The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is U.S. federal law that provides guidelines to the rights and privacy of students’ and their education records. It defines what information a school may or may not release of its current or former students. Additionally, it outlines parental rights for students under the age of 18 attending non-postsecondary institutions. The law applies to all schools receiving funds under applicable U.S. Department of Education programs, which includes the majority of schools in the United States.
The language of law is a little ambiguous when it comes to what education records are protected, which understandably can cause policy discrepancies from one school to the next. However, the law is very clear when it comes to "directory information." In fact, the US Department of Education has placed guidance on their website that outlines what is included in "directory information" and how it may be used.
Pursuant to 34 CFR § 99.31, "directory information" may be released without prior consent, unless the student notifies the institution otherwise. The law classifies “directory information” to include but not limited to:
- telephone listing,
- electronic mail address;
- field of study;
- enrollment status (full-time, part-time, undergraduate, graduate); and
- degrees & awards received.
Because FERPA permits institutions to release “directory information” without violating the law, GradImages can use school-provided address information to help distribute free, no-obligation commencement photography proofs to graduates and their families. Please note that school-provided addresses are a good secondary source of information. However, the most reliable, up-to-date addresses are those obtained by the graduates themselves at the event. (Click here to read why.)
Remember that GradImages does not sell or divulge any student information to a third party, unless it is required by law. Graduate information is used only to distribute proofs and special offers, and is protected at all times.