K-12
  • Higher Ed

FERPA: Myths and the Truth

Joe Vossen, JD
April 2021

Why Read This

Colleges and universities must pay attention to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and dispel all-too-common myths about it that get in the way of doing the right thing for students. While institutions have been subject to FERPA for over 50 years and few, if any, statutes have such wide-reaching, everyday application on campuses, many institutions still sometimes panic about compliance.

Many leaders still incorrectly believe FERPA is an inflexible law that severely limits information sharing and carries significant penalties for violations. FERPA actually contains numerous exceptions that allow disclosure of information. No institution that violated FERPA has been fined, held legally liable, or lost funding.

This report seeks to explain FERPA and dispel common myths about it.

Key Takeaways

  • Personal knowledge isn’t subject to FERPA, and its disclosure isn’t prohibited by FERPA — even if the information also happens to be recorded.
  • While FERPA broadly applies to almost all recorded student information in institutions’ possession, it offers considerable leeway.
  • Although FERPA’s many provisions can be confusing, the statute is quite flexible and forgiving.

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