Ask the FERPA Professor

March 22, 2021
  • FERPA
  • FERPA Training & Review
  • Student Academic Records and Academic Policy
  • FERPA
  • FERPA Professor
  • Student Records Management

Dear FERPA Professor:

I recently received the following request:

"I would like to submit a data request for access to directory information.  This includes all students enrolled for the Fall 2020 term at your University (Undergrad and Graduate).  The information I would like includes; Name, address, Class Standing, phone number, Major, E-mail. I am requesting this data in excel/csv format if possible. Please let me know at your earliest convenience."

Under what circumstances would I send this information to this person as is requested? As I read through the FERPA Guide, I am inclined to write back to say that I am not “required” to provide this under the “open record law”. I don’t know this person and I have no reason to assume that what they will do with this information is completely legitimate. We do not consider some of the items to be directory information so they would be excluded anyway. There is just something about this random request that feels off to me.

Also, when I pressed him on what he needs the information for, this was his response:

“I am currently in the data gathering process of my request. I am asking for this information in order to complete a personal data archival research project. This request is not for commercial purposes. What is the next step?”

Needless to say, I also do not have the staff or capacity to pull this information for him.  Given that, do I still need to comply with this request if it is administratively burdensome?

Please let me know your thoughts,

Ms. Smith

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Dear Ms. Smith,

This appears to be a "directory information" request from this individual and, as with most other exceptions to signed consent disclosures found at §99.31 in the FERPA regulations, such a disclosure would be permissible but not required.  The only §99.31 party to whom an institution must disclose education records is to the student.  All other disclosures that meet the conditions set by FERPA are permissible, not required.  If you choose to honor the request, AGS would only be permitted to include those items it has designated as directory information, and could not include records on those students who had opted out of such disclosures.  Also, if you choose to honor the request, nothing in FERPA prohibits an institution from charging for the service and any formatting decisions would be at the discretion of the institution.

I hope you are doing well in these strange times and that this is helpful in answering your questions. You can find the FERPA regulation "directory information" items on pages 153,161, and 166 of the 2012 AACRAO FERPA Guide.