Confidentiality of Student Records Policy - 50.05
Howard Community College (HCC) protects the confidentiality of student education records by complying with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974 and its amendments.
Student Education Records Information
Pursuant to 20 U.S.C. Sec. 1232g (a) (1)(D)(4)(A) of FERPA, the definition of student education record is with exceptions, those records, files, documents, and other materials that contain information directly related to a student; and are maintained by an educational agency or institution or by a person acting for such agency or institution.
Student education records contain information directly relating to a current or formerly enrolled student and are maintained by the college or a party acting on behalf of the college. Directory information is student record information that is generally considered not harmful or an invasion of privacy if released. HCC identifies the following items as directory information: students’ names, photographs maintained in the student information system, high school attended, areas of study, enrollment dates, degrees, honors and awards if any, participation in officially recognized college activities or sports, and athletes’ weight and height. FERPA allows the release of directory information without student consent unless the student opts out of disclosure. Students may request that their directory information be withheld by submitting a written request to the office of records, registration, and veterans’ affairs (RRVA). The college honors these requests until the student requests in writing that the request to withhold be terminated. Similarly, students have the ability to designate third parties who may request student record information. These permissions are maintained in the student information system and remain valid until the student requests in writing that the permission be terminated. Third party access to request information does not include the ability to request amendments to the student’s record; therefore, third parties may not conduct business with the college on behalf of the student.
Information that is not a part of a student education record includes:
- grade books, class lists, or other documents that are maintained by instructors to record student performance and achievement during the progress of a course and are used by instructors to determine the final grades earned by students;
- notes, comments, and observations that are intended solely for the use of an instructor or staff member and are not shared with another person;
- notes, comments, and observations made by the individual faculty or staff member in the course of interviewing students or evaluating credentials that are intended solely for the use of the individual faculty or staff member or in a consultative process with other professional colleagues are not accessible or released to others within or outside the college;
- notes, comments, and observations made by academic advisors that are intended solely for the use of that individual for subsequent reference in future decisions, actions, or contacts with the student;
- notes, comments, and observations made by counselors in the course of diagnostic and treatment services when these are intended for the sole use of that individual or in the consultative process with professional colleagues, when such information is recorded for reference purposes in future diagnosis or treatment, and when such information is not to be released or accessible to others within or outside the college;
- photos, videos, or other media taken for public relations and marketing purposes; and
- records maintained by public safety that were created for the purpose of law enforcement.
Access to Student Records
A person attending or having attended HCC as a student will have the right to inspect and review any student records directly relating to them with the exception of the following:
- financial information submitted by parents/guardians;
- those records kept in the sole possession of an HCC employee or agent of the college that are used only as a personal memory aid and are not accessible or revealed to any person except a temporary substitute for the individual who created the record;
- educational records containing information about more than one student; however, the college will permit access to that part of the records that pertains only to the inquiring student; or
- confidential letters and statements of recommendation that the student has waived the right to inspect and review and are related to the student’s admission, employment, job placement, or receipt of honors.
In order to inspect and review these records, the student must submit a written request in the presence of designated personnel of the office maintaining the records. Requests for inspection and review by the student shall be granted as soon as possible, but no later than forty-five days after the date of request. Documents or files may not be altered or removed by the student, and requests for copies of documents other than HCC official transcripts may be denied.
Except as provided below, the college may not release personally identifiable information in education records, or allow anyone access to those records, unless the student has given written consent for the release of records including the reason for release, and to whom the records should be released. A copy of the released record is furnished to the student, if requested. Except as noted below, all individuals who request or obtain file access must submit an explanatory statement. The college is responsible for preparing and maintaining a record of requests and the reasons why the documents were released.
HCC may make disclosures of a student’s personally identifiable information and/or education records to the following entities/individuals without the consent of the student:
- HCC officials on a "need-to-know" basis, according to the procedures of RRVA and at the discretion of the custodian of the records. HCC officials include contractors, consultants, volunteers, and other parties to whom the college has outsourced institutional services or functions;
- other educational institutions in which the student intends to enroll or is already enrolled; although the student must be given a copy of the record before transmittal and provided with an opportunity to challenge the content or release of the record;
- Federal, state, and local officials when law requires information to be reported;
- in connection with financial aid, veterans’ benefits, or tuition assistance, for which a student has applied or received if the information is necessary to determine eligibility, to determine the amount of the financial assistance, or enforce the term and conditions of the financial assistance;
- accrediting organizations in order to carry out accrediting functions;
- parents/guardians of students who are dependents for Internal Revenue Service purposes;
- parents/guardians of students enrolled in Kids on Campus, The Music Institute, soccer camp, and other noncredit youth activities, as well as the parents/guardians of students enrolled in the CORE program through the division of continuing education. Parents/guardians listed in this section may also request amendment of their student’s records on behalf of the student while the student is enrolled in the noncredit program. Once a student enrolls in any credit course, all rights transfer solely to the student;
- appropriate persons in the case of health and safety emergencies;
- organizations conducting studies for or on behalf of HCC in order to develop, validate, or administer predictive tests; administer student aid programs; or improve instruction;
- parties requesting directory information;
- victims of an alleged perpetrator of a crime of violence or a non-forcible sex offense; this disclosure may only include the final results of the disciplinary proceeding with respect to the alleged crime or offense, regardless of the finding;
- the general public; this disclosure includes the final results of a disciplinary proceeding if the college determines the student is an alleged perpetrator of a crime of violence or non-forcible sex offense and the student has committed a violation of the college’s rules or policies with respect to the allegation made against the person;
- the parents/guardians of a student regarding the violation of any federal, state, or local law, or any rule or policy of the college governing the use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance if HCC determines that the student committed a disciplinary violation and the student is under the age of 21;
- in response to a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena, the college must attempt to notify the student in advance of compliance except as prescribed by law. The college will not notify students when a court order or subpoena states that notification of the student is prohibited;
- authorized representatives of the United States Comptroller General, the United States Attorney General, the United States Secretary of Education, or state and local educational authorities such as a state postsecondary authority that is responsible for supervising the college’s state-supported education programs. Disclosures under this provision may be made in connection with an audit or evaluation of federal- or state-supported education programs, or for the enforcement of or compliance with federal legal requirements related to those programs. These entities may make further disclosures of personally identifiable information to outside entities that are designated as their authorized representatives to conduct audit, evaluation, enforcement, or compliance activity on their behalf; and
- military recruiters in accordance with the Solomon Amendment (10 U.S.C 983).
It should be noted that as of January 3, 2012, the United States Department of Education’s FERPA regulations expanded the circumstances under which student record information, including students’ Social Security Numbers, grades, or other private information, may be shared without the student’s written consent. The United States Comptroller General, the United States Attorney General, the United States Secretary of Education, or state and local education authorities may disclose student record information to any third party designated by a federal or state authority to evaluate a federal- or state-supported education program. The evaluation may relate to any program that is “principally engaged in the provision of education,” such as early childhood education and job training, as well as any program that is administered by an education agency or institution. Federal and state authorities may allow access to student records information to researchers performing certain types of studies in certain cases even when HCC objects to or does not request such research. Federal and state authorities must obtain certain use-restrictions and data security promises from the entities that they authorize to receive student record information, but the authorities need not maintain direct control over such entities. In addition, in connection with Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems, state authorities may collect, compile, permanently retain, and share, without student consent, student record information, and they may track student participation in education and other programs by linking personally identifiable information to other personal information that they obtain from other federal or state data sources, including workforce development, unemployment insurance, child welfare, juvenile justice, military services, and migrant student records systems.
In the event that a person is a student and an employee of the college, separate records shall be kept. The confidentiality of student records shall be maintained by the institution, and academic records shall not be accessible for personnel reasons unless released by the student.
Authority to Release Records
Student records will be released only by the individual or administrative unit that has custody of the records. RRVA is custodian of all personal, biographic, and academic information, and the information will be released only as authorized by the registrar. Other records may be released by the individual, office, or administrative unit that is the originator or custodian of the records unless the student has opted out of such releases. Individuals, offices, or administrative units that maintain duplicate copies of records are not authorized to release these records unless authorized by the originator or custodian of the records in writing. Information requests will only be released using methods that are in compliance with FERPA and federal encryption standards.
Information that is Not Released Outside of the College
Transcripts or other official academic records, letters of recommendation, and similar comments and observations that are received by the college from secondary schools and other colleges and universities will not be released outside of the college, even when requested by the student.
The registrar may make an exception to the policy when the student is unable to obtain a duplicate, such as in the case of international students when such students are unable to obtain duplicate sets of foreign academic credentials, or where records have been destroyed; such documents remain the sole property of the institution that initially issued the documents.
Right to Challenge Student Records
The student has the right to request amendment to education records that the student considers to be inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise in violation of the student’s privacy rights. The following United States Department of Education regulations apply to correction of errors of fact in student records:
- While enrolled as a student at the college, each individual has an obligation to provide RRVA with current and accurate personal and biographic information in writing. A student or former student may request a correction of errors in this information in reference to the accuracy of the information during the period of the student's enrollment.
- The registrar is responsible for all retroactive changes in student academic records.
- A student may request, in writing, the deletion of information from his or her student record if such information will affect the student adversely, provided that the information is not part of the biographic, personal, or academic information that the college maintains for each of its students and the information is not relevant to current and future enrollment at the college.
When a student wants to challenge the content, release, or withholding of any official record, file, or data, the student may submit a challenge in writing to the registrar. If the content is being challenged, the student must clearly identify the part of the record to be changed and specify why it should be changed. If the challenge cannot be resolved informally, the student will be entitled to a hearing before an appropriate adjudicatory body of the college as designated by the president.
Notice to Students of Rights
These guidelines are published in the college catalog, on the college’s website, and in a hard copy that is available upon request in RRVA.
Effective Date: 03/10/23
President's Office Use: VPSS - CAT