What is FERPA?

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal act that affords university students certain rights with respect to their education. It is the policy of Hollins University to follow those guidelines to protect the privacy of students. Once students become part of our community, they will be treated as adults. It is their responsibility to keep their parents/guardians informed of their activities and their academic progress. Please be advised that in accordance with FERPA, it is Hollins University’s policy not to:

  • Release information to parents/guardians about grades or academic progress without the written consent of the student.
  • Release information to parents/guardians about Honor Code or student conduct violations and/or sanctions without the written consent of the student.
  • Release information to parents/guardians about the student’s whereabouts or social activities without the written consent of the student.
  • Release information related to a student’s health or counseling record (also covered under HIPAA: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) without the written consent of the student.
  • Notify a parent or legal guardian when a student is withdrawn or put on a leave of absence from the university.

When Hollins Will Contact Parents/Guardians

The university will contact parents/guardians/emergency contact under the following circumstance:
When the staff has ongoing concerns about a student’s well being, or is concerned that a student presents a threat to herself or to others.

The university can provide parents with general information about a student’s status. For instance, we can tell you if she is active or inactive.

Please be advised that faculty members are asked to submit unsatisfactory work notices on students beginning in the fourth week of classes, and midterm grade reports on first-year students around the sixth week of classes. Students who are doing poorly academically receive a letter from the associate vice president for student success asking them to meet with their instructor (and in some cases the associate vice president for student success) to see what can be done to help them improve. Letters regarding unsatisfactory progress go directly to students.

The Office of Student Success also sends letters to students who are doing exceptional academic work. Under Hollins University’s policy regarding FERPA, none of these letters or notices can be sent to parents/guardians. Again, it is the students’ responsibility to inform parents of their academic progress. Parents/guardians may want to ask their students around midterm time if they have received any exceptional work notices or unsatisfactory work notices from their professors. Parents/guardians should not contact professors directly to inquire about a student’s progress in a class, unless a FERPA waiver has been signed by the student.

Oftentimes, it is difficult for parents /guardians to understand why the university does not divulge specific academic information given that they are, most often, the individuals who are paying the bills. Again, Hollins, and every other institution of higher education, is bound by FERPA.

If students wish to waive their rights under FERPA, a “FERPA Waiver” may be completed during orientation (a form will be provided in the orientation folder).

What Student Rights are Covered by FERPA?

Hollins University complies with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), the federal law that governs release of and access to student education records. FERPA affords students certain rights with respect to their education records. These rights are:

  1. The right to inspect and review the student’s education records within 45 days of the day the University receives a request for access. Students should submit to the registrar, the associate dean of student academic affairs, or other appropriate official, written requests that identify the record(s) they wish to inspect. The University official will make arrangements for access and notify the student of the time and place where the records may be inspected. If the records are not maintained by the University official to whom the request was submitted, that official shall advise the student of the correct official to whom the request should be addressed.
  2. The right to request the amendment of the student’s education records that the student believes are inaccurate or misleading. Challenging a grade does not fall under the purview of FERPA regulations, and has no bearing on FERPA listed regulations and conditions. Students may ask the University to amend a record that they believe is inaccurate or misleading. They should write the University official responsible for the record, clearly identify the part of the record they want amended, and specify why it is inaccurate or misleading. If the University decides not to amend the record as requested by the student, the University will notify the student of the decision and advise the student of his or her right to a hearing regarding the request for amendment. Additional information regarding the hearing procedures will be provided to the student when notified of the right to a hearing.
  3. The right to consent to disclosures of personally identifiable information contained in the student’s education records, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent.** One exception which permits release without student consent is disclosure to a University official with legitimate educational interest. A University official has a legitimate educational interest if the official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibility.
  4. The right to notify the University in writing if the student does not want any or all of the information designated as directory information to be released internally or externally. All or individual directory items may be declared confidential provided written expression is received by the Dean of Students office no later than three days from the beginning of any term. Hollins designates the following as directory information:

Category I: Campus Directories and Publications: Student name, class year or program, nickname, local mailing address, local residence address, local telephone number, parent name, student’s permanent mailing address (usually the parent address), e-mail address, weight and height of athletes, photographs, date and place of birth, participation in officially recognized activities and sports, most recent previous school attended, field of study, dates of attendance, degree awarded and date, awards and honors, and full or part-time status.

Category II: External Requests: The University reserves the right to provide the following directory information to callers external to the university who request information such as confirmation of a student’s attendance at Hollins; dates of attendance (if known); degree awarded and date (if known); and withdrawal date (if known).

5. The right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by Hollins University to comply with the requirements of FERPA. The name and address of the Office that administers FERPA is:

Family Policy Compliance Office
U.S. Department of Education
600 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20202-4605


A student is an individual who is or has been enrolled in and attended credit bearing courses at the University and for whom the University maintains education records.

Education Records
Education records include those records which contain information directly related to a student and which are maintained by the University or by a person acting for the University. The following are not Education Records:

  • records kept in the sole possession of the maker as a personal memory aid,
  • campus law enforcement records,
  • employment records relating to individuals employed by the University, except where employment is conditioned upon status as a student,
  • records related to treatment provided by a health professional when maintained solely for treatment purposes,
  • records created or received about an individual after that person is no longer a student if not related to that student’s attendance, e.g. alumni records,
  • materials in any admissions files, until the student has been admitted to, and has attended Hollins University, and
  • all other records which are excluded from the FERPA definition of Education Records.

Personal identifiable information.

Legitimate Educational Interest
Legitimate educational interest is the need to review an education record in order for a University official to carry out his or her responsibilities or to conduct learning analytics. Learning analytics means the use of education records for purposes of understanding and optimizing learning and the environments in which it occurs.

University Official
A University official is (i) any person employed by the University in an administrative, supervisory, academic, research, or support position; (ii) a member of the Board of Trustees; (iii) any person serving on an official University committee or assisting another University official in performing his or her tasks; or (iv) a contractor, consultant, volunteer, or other person who is performing a specific task on behalf of the University. With regard to (iv), such person is considered a University official only if the task they perform is one for which the University would otherwise use its own employees and they are under the direct control of the University or University official with respect to the use and maintenance of personally identifiable information from Education Records.

**Effective January 3, 2012, the U.S. Department of Education’s FERPA regulations expanded the circumstances under which students’ education records and personal identifiable information (PII) – including social security number and grades – may be accessed without the student’s consent.  Organizations and offices which may request student records and PII without consent include the U.S. Comptroller General, the U.S. Attorney General, the U.S. Secretary of Education, Federal Authorities, and State Authorities.  The data may be used within evaluations of federal- or state-supported education programs, in connection with Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems, and as part of federal- or state-supported research studies.  Federal and State Authorities must obtain certain use-restriction and data security promises from entities they authorize to receive and compile student PII.  They may also track student participation in education and other programs by linking PII to additional personal information obtained from other federal and state data sources including workforce development, unemployment insurance, child welfare, juvenile justice, military service, and migrant student records systems.