Your Permanent Record

Did your high school principal ever threaten to put something on your “permanent record?” In reality, school records typically aren’t permanent. Universities maintain education records, which contain both general information (directory information, application forms / essays) and academic records (transcripts and course grades). At most colleges and universities, the privacy of these records is protected under the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). FERPA does not cover campus law enforcement records. Information from educational records shared with campus law enforcement does maintain its protected status under FERPA.

Most college students qualify as “eligible,” which means you are over 18 or
attending a school beyond the high school level. Once eligible, you are granted FERPA rights previously accorded to your parents.

You have the right to inspect and review your education records maintained by your school. You must have proper identification to be granted access. Schools are not required to provide copies of records unless it’s impossible for you personally to review the records. You may be charged a fee for copies.

You also have the right to request your school correct records which you believe are inaccurate or misleading. If the school decides not to amend the record, you then have the right to a formal hearing. After the hearing, if the school still decides not to amend the record, you have the right to place a statement in your record detailing your view about the contested information.

While inaccurate or misleading information can be challenged, grades and other academic assessments cannot be. FERPA is intended to ensure fair record keeping, not to overturn a school’s academic procedures and rulings.

Colleges generally require written permission to release your record. However, FERPA provisionally allows universities to disclose records without consent to appropriate parties.

Colleges may disclose records in the following cases:

Valid educational interests
Information can be released to certain school officials, other schools you are transferring to, and organizations undertaking studies for or on your school’s behalf.

Financial aid matters
Information can be released to audit officials, parties connected with your financial aid, and accrediting organizations.
Health and safety emergencies--information can be released to
appropriate officials.

Judicial concerns
Information can be released to state and local authorities within a juvenile justice system, and in compliance with judicial orders and subpoenas.

Schools may disclose, without consent, directory information such as your name, address, telephone number, honors and awards, and dates of attendance. However, schools must tell you about directory information and allow you a reasonable amount of time to request that the school not disclose such information. Schools must also notify you annually of your FERPA rights.

For more FERPA information, visit

To file a complaint, you may request a form by calling The Family Policy Compliance Office at (202) 260-3887. For privacy reasons, the office does not handle cases via email.