Dear FERPA Professor,
I am the registrar at a school which specializes in teaching a specific branch of medicine. It is not uncommon at institutions like ours for professional medical associations to establish accrediting standards which schools must adhere to.
We were recently asked to participate in a data sharing agreement by our accrediting agency, which is organized by a professional medical association. While I do not have an issue with sharing directory information, my concern is over requests for students’ gender and ethnicity. The information requested has nothing to do with our accreditation, but rather is a way to allow our students to have membership to the association, apply for the Match, apply for scholarships, etc. It would also allow our institution the ability to follow and maintain contact with our future alumni. Am I being overly cautious or is it permissible to release this information to them?
You are correct to question this request from your accrediting agency. While §99.31(a)(7) of the FERPA regulations permits an institution to share education records with its accrediting organizations, it must be for purposes of carrying out the organization's accrediting function. Thus, because this request is not for such purposes, disclosing non-directory information such as gender and ethnicity would not be permitted without meeting the signed consent requirements of §99.30 or the specific conditions for disclosure found in one of the other §99.31 exceptions to signed consent.
I hope this is helpful in responding to your inquiry.
The FERPA Professor
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