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;
    • right to control disclosure (designate confidentiality), and;
    • request amendment to the educational record if an error is recorded.
  • 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 multiple mediums (handwritten, tape, disks, microfilm, CD-ROM, etc.) which contain 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. Sole Possession records that are merged with the academic record require full disclosure per FERPA guidelines.
  • 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
    • Telephone Number(s)
    • VT Email Address
    • 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, 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.
    • Requests for Directory Information from 3rd parties will be limited to student name and Virginia Tech email address.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) affords students certain rights with respect to their education records. These rights include:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. The right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by Virginia Tech to comply with the requirements of FERPA.

    FERPA is administered by:

    Family Policy Compliance Office
    U.S. Department of Education
    400 Maryland Avenue, SW
    Washington, DC 20202-5920

    U.S. Department of Education link for parents.

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.

Effective with students entering Fall 2003 and beyond, a generated identification number will be utilized as the default unique identifier.

This generated number will be nine digits in length and will begin with the number, "9" (nine).

The generated student identification is defined as personally identifiable information by federal legislation, FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) (U.S. Public Law 93-579, Sect. 7), and is prohibited from disclosure except to education officials with legitimate educational interest.

State Code

For students who entered Virginia Tech prior to Fall 2003, the social security number was the default student identification number. Pursuant to this new state code, state agencies may transition the student identification changes. However, all changes must be completed no later than July 1, 2006.

It is Virginia Tech's transition plan to comply with this new legislation with each new entering class, i.e. we will not be updating identification numbers for those students who entered Virginia Tech prior to the Fall 2003 term, and your social security number will remain as your student identification number.

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. 

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 a secure link or SCHOLAR or shared electronic files requiring a log in
  • Do not store FERPA data on a flash drive.

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 the quiz at the end of the online training 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. You will be prompted to join the FERPA training site.

In person training is also available for departments. To schedule an in person training please contact David Green.