Student Privacy (FERPA)

  • FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 [U.S. Public Law 93-579]) guarantee individuals’ rights to the access of their academic record. This federal law also provides guidelines as to third party access and the appropriate security of the education record. FERPA stipulates that students have the right to
    • inspect and review their academic record;
      • The right to inspect and review the student's education records within 45 days of the day the university receives a request for access. Students must submit written requests to our office that identify the record(s) they wish to inspect. The university official will make arrangements for access and notify the student of the time and place where the records may be inspected. If the records are not maintained by the university official to whom the request was submitted, that official shall advise the student of the correct official to whom the request should be addressed.
    • right to control disclosure (designate confidentiality), and;
      • The right to consent to disclosures of personally identifiable information contained in the student's education records, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent. One exception which permits disclosure without consent is disclosure to school officials with legitimate educational interests or concerns of health and safety. A school official is a person employed by the university in an administrative, supervisor, academic or research, or support staff position (such as health staff); a person or company with whom the university has contracted (such as an attorney, auditor, or collection agent); a person serving on the Board of Visitors; or a student serving on an official committee, such as a disciplinary or grievance committee, or assisting another school official in performing his or her tasks. A school official has a legitimate educational interest if the official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibility.
    • request amendment to the educational record if an error is recorded.
      • The right to request the amendment of the student's education records that the student believes are inaccurate or misleading. Students may ask the university to amend a record that they believe is inaccurate or misleading. They should write the university official responsible for the record, clearly identify the part of the record they want changed, and specify what it is inaccurate or misleading. If the university decides not to amend the record as requested by the student, the university will notify the student of the decision and advise the student of his or her right to a hearing regarding the request for amendment. Additional information regarding the hearing procedures will be provided to the student when notified of the right to a hearing.
  • Academic Records at Virginia Tech are defined as any portion of the educational history of a student that is maintained by the University for the purpose of sharing by other academic officials and is intended to support the academic degree progress of the student. Typical examples are the academic files maintained in a department or university administrative office. These records include: files, documents and materials in any medium containing information directly related to the academic educational efforts of the student. Academic records do not include law enforcement unit records, medical records (vis-à-vis doctor patient privilege), alumni records, or human resource records
  • Sole Possession Records are defined as records (notes maintained by a faculty member) that are not shared with any other educational official. Notes maintained in a sole possession record are not subject to the guidelines of FERPA.
  • Educational Officials may view student academic records if they have a demonstrated, specific educational interest prior to the granting of access to the student record. Educational Officials at Virginia Tech are defined as those persons employed by Virginia Tech in an administrative academic position (faculty and staff) whose position requires access to the records to fulfill their stated job responsibilities.
  • Third Party Disclosures are prohibited by FERPA without the written consent of the student. Any persons other than the student are defined as Third Party, including parents, spouses, and employers. All educational officials are required to secure written permission prior to the release of any academic record information.
  • Directory Information: FERPA allows for the designation of certain academic record information as "directory" [academic record information not requiring prior written permission to release]. Virginia Tech defines directory information as follows:
    • Student's name
    • Local and Permanent Address (student must opt-in)
    • Telephone Number (student must opt-in)
    • VT Email Address (student must opt-in)
    • Major field of study (including second majors, minors, etc.)
    • Whether a student is currently enrolled
    • Enrollment status (full-time, half-time, etc.)
    • Class (freshman, sophomore, etc.)
    • Academic level (associate, undergraduate, graduate, professional)
    • Anticipated graduation date
    • Certification of application for degree
    • Dates of enrollment
    • Degree(s) earned, including date, honors and level of distinction
    • Participation in officially recognized activities and sports
    • Weight and height of members of athletic teams
    • Electronic Theses and Dissertations (ETD)
  • Directory information will be withheld if requested by the student. To withhold directory information, the student should go to https://accounts.it.vt.edu/myprofile/profile, and slide the slider from "Public" to Hidden" on any data that you wish to be withheld. Students may choose public for portions of directory information without marking the entire student record hidden.
    • Choosing the item "Student Confidentiality" will result in the suppression of all student record information, including:
    • Student name/address will be excluded from future VT printed material.
    • Requests processed via HOKIE SPA during the first five days of fall term will prevent public information from appearing in the printed university directory.
    • Student name and address will not appear in PEOPLE FINDER.
    • Enrollment and degree awarded inquiries from third parties, including potential employers, will neither receive a confirmation of enrollment or graduation.  Awarding of honors such as Dean's List or Commencement brochures will not display your information.  Choose this option with care.
    • Students may choose any portion of their address(es) and/or phone number(s) to be suppressed. Only active addresses and phone numbers will display as an option. Selected items will not appear on online directories or disclosed to third parties. After checking the boxes beside the items to be suppressed, click the "Submit Changes" button to save the request.
    • To remove the flag, the user simply unchecks the box(es) and clicks the "Submit Changes" button to save the request. PEOPLE FINDER will not update for 24 hours after the selection.

Virginia Tech uses a generated nine-digit number as the student identifier. However, in some instances, students may be requested to disclose their social security numbers. The policy on disclosure of Social Security Numbers is available here.

The Privacy Act of 1974 (U.S. Public Law 93-579, Sect. 7) requires that the university notify students that disclosure of a Social Security number is voluntary.

Pursuant to the 2003 State Code of the Commonwealth of Virginia, no student identification card may display the social security number as an identifier.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) requires that you authorize the university prior to release of any academic record information to a third party.  Completion of the online form (Hokie SPA) allows you to approve disclosure of your academic record information to parent(s) and/or guardian(s).  The disclosure will remain valid until you remove the authorization.

In the event a student seeks or intends to enroll in another institution, Virginia Tech may disclose your educational record to the future institution without prior written consent. This is in accordance with the disclourse of educational records of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA).

Tax Dependent?  The Commonwealth of Virginia requires tax dependent students attending Virginia's colleges and universities to release academic record information to their parents.  This requirement is allowable within the guidelines of FERPA.  If you are a tax dependent of your parent or guardian, please denote that information by checking "YES" in the question column, "Are you a Tax Dependent?" on the online FERPA disclosure form (Hokie SPA).

Virginia Tech policy requires annually the collection of specific demographic data for each student:  local mailing address, emergency contact entry or emergency contact confirmation, VT Alerts Opt In or Opt Out action and review of the Virginia Tech Student Conduct Policy.  Students will be prohibited from registration until the information is provided.

Student(s) may denote a specific third party as emergency contact as primary in cases of missing person(s).  Visit Hokie SPA, choose the Hokie Plus menu, add 'new emergency contact'.  In the pull down selection for relationships, choose "Missing Persons Contact".  In case of such an emergency, the university will first contact the missing person designee before any alternate emergency contact(s).

Student employees may have inquiry access to student records if required for job responsibilities.

Employers must inform students of their FERPA responsibilities via employment contract or the Student Employee Confidentiality Agreement.

Violation of FERPA (accessing data for personal reasons; disclosures) is a dismissible offense.

Employers may download a copy of the Student Employee Confidentiality Agreement to discuss with the student employee.  The agreement should be maintained with the hiring department for two years after the student employees' last day of employment with the department.

Contact the University Registrar if you have questions relative to compliance with these guidelines.

University communication of issues related to student efforts (academic, conduct, and/or employment) may necessitate utilization of electronic communication such as email(s).  However, misdirected email(s) may result in exposure of student personally identifiable information to those without a legitimate educational interest in the information. Federal regulations require we establish “reasonable methods” to ensure that school officials only obtain records in which they have a legitimate educational interest.  To obviate the potential FERPA violation caused by a misdirected email, the university guidelines as follows are established:

  • Do not include personally identifiable FERPA data in totality in an email: no full name and full generated student ID.
  • Do not list name and ID in the subject line
  • Communicate using either the student ID with the full initials of the student [999999999 (ANW)] or use the full name with the last four of the ID [Alice N. Wonderland (1234)]
  • Do not attach spreadsheets or scanned documents with full identifiers or non-directory information via email.  Communicate spreadsheets or scanned documents via an approved university platform or shared electronic files requiring a log in.
  • Do not store FERPA data on a flash drive.

Posting Grades

The Federal Department of Education stipulates that posting of grades, using even a portion of the student identification number, is considered a violation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). FERPA protects the confidentiality of educational records and prohibits distribution of that record unless with the student's written consent.

Do not post grades as a class listing using any portion of the student identification number, either via paper or electronically.

Questions related to this federal guideline: Rick A. Sparks Jr, University Registrar

Options to communicate grades:

  1. Canvas: Requires students to enter their PID/password combination to view grades in a secure environment.
  2. Waiver forms: Professors may construct a waiver that students may sign (must not be mandatory). Waiver should state: "(Name of Student) grants permission to Professor XYZ in Subject Number to list my graded material in a listing format using the last four digits of my student identification number." It must be signed, dated, and retained for one academic year.
  3. Unique Identifiers: Professors may assign a class number to each student, known only to the student and the professor (or TA); the grades can then be listed by that number; the number cannot be any portion of the student identification number.

If forwarding items with personally identifiable FERPA data, use a cover sheet directing the recipient to contact you if it is misdirected.  For example, the cover sheet may state:

  • Academic Record Disclosure: You are receiving this information as determined by the educational right to know disclosure guidelines of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).  If you are not the intended recipient, please do not disclose, copy or distribute this information.
  • Please notify the sender immediately by return electronic e-mail or by telephone at [insert phone number].  Thank you.

Contact the University Registrar if you have questions relative to compliance with these guidelines.

FERPA training is required of every Virginia Tech faculty, staff, wage, and student employee who has access to student data and must be renewed every two years. Online on-demand training is available through CANVAS. Obtaining a 100% score on both modules is required in order to be considered complete. This training is available to everyone; however, users must join the site prior to having access. In order to join the site you must:

  1. Go to CANVAS and log in with your Virginia Tech PID and password.
  2. Join the FERPA training course by searching for "FERPA" in the course listing.

If you experience problems in joining or accessing the course please contact David Green.

All students may authorize third parties to view their financial aid and academic record information (grades and transcripts) via the GUEST ACCESS SPA. You control the disclosure and may at any time void the access. The Guest Access menu is viewable via the main menu of HokieSpa. Awarding guest access to a third party does NOT grant FERPA disclosure. The university will be unable to discuss your record with a third party without your written consent or a completed FERPA WEB disclosure.

If you wish to report a concern regarding exposure of your personally identifiable information without your permission, please contact the University Registrar, Student Services Building, Suite 250, Virginia Tech, 800 Washington St., SW, Blacksburg, VA 24061; email registrar@vt.edu; phone (540) 231-6252. You may also file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education:

Family Policy Compliance Office
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington DC 20202-5901