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.


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

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of students' educational records (and students' personally identifiable information included these records).

FERPA also establishes the right of students to inspect and review their educational records, and provides guidelines for the correction of inaccurate and misleading student information, through informal and formal hearings.

FERPA applies to any public or private elementary, secondary, or post-secondary school (including higher education) that receives funds under an applicable program of the US Department of Education.   

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) include but are not limited to: Registrar’s Office records; transcripts; grades, student papers, student exams, class schedules, student attendance records, student discipline files and student financial information.

Records NOT protected by FERPA:

  • Sole Possession records - records of educational personnel that are in the sole possession of the maker and are not accessible to anyone else (e.g. instructor notes);
  • Records maintained by the law enforcement unit of the university (GWPD) for purposes of law enforcement;
  • Student employment records (only those university positions where student status is not a pre-requisite for employment);
  • Medical records for students who are 18 years of age or older, maintained by the Student Health Center, for treatment purposes;
  • Alumni records (containing information about former students collected after they have graduated from the university);
  • 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.

FERPA requires that a consent for disclosure of education records be signed and dated, specify the records that may be disclosed, state the purpose of the disclosure, and identify the party to whom the disclosure may be made.  (34 CFR § 99.30). 

Note: GW’s student consent form can be found on the Office of the Registrar’s website. Completed consent forms  should be submitted to the Registrar for verification and record-keeping.

GW Directory Information

FERPA defines Directory Information as information contained in an education record of a student that would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed. Under FERPA, the university may release directory information upon request, without student consent. Students can opt out of the disclosure of directory information, by submitting written notice to this effect, to the Office of the Registrar, using the Confidentiality Request form.

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 other school officials 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 their 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 FERPA 34 CFR § 99.31 criteria, which include:

  • when the disclosure involves directory information;
  • disclosure is made to school officials who have a legitimate educational interest;
  • when the disclosure is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals (such disclosure must be related to an actual, impending, or imminent health or safety emergency); 
  • disclosure is made to parents/guardians of the student in very limited circumstances (parents of a dependent student, as defined in section 152 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986);
  • to comply with lawfully issued subpoena or judicial order;
  • to other schools in which the student applies or intends to transfer;
  • to accrediting agencies carrying out their accrediting functions;
  • in certain student disciplinary cases (e.g. disclosure made to a victim of an alleged perpetrator of a crime of violence or a non-forcible sex offense).

More information regarding FERPA exceptions is available on the U.S. Department of Education's Protecting Student Privacy website.

The Solomon Amendment

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.

The Department of Education has determined the Solomon Amendment supersedes most elements of FERPA and therefore, upon request, federally funded educational institutions are obligated to disclose certain data regarding currently enrolled students to military recruiters. Such information includes student name, address, telephone number, email address, age or date of birth, place of birth, level of education, academic major, degrees awarded and educational institution in which the student was most recently enrolled. 

If a student has submitted a Confidentiality Request to Office of the Registrar to restrict the release of their Directory Information, then student-recruiting information from the student's education record will not be released. 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.
  • To file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by the University to comply with the requirements of FERPA.

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

If a GW faculty member/instructor/GW researcher wants to use student data for research purposes, FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974) protects the information contained in the respective student records. 

GW researchers are responsible for maintaining compliance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, in addition to human research regulations, when using information included in university Education Records for the purpose of research.

Careful consideration should be given to using student data and/or student materials in human subjects’ research unless there is a compelling and legitimate justification for its use. If information of university students is to be used in research, then the researcher must take all due precautions to protect the safety, rights, and welfare of the participants, ensure the proper privacy and security of the research data and comply with all applicable University policies for the protection of students and student information.

Generally, Education Records cannot be released or used unless the University has the student's prior written consent or unless an exception to the written consent requirement applies.

Information included in University student Education Records can be used for research only in the following circumstances:

  1. With Signed Consent. FERPA requirements are usually met if an Eligible Student signs a research consent form to participate in a project and authorizes release of their Education Records for research purposes. 

    The consent form must include: the purpose of the disclosure;  the records (information) that will be disclosed (must be very specific), and state how often the records will be disclosed (one time, each semester, etc.), and the identity of the party whom the records will be disclosed. The consent for must include a dated signature.

  2. Directory Information. Under FERPA, student directory information may be disclosed without student consent, when no confidentiality flag is placed by the student over their education records. GW researchers seeking to use GW students’ directory information for research, must follow GW’s Privacy of Student Records Policy and the Privacy of Personal Information Policy when accessing  and using GW student directory information.  GW's list of directory information can be found in the “Key Terms” tab, on this webpage.
  3. Deidentified InformationGW researchers may also receive information contained in student Education Records, without student consent, if an authorized school official with legitimate access (someone other than the researcher) strips the records of all identifying information prior to releasing the information to the researcher.
  4. FERPA Exception for Research StudiesPersonally identifiable information from student education records may be disclosed by the University, without student written consent, under this FERPA exception, when the disclosure is to GW researchers conducting studies for or on behalf of the University for the following reasons: 
    • study the effectiveness of an instructional technique, curricula, or classroom management method in a university course;
    • to develop, validate, or administer predictive tests; 
    • to administer student aid programs; 
    • or to improve instruction.  
Online FERPA training is available to GW staff and faculty, in Talent@GW.

Additionally, the 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 Training and Events page for class training schedule or email us to request a FERPA Training for your department.

 In order to access and/or receive information from student Education Records, under this FERPA exception, the researcher must enter into a written agreement containing specific assurances on data confidentiality (Internal Data Sharing Agreement) with the University. The researcher will be requested to provide the following details, when entering into a Data Sharing Agreement:

  • The purpose, scope, and duration of the research, explaining how the research project will deliver one of the outcomes required under the FERPA exception for research studies.
  • The information to be disclosed (include all data elements requested).
  • Assurance that the information from education records may only be used to meet the purposes of the research stated in the written agreement and must contain the current requirements in 34 CFR § 99.31(a)(6) on re-disclosure.
  • Assurance that the research will be conducted in a manner that does not permit personal identification of students by anyone other than the researcher (and, when applicable, GW members of their research team, with legitimate interests).
  • Assurance that the researcher will to destroy or return all personally identifiable information when no longer needed for the purposes of the research.