Ask the FERPA Professor

June 28, 2021
  • FERPA Training & Review
  • Student Academic Records and Academic Policy
  • FERPA Professor
  • Student Records Management
cartoon figure reminiscent of Einstein stands in front of a chalkboard with the board "FERPA" written on it

Dear FERPA Professor,

It was wonderful seeing and hearing from you at AACRAO last week! Wish it could have been in person, but this was the next best thing. I was really impressed with the conference and enjoyed it a lot.

Naturally, I have a FERPA question for you. I recently learned that our Statewide office sent some notice of default letters to inactive addresses (addresses that are shown as inactive for the students in our SIS). We have started to hear from a few of the recipients of those letters, who are not the students since they no longer live there. Aside from the fact that the recipients never should have opened mail that isn't addressed to them, at least a few of them have (that we know of). These letters included the former student's name, ID number, and the amount of money for which they are in default.

The institution is at fault for sending these letters to inactive addresses. That's on us. However, it's unclear to me if this constitutes a FERPA violation. Very curious to hear your feedback.

Thanks in advance!

Ms. Green

Dear Ms. Green,

I am so glad you could join in the virtual AACRAO Annual Meeting and that you found it a good conference.  I, along with most of the rest of the AACRAO world, am ready to get back to in-person conferences and trainings.

Concerning your question below, this would appear to be a violation of postal laws rather than FERPA. The recipients should have marked through the address and returned it to the University.  However, in those instances where someone other than the student opened the letter, the University would be required to meet the requirements of §99.32(a), FERPA's recordation provision. You can find that regulation on page 163 of the 2012 AACRAO FERPA Guide.

All the best,

The FERPA Professor


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