Executive Director Update - September 21, 2017

Last Thursday, members of the AACRAO Board of Directors met with Members of Congress and congressional staff from their home state who sit on the House and Senate Education Committees to discuss items AACRAO would like addressed in the upcoming Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization. The group focused on issues relating to updating FERPA and correcting certain provisions created by 2012 Obama regulations.

Recent court decisions have created confusion surrounding whether electronic records, and emails that specifically identify the student, are considered educational records and are addressed under FERPA. AACRAO Board Members advocated for the inclusion of language in HEA that would identify "Electronic Records" in the definition of "Educational Records" and create a national standard. Additionally, they pushed to resolve the legally ambiguous status of records collected and maintained by third-parties, or cloud based storage, for use by educational agencies and institutions. The group argued that Third Party Record Collection Agencies should be included in the list of entities that capture and maintain student data and should covered under FERPA.

The Obama administration's 2012 regulatory amendments to FERPA greatly broadened the definition of who is given access to personally identifiable information (PII) from student records on a non-consensual basis. AACRAO Board Members strongly urged offices to consider language in the HEA to ensure students' private information will not be inappropriately disclosed to third parties, including restoring the previous definition of "Authorized Representative," among other things. The association recently submitted comments to the U.S. Education Department on the issue, as well.

The group also garnered support for the Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act of 2017 (H.R. 3774). Currently, there are clear processes and guidelines on how two-year institutions may share student information with four-year institutions. However, there are no processes or guidelines for sharing student information from four-year to two-year year institutions. The legislation—introduced by Reps. Luke Messer (R-IN) and Jared Polis (D-CO), along with co-sponsors Ed Permutter (D-CO), Drew Ferguson (R-GA), and Tom Garrett (R-VA)—would create a new FERPA exemption that would allow the sharing of student information between institutions to facilitate increased college completion rates.

AACRAO worked closely with Reps. Messer and Polis and their offices to ensure that the bill would increase the flexibility to complete an assessment of student records and adhere to FERPA standards. And we intend to keep working with and reaching out to other offices on the Hill to advance the association's legislative priorities.