Ask the FERPA Professor

August 12, 2014
  • AACRAO Connect
  • FERPA Professor


My financial aid office requires a consent form signed by the student to submit financial aid information to our local apartment complex. They use this information to defer rent payment until they are expected to receive their Pell check.  A representative from the apartment complex has asked if they can just put the consent statement into the online rental application that the student completes online. Can you identify any potential issues with this practice, and would it be sufficient?


An Unsure Admissions Officer


Hello Officer,

According to §99.30(d) of the FERPA regulations, institutions are permitted to disclose education records based on an electronic consent. However, the "safe harbor" for electronic signatures envisions the institution establishing the signature, not another party. This is because of the need to authenticate the signature. As such, your institution would need to establish and authenticate this consent for the apartment complex. If you have the 2012 AACRAO FERPA guide, see appendix “J” for both the 2004 regulations that permitted the use of electronic signatures and also details concerning the safe harbor.

Hope that helps,

The FERPA Professor


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