Ask the FERPA Professor

June 13, 2022
  • FERPA
  • FERPA Professor
cartoon figure reminiscent of Einstein stands in front of a chalkboard with the board "FERPA" written on it

Dear FERPA Professor,

Our institution is considering notifying parents when a student has been dismissed. While we list “enrollment status” as directory information, we have only been disclosing whether a student is enrolled or not, whether they are undergraduate, graduate, etc., and part-time or full-time. These are the examples listed in the FERPA guide.

We do not disclose whether a student has withdrawn, is on a leave, or has been dismissed. Does FERPA list an official definition of “enrollment status”? More importantly, can we notify parents when students have had an enrollment status change, including the specifics of that change, without getting their consent first?

 

Thank you,
Ms. Emerald


Dear Ms. Emerald,

FERPA defines "directory information" as information "that would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed." See § 99.3 "Directory Information" in the FERPA regulations. Thus, enrollment status could be disclosed if it has been designated as directory information by the University. However, the reason for a student no longer being in attendance at the institution could not be disclosed under the directory information definition.

While the University could not disclose any enrollment status change to parent's of a student under the directory information exception to signed consent, it could possibly do so under § 99.31(a)(8), the "dependent student" exception. In order to use this exception, the student must be claimed on the parent's Federal tax return. If this is the case, then the University could provide any information from the student's education record, including reasons for enrollment status change, to the parents.

I hope this is helpful in answering your questions. You can find the above cited FERPA regulations on pages 153 and 161 of the 2012 AACRAO FERPA Guide.

The FERPA Professor