Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) Annual Notification to Students

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), as amended, requires institutions to notify students currently in attendance of their legal rights under FERPA with respect to their education records. At American Public University System (APUS), a student has rights under FERPA upon acknowledging their student rights and responsibilities during completion of the admissions application.

At APU, Student Rights under FERPA include:

  1. The right to inspect and review his/her own education record within 45 days of the day the University receives an access request. A student should submit a written request to the registrar identifying the education record the student wishes to inspect. The Registrar will arrange for access and notify the student of the time, format, and place where the records may be inspected. For more information on reviewing records, go to Review of Records.
  2. The right to request an amendment to the education record that the student believes is inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise in violation of the student’s privacy rights under FERPA. A student who wishes to ask the University to amend a record should submit a written request to the Registrar clearly identifying the part of the record the student wants amended, and specifying the reason for the request. If the University decides not to amend the record as requested, the University will notify the student in writing of the decision and the student's 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 final decision to amend the record resides with the University. 
  3. The right to require written consent before the University discloses personally identifiable information ("PII") from the student's education records, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent (you may review FERPA Exceptions for Disclosure below). A student who wishes to grant access to a third party may complete a FERPA Release Authorization Form. Please email [email protected] to request the form. The form will only be released to the student not the third party.
  4. 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. The name and address of the office that administers FERPA is:  

    Family Policy Compliance Office
    U.S. Department of Education
    400 Maryland Avenue, SW
    Washington, DC  20202-5901

FERPA Exceptions for Disclosure Without Consent

The University discloses education record information without a student’s prior written consent under the FERPA exception for disclosure to school officials with legitimate educational interests. A school official has a legitimate educational interest if the official needs to review an education record to fulfill his or her professional responsibilities for the University.

APU defines the following as school officials:

  • Personnel within APU
  • A volunteer or contractor outside of APU who performs an institutional service or function for which APU would otherwise use its own employees and who is under the direct control of APU with respect to the use and maintenance of PII from education records (for example and without limitation, legal counsel, auditors, third-party contractors or collection agents)
  • A person serving on the Board of Trustees

FERPA also permits the disclosure of PII from education records, without consent of the student, if the disclosure meets certain conditions found in 34 C.F.R. § 99.31. Except for disclosures to school officials, disclosures related to some judicial orders or lawfully issued subpoenas, disclosures of directory information, and disclosures to the student, APU is required to record the disclosure. Here is a summary of some of the circumstances in which APU may disclose PII from education records without obtaining prior written consent of the student:

  • In connection with financial aid for which the student has applied or which the student has received, if the information is necessary to determine eligibility for the aid, determine the amount of the aid, determine the conditions of the aid, or enforce the terms and conditions of the aid
  • To accrediting agencies carrying out their accreditation function
  • To persons in compliance with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena
  • To appropriate officials in connection of health and safety emergencies
  • Information APU has designated as “directory information” (see below)
  • To parents of dependent children as defined for IRS tax purposes. (Documentation will be required as proof. Email [email protected] for more information.)
  • To authorized representatives of the U. S. Comptroller General, the U.S. Attorney General, the U.S. Secretary of Education, or State and local educational authorities, such as a State postsecondary authority that is responsible for supervising the university’s State-supported education programs. Disclosures under this provision may be made, subject to the requirements of §99.35, in connection with an audit or evaluation of Federal- or State-supported education programs, or for the enforcement of or compliance with Federal legal requirements that relate to those programs. These entities may make further disclosures of PII to outside entities that are designated by them as their authorized representatives to conduct any audit, evaluation, or enforcement or compliance activity on their behalf.
  • To officials from:
  • other institutions to which the student seeks to or intends to enroll or is already enrolled if the disclosure is for purposes related to the student’s enrollment or transfer (subject to certain preconditions)
  • organizations conducting studies for or on behalf of APU in order to (a) develop, validate, or administer predictive tests; (b) administer student aid programs; or (c) improve instruction
  • To persons or organizations for any purpose, so long as the only information disclosed is “directory information” and the student has not opted out (see below).

FERPA Federal and State Data Collection and Use

As of January 3, 2012, the U.S. Department of Education's FERPA regulations expand the circumstances under which the education records and PII contained in such records — including Social Security Number, grades, or other private information — may be accessed without student consent. First, the U.S. Comptroller General, the U.S. Attorney General, the U.S. Secretary of Education, or state and local education authorities ("Federal and State Authorities") may allow access to the records and PII without student consent to any third party designated by a Federal or State Authority to evaluate a federal- or state-supported education program. The evaluation may relate to any program that is "principally engaged in the provision of education," such as early childhood education and job training, as well as any program that is administered by an education agency or institution. Second, Federal and State Authorities may allow access to the education records and PII without student consent to researchers performing certain types of studies, in certain cases even when we object to or do not request such research. Federal and State Authorities must obtain certain use-restriction and data security promises from the entities that they authorize to receive student PII, but the Authorities need not maintain direct control over such entities. In addition, in connection with Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems, State Authorities may collect, compile, permanently retain, and share without student consent PII from the education records, and they may track student participation in education and other programs by linking such PII to other personal information about the student that they obtain from other Federal or State data sources, including workforce development, unemployment insurance, child welfare, juvenile justice, military service, and migrant student records systems.

Directory Information

Information that is not considered under FERPA to be harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed is referred to as directory information. FERPA allows each institution to decide what it deems to be directory information. As indicated above, APU discloses “directory information” without a student’s consent, unless the student has requested that his or her “directory information” not be shared. For more information on APU Directory Information and a student’s right to block directory information, go to Directory Information.

Better Business Bureau (BBB) Inquiries

Information requested from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) will only be released to the BBB if the student has completed a FERPA Release Form. If a FERPA Release Form has not been completed, the University will respond to the BBB with a letter explaining that the student has not authorized release of information and that a letter will be sent directly to the student with detailed information addressing the issue. The student may then choose to forward a copy of the University's direct response to the BBB.