Understanding the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA): An analysis of FERPA compliance, implementation, and related issues at Nebraska colleges and universities
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law enacted in 1474. FERPA provides students enrolled in colleges and universities privacy rights concerning their educational records. Even though the law has been in effect for 30 years at the time of this study, there are issues with the way higher education institutions comply with and implement FERPA.
The purpose of this multisite case study was to identify (a) the common issues confronted by Nebraska colleges and universities, and (b) the policies and practices these institutions have in place to ensure compliance with this federal law. This was accomplished through an analysis of existing policies and practices for all public four-year institutions, all public two-year (community college) institutions, and several purposefully chosen private institutions located in the state of Nebraska. Data was collected from interviews with 20 participants responsible for the implementation of FERPA at each institution and with 4 participants responsible for providing guidance to colleges and universities. Documents received from many campuses and a review of each campus' web site provided contextual information regarding FERPA compliance and implementation.
Several themes emerged from the data: Academic Lens, Campus Awareness, Conceptual Privacy, Situational Dependence, Institutional Characteristics, and Technology Advances. The most prevalent theme was the Academic Lens that was used to define what the participants considered to be an educational record. In this study, most participants viewed educational records as academic only, eliminating from consideration other records maintained by an institution.
Overall, participants thought they could “do better” with FERPA compliance and implementation. Recommendations for practice were presented in three areas to help colleges and universities better comply with the law: Resources, Training, and Policy and Procedures.
The information presented during the discussion of the themes, as well as during the recommendations for practice and further research established a foundation of information for understanding how colleges and universities comply with educational privacy law.
0514: School administration