Judge Rules FERPA Does Not ‘Prohibit’ Release of Student Records

A federal judge has ruled that the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) does not prevent the University of Illinois from handing over the names and educational records of its applicants. The university recently denied a request for the records from the Chicago Tribune, citing FERPA as the reason.  

The Chicago Tribune requested information on applicants to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – including the names and addresses of their parents – as part of a story on political influence in the admissions process. Later, the newspaper also asked for the applicants’ high school grade-point average and ACT scores, The Chronicle of Higher Education reports. After the university refused to comply, the newspaper sued in both state and federal court.

Judge Joan B. Gottschall ruled that universities are not prohibited from handing out records by FERPA. Instead, they can choose not to accept federal aid, which would release them from the requirement to protect the privacy of student records. Therefore, FERPA does not “prohibit” the university from giving student records to the Chicago Tribune.

The narrow ruling does not mean that the university has to give the records to the newspaper and make itself ineligible for federal aid.

A statement released by the college said, “Although the court’s ruling is narrow, it remains disappointing as it represents a setback for the privacy rights of young adults applying for admission to public universities in Illinois and nationwide. We will review the ruling thoroughly before deciding upon next steps.”

Read the full story.

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