Dear FERPA Professor,
I hope this email finds you well. We are having an interesting conversation on campus and are very interested in your expertise on the topic.
The conversation is regarding students declaring their dependency status vs providing consent.
One point of view is if we ask the student to answer one question, are you a dependent and to whom, that gives consent to release anything in the educational record. Another point of view is just providing consent allows the release of anything in the education record causing the dependency to be a moot point.
Your insight is welcomed and appreciated.
Dear Ms. Toria,
Since FERPA rights at postsecondary institutions belong to the student, disclosing education records to the student's parents requires either a signed consent (see § 99.30 of the FERPA regulations) from the student or that the conditions of one of the exceptions to signed consent found at § 99.31 of the regulations be met. One of those exceptions is the dependent student exceptions found at § 99.31(a)(8). This exception requires that the student be claimed on one of the parent's latest year tax returns. There are two ways the claim can be verified. One is to have a copy of the tax return provided by the parent(s). Alternatively, the student could provide confirmation of this status by signing a form attesting to the status. You can find model forms for this dependency confirmation on pages 134 and 135 of the 2012 AACRAO FERPA Guide.
I hope this is helpful in answering your questions. You can find the above-cited regulations on pages 159 and 161 of the FERPA guide.
The FERPA Professor