Ask the FERPA Professor

August 26, 2019
  • FERPA
  • FERPA Professor

Dear FERPA Professor,

We are developing a FERPA release for our State Higher Education System (SHES) and have entered into a Memo of Understanding with a Company to run a College Opportunity Program.  Through this program, Company employees will be supported by their employer to pursue a college degree, with the Company paying institutions directly for their fees.  Part of the MOU is a data-sharing agreement between the system and the Company.

The desire is to collect a FERPA release from individuals so that we can share non-directory information such as grades, academic progress, and courses taken.  SHES has designed an online form for this release.  Students will need to check a box to "sign" the release before submitting.  There is no authentication upfront for this form.

Is a check box on an online form an acceptable electronic "signature" for FERPA release?  

Thank you,

Gilda Lily

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Dear Gilda,

A checked box on a online form does not meet the §99.30 requirements of FERPA when there is no authentication of the "signature." 

However, another possibility could be meeting the conditions of the financial aid exception to signed consent found at §99.31 (a)(4) of the FERPA regulations.  This would require that the student sign an agreement with the Company when applying for the financial aid to fund the college attendance.  The agreement would need to include the "conditions" attached to the providing of the financial aid by the Company. 

Those conditions could include the items you list, including grades, academic progress, etc.  You can find this language on page 160 of the 2012 AACRAO FERPA Guide.

Hope this is helpful,

The FERPA Professor

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