Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act

Student Information Privacy at GW focuses on protecting the collection, disclosure and handling of student information entrusted to the university. 

Under FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974) the university is required to protect the privacy of our student education records.


Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) is a Federal law designed to protect the privacy of student education records,to establish the right of students to inspect and review their educational records, and to provide guidelines for the correction of inaccurate and misleading data through informal and formal hearings.

All higher education institutions, public or private, that receive Federal funding, are subject to FERPA.

FERPA applies to educational records (and the personally identifiable information therein):

  • regardless of their form (handwritten, printed, electronic, media, etc.)
  • maintained bu the University or a party acting on its behalf;
  • that are directly related to a student.

Eligible Student

GW defines eligible students as individuals “in attendance” at the institution, therefore “students” for purposes of GW’s Policy, beginning on the first day of classes. 

Education Records

Education records are records, files, emails, documents, and other materials which: 

  1. contain information directly related to a student (personally identifiable Information); and
  2. are maintained by the University or by an educational agency or institution or by a person acting for such agency or institution.

Examples of education records (protected by FERPA):

  • Registrar’s Office records; transcripts; student papers; student exams; class schedules;
  • Financial aid records; student attendance records;
  • Photographs
  • email messages; handwritten notes;

Records NOT protected by FERPA:

  • Private Instructor/Supervisor/Administrator records
  • Law enforcement records created for legal purposes
  • Employment records (only those university positions where student status is not a pre-requisite for employment);
  • Alumni records; Student medical records; non matriculant records.

Students' Personally Identifiable Information (PII)

The term includes, but is not limited to:

  • The student’s name;
  • The name of the student’s parent or other family members;
  • The address of the student or student’s family;
  • A personal identifier, such as the student’s social security number, student number, or biometric record;
  • Other indirect identifiers, such as the student’s date of birth, place of birth, and mother’s maiden name;
  • Other information that, alone or in combination, is linked or linkable to a specific student that would allow a reasonable person in the school community, who does not have personal knowledge of the relevant circumstances, to identify the student with reasonable certainty; or
  • Information requested by a person who the educational agency or institution reasonably believes knows the identity of the student to whom the education record relates.

Written Consent

A student’s consent must:

  • be signed;
  • be dated;
  • specify the records to release;
  • state the purpose of disclosure; and
  • identify the party to which disclosure should be made

Note: GW’s student consent form can be found on the Office of the Registrar’s website.

Forms should always be submitted to the Registrar for verification and record-keeping.

GW Directory Information

Universities may release directory information, upon request. The following is GW's list of directory information:

  • Student’s name; local address (including email); Telephone numbers;
  • Likeness used in university publications, including photographs;
  • Names and addresses of emergency contacts;
  • Dates of attendance; School or division of enrollment; Enrollment status; Field of study; Class; Credits hours earned; Degrees or certificates earned; Honors received;
  • Participation in university-recognized organizations and activities (including intercollegiate athletics); Height, weight, and age of members of athletic teams
  • Date of Birth will be considered directory information only for the purpose of compliance with applicable laws.

School Officials

At GW, “school officials” are (i) individuals employed in an administrative, supervisory, academic, research, or support staff position; (ii) individuals employed by GW-hired contractor or the contractor itself; (iii) Board of Trustees members; and (iv) students serving on an official committee (e.g., disciplinary or grievance committee) or assisting another school official in performing their tasks.  

Legitimate educational interest

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 responsibilities for the University.

FERPA Exceptions

Generally, FERPA requires written consent from eligible students for the release PII from education records. In the absence of the written consent, the University may disclose information from FERPA-protected education records if the disclosure meets one or more of the following conditions.

  • when the disclosure involves directory information;
  • disclosure is made to other school officials who have a legitimate educational interest;
  • if there is a “health or safety emergency”
  • disclosure is made to parents/guardians of the student in very limited circumstances;
  • to comply with lawfully issued subpoena or judicial order;
  • to schools in which the student applies or intends to transfer; or
  • in certain student disciplinary cases.

Click here for more information regarding FERPA exceptions.

The Solomon Amendment (10 U.S.C. § 983) is a federal law that allows military recruiters to access some address, biographical and academic program information on students age 17 and older.

Upon request, federally funded educational institutions are obligated to disclose certain data regarding currently enrolled students to military recruiters, including:




 Electronic mail addresses

Age or date of birth

Place of birth

Level of education

Academic major

Degrees awarded

Educational institution in which the student was most recently enrolled

If a student has submitted a Confidentiality Request to the Registrar Office to restrict the release of their Directory Information, then student-recruiting information from the student's education record will not be released pursuant to these requests.

 For additional information related to the process for releasing student-recruiting information to military recruiters, contact the Office of the Registrar.


FERPA affords eligible students these rights with respect to their education records:

  • To inspect and review the student's education records maintained by the school;
  • To request amendment of any education records that they believe to be inaccurate or misleading; and
  • To consent to the disclosure of personally identifiable information (PII) from the student's education record to third parties, subject to certain exceptions.

For more information on FERPA for students, contact the GW Office of the Registrar.

FERPA Information for Students:

Student Privacy 101

The University may disclose information from FERPA-protected education records to a parent, if one of the following conditions are met:

  • Student has provided consent through the Student Consent Form
  • Student is confirmed as a dependent on the most recent Federal Tax Form, through the Financial Dependency Form
  • Student is under the age of 21 and the disclosure is related to a violation of law or university policy, regarding the use or possession of alcohol or controlled substances, or involved in a health or safety emergency.

Further questions on the above should be addressed to the Office of the Registrar.

FERPA Information for Parents:

A Parent Guide to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) - PDF

FERPA training is available to GW staff and faculty.

Online training

  • Available for staff and faculty in [email protected]. Click here to take this training.
  • Department of Education offers FREE online FERPA training modules:

     FERPA 101: For Colleges & Universities

     FERPA 201: Data Sharing under FERPA

Email and Student Privacy

Check our Events page for class training schedule or email us at [email protected] to request a FERPA Training for your department.


For specific FERPA-related questions, concerns, or guidance, you may contact:

Office of Ethics, Compliance and Privacy

Office of the Senior Vice President and General Counsel 

Office of the Registrar