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Frequently Asked Questions

Related to Confidentiality & Privacy

What is FERPA?

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act is a federal law that affords students certain rights with respect to their education records and defines situations in which the university may release information from student records with student consent. These rights transfer from the parents to the student when either the student turns eighteen years old or enters a postsecondary educational institution, regardless of age.

What rights are my student afforded under FERPA?

Rights afforded to students under FERPA include:

  • The right to inspect and review their education records with 45 days after the day the university receives a request for access.
  • The right to request the amendment of an element of the student’s education records that the student believes is inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise in violation of the student’s privacy rights under FERPA.
  • The right to provide written consent before the university discloses personally identifiable information (PII) from the student's education records, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent.
  • The right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by the university to comply with the requirements of FERPA.
I am paying my student’s bills—why can’t I see their grades or schedule?

Pursuant to FERPA, when a student turns 18 or is enrolled in a postsecondary educational institution, their education records may be disclosed to third parties (including parents and family members) only with the written consent of the student, except under certain exceptions. However, a student’s education records may be disclosed without their consent to parents with proof that the student is claimed as a dependent for tax purposes. See the Parents FERPA page for more information.

Can the university disclose students’ financial records to parents? How am I supposed to pay my student’s bills?

The best approach is to ask your student to provide you access to their financial records. William & Mary eServices allows students to provide family members access to their financial accounts. Otherwise, as noted above, unless parents demonstrate that their student is claimed as a dependent for tax purposes by them, the student generally will have to provide consent in order for the university to disclose education records to third parties, including family members, as financial records are considered education records.

Are there any instances where I am entitled access to my student’s education records without their consent?

Besides instances where parents demonstrate their student’s tax dependency, parents are permitted access to their students’ education records under FERPA in a health or safety emergency or when the university determines that a student, under the age of twenty-one, committed a violation of federal, state, or local laws or campus policies governing the use and/or possession of alcohol or controlled substances. 

I have not spoken with my student for some time. Can I receive a certification of their enrollment status?

If you are having trouble getting in contact with your student and wish to request certain information, please contact the Office of the Dean of Students at (757) 221-2510. For more information about the process for releases of student education records to parents from the Office of the University Registrar, see the Parents FERPA page for more information.

What should I do if there is an emergency and I need access to my student’s records?

In case of a health and/or safety emergency, parents should contact the Office of the Dean of Students at (757) 221-2510 for immediate assistance, as different protocols apply to the release of student information in emergency situations. Additionally, in the event of a student health or safety emergency on campus, Care Support Services may reach out to parents to keep them informed. Parents are encouraged to be proactive when worried about the well-being of their child and can report concerns using the Report Concerns or Violations website. Parents my also contact the William & Mary Police Department at (757) 221-4596 or dial 911 to report an emergency.

Additionally, FERPA permits the disclosure of education records without the consent of students to appropriate officials and parents in connection with a health or safety emergency, subject to §99.36. In addition to parents, William & Mary may disclose personally identifiable information (PII) if the university determines that the person to whom the PII is to be disclosed needs the information to protect the student or other individual(s) from an articulable and significant threat to their health or safety (§99.31(a)(10)).

How may my organization collect and disclose or display contact information for our students?

Organizations must obtain written consent from students to disclose or publish their contact information. Consent may be obtained through a physical or electronic form. Electronic forms require student authentication with W&M login credentials, such as Tribe Responses. Departments or an organization's responsible staff member retain student consents. Below are two templates that may be gently adjusted to meet departmental needs.

For disclosure to a defined group of people (e.g. student workers in a department):

To facilitate my work with [enter department name], I consent to the disclosure of my contact information to [enter the name of the defined group of people, e.g. 'The University Registrar's student worker staff'). I understand that my contact information may include my [enter appropriate categories: phone number, email address(es)]. I further understand that I can revoke this consent at any time by contacting [enter responsible office or employee].

For public facing websites:

To facilitate my work with [enter department name], I consent to the publication of my contact information on their department website [enter URL]. I understand that my contact information may include my [enter appropriate categories: phone number, email address(es), web address for my student homepage (which may contain additional personal or identifying information)]. I further understand that I can revoke this consent at any time by contacting [enter responsible office or employee].