University Policies

Approval Date: 04/15/2014
Approved By: President

Access to and Release of Student Information Policy

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law which provides that every educational institution receiving federal funds shall maintain the confidentiality of its student records. Certain items of information about individual students are fundamental to the educational process and must be recorded. Western Illinois University is committed to protecting to the maximum extent possible the right of privacy of all individuals about whom it holds information, records, and files.

FERPA permits the disclosure of personally identifiable information (PII) from students’ education records, without consent of the student, if the disclosure meets certain conditions found in §99.31 of the FERPA regulations. Except for disclosures to school officials, disclosures related to some judicial orders or lawfully issued subpoenas, disclosures of directory information, and disclosures to the student, §99.32 of FERPA regulations requires the institution to record the disclosure. Eligible students have a right to inspect and review the record of disclosures. As permitted by FERPA, Western Illinois University may disclose PII from the education records without obtaining prior written consent of the student:

  • To the student himself/herself;
  • To other school officials, including faculty, within the University whom the school has determined to have legitimate educational interests. This includes contractors, consultants, volunteers, or other parties to whom the school has outsourced institutional services or functions, provided that the conditions listed in §99.31(a)(1)(i)(B)(1) - (a)(1)(i)(B)(2) are met. (§99.31(a)(1)) Note: The legitimacy of the need to know will be determined by the head of the unit from which the records are sought. Essentially, the standard that will be followed is that student information requested by any Western Illinois University instructor, staff member, or unit will be provided when it can be determined that the information is needed to allow the person or unit to accomplish or perform University-assigned tasks or duties. All members of the faculty, administration, and clerical staff must respect and protect confidential information they acquire about students in the course of their work. They are bound by the conditions outlined in this policy statement relative to the release of student information.
  • To officials of another school where the student seeks or intends to enroll, or where the student is already enrolled if the disclosure is for purposes related to the student’s enrollment or transfer, subject to the requirements of §99.34. (§99.31(a)(2))
  • To authorized representatives of the U. S. Comptroller General, the U. S. Attorney General, the U.S. Secretary of Education, or State and local educational authorities, such as a State postsecondary authority that is responsible for supervising the University’s State-supported education programs. Disclosures under this provision may be made, subject to the requirements of §99.35, 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 that relate to those programs. These entities may make further disclosures of PII to outside entities that are designated by them as their authorized representatives to conduct any audit, evaluation, or enforcement or compliance activity on their behalf. (§§99.31(a)(3) and 99.35)
  • In connection with financial aid for which the student has applied or which the student has received, if the information is necessary to determine eligibility for the aid, determine the amount of the aid, determine the conditions of the aid, or enforce the terms and conditions of the aid. (§99.31(a)(4))
  • To organizations conducting studies for, or on behalf of, the school, in order to: (a) develop, validate, or administer predictive tests; (b) administer student aid programs; or (c) improve instruction. (§99.31(a)(6))
  • To accrediting organizations to carry out their accrediting functions. ((§99.31(a)(7)
  • To parents of an eligible student if the student is a dependent for IRS tax purposes. (§99.31(a)(8))
  • To comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena. (§99.31(a)(9))
  • To appropriate parties, including parents of an eligible student, in connection with a health or safety emergency, subject to §99.36. (§99.31(a)(10))
  • Information the school has designated as “directory information” under §99.37. (§99.31(a)(11))
  • To a victim of an alleged perpetrator of a crime of violence or a non-forcible sex offense, subject to the requirements of §99.39. The disclosure may only include the final results of the disciplinary proceeding with respect to that alleged crime or offense, regardless of the finding. (§99.31(a)(13))
  • To the general public, the final results of a disciplinary proceeding, subject to the requirements of §99.39, if the school 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 school’s rules or policies with respect to the allegation made against him or her. (§99.31(a)(14))
  • To parents of a student regarding the student’s violation of any Federal, State, or local law, or of any rule or policy of the school, governing the use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance if the school determines the student committed a disciplinary violation and the student is under the age of 21. (§99.31(a)(15))
  • To officials when the disclosure concerns sex offenders and other individuals required to register under the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994.

All of the exceptions above are permitted by the federal regulations which implement the Act.

Please note that it is never appropriate to use any part of the WIU identification number or Social Security number to post student grades.

If access is sought through the written consent of a student, the consent must be signed and dated by the student and shall include a specification of the records to be disclosed, the purpose of the disclosure, and the party or class of parties to whom the disclosure may be made. Upon request, the institution will provide to the student a copy of the records disclosed through this method.

Within the Western Illinois University community, only those members, individually or collectively, acting in the student's educational interest are allowed access to student education records. Record-keeping personnel and members of the faculty and staff with administrative assignment may have access to records and files for legitimate educational interests as well as for routinely necessary clerical, administrative, and statistical purposes as required by the duties of their jobs.

Except for disclosures to school officials, disclosures related to some judicial orders or lawfully issued subpoenas, disclosures of directory information, and disclosures to the student, §99.32 of FERPA regulations require any requests for disclosure to be recorded showing the parties who have requested or received PII from the education records and the legitimate interests the parties had in requesting or obtaining the information. Whether or not the request is granted, the student concerned shall be entitled to review this record. Authorized parties who are allowed access will be required to state any plans they may have for additional disclosure; this information will also become a part of the record on access. Parties obtaining access through the written consent of the student will be informed that this method limits the right of access to parties explicitly named, and that for additional disclosure, further written consent must be obtained.

At its discretion, the institution may provide the following directory information in accordance with the provisions of the Act in response to inquiries concerning an individual student whether the inquiries are in person, in writing or over the phone: the student's name, school and home addresses, WIU email address, telephone number, major field of study, dates of attendance, full- or part-time status, classification, degrees, honors, and awards received (including Dean's list) and date granted, anticipated graduation date, most recent previous educational agency or institution attended, participation in officially recognized activities and sports, and, for members of athletic teams, weight and height. Any student who does not wish the above information to be released may prevent such release by submitting an Exclusion of Directory Information Form to the Office of the Registrar, 110 Sherman Hall, Western Illinois University. The request for exclusion of directory information will be honored indefinitely; however, it does not affect directory information published or released prior to the request for exclusion. By requesting exclusion of directory information, students should be aware that all future requests for this information by anyone other than school officials with legitimate educational interests will be refused.

The law provides students with the right to inspect and review information contained in their education records, to challenge the contents of their education records, to have a hearing if the outcome of the challenge is unsatisfactory, and to submit explanatory statements for inclusion in their files if they feel decisions of the hearing officer are unacceptable. The Vice President for Student Services at Western Illinois University has been designated by the institution to coordinate the inspection and review procedures for student education records which include admissions, personal, academic and financial files and academic cooperative education and replacement records.

A request for access to official data maintained in a particular office may be made to the administrative head of that office. Such requests must be made in writing listing the item or items of interest. Only records covered by the Act will be made available within 45 days of the request.

When a student or former student appears at a given office and requests access to the University records about himself or herself, first the student must provide proper identification verifying that he/she is the person whose records are being accessed. Second, the designated staff person or persons must supervise the review of the contents of the records with the student. Third, copies of documents contained within a student's cumulative file will be made available to the student upon written request. (Exceptions: Academic record transmittal may be temporarily withheld as a result of financial obligation to the University. Copies of transcripts and records furnished by other entities, including but not limited to colleges, universities or schools, will not be made available to the student if the document in question is available through the initiating agency.)

The actual cost of reproducing these records may be assessed to the student. Upon receiving a request to reproduce documents in a cumulative file, the office involved will notify the student requesting the documents of any reproduction costs which the student must pay.

Education records do not include records of law enforcement units, student health records, employment records (except records of student employment when such employment is contingent upon the fact that he or she is a student), alumni records, or records of instructional, administrative, and educational personnel which are in the sole possession of the maker and are not accessible or revealed to any individual except to a person hired as a temporary substitute for the maker. The personal files of members of the faculty and staff which concern students are not regarded as official records of the University. This includes notes intended for the personal use of the faculty or staff member and never intended to be official records of the University.

With regard to general health data, information which is used by the University in making decisions regarding the student's status is subject to review by the student under this policy. Written psychiatric and psychological case notes which form the basis for diagnosis or for recommendation or treatment plans remain privileged information not accessible to the student. Such case notes are not considered to be part of University official records. To ensure the availability of correct and helpful interpretations of any psychological test scores, notes or other evaluation and medical records, the contents of these files for an individual student may be reviewed by that student only in consultation with a professional staff member of the specific department involved.

A student is entitled to review only that portion of an official record or file that pertains to him or her. Students may not inspect and review the following as outlined by the Act: financial information submitted by their parents or guardians, confidential letters and recommendations associated with admissions, employment or job placement, or honors to which they have waived their rights of inspection and review. No student is entitled to see information or records that pertain to another student, to parents or to other third parties. The institution is not required to permit students to inspect and review confidential letters and recommendations placed in their files prior to January 1, 1975, provided those letters were collected under the established policies of confidentiality. Should a student desire access to a confidential letter or recommendation received prior to January 1, 1975, the student shall be advised to have the writer of the appraisal notify in writing the concerned records custodian of the decision as to whether or not the writer is willing to have the appraisal made available for the student's review. Unless a written response is received approving a change of status in the letter, the treatment of the letter as a confidential document shall continue.

Confidential letters and recommendations relating to students collected by the University or any department or office of the University on or after January 1, 1975, will be maintained confidentially only if a waiver of the right of access has been executed by the student. In the absence of a waiver all such documents will be available for student inspection and review.

Records relating to a continuing or active investigation by the Office of Public Safety or records of said office not relating to the student's status with the University are not subject to this policy.

Every student shall have the opportunity to challenge any item in his/her file which he/she considers to be inaccurate, misleading or inappropriate. Students shall initiate a challenge by submitting a written request to the custodian of the particular record in question. If the student's challenge is upheld, the records in question will be appropriately corrected.

If the custodian and the student involved are unable to resolve the matter to the satisfaction of both parties, the written request for deletion or correction shall be submitted by the student to the Vice President for Student Services. Student requests for a formal hearing must be made in writing to the Vice President for Student Services, who, within a reasonable period of time after receiving such requests, will inform the student of the date, place, and time of the hearing.

At the hearing, a student may present evidence relative to the issues raised and may be assisted or represented at the hearing by one or more persons of his/her choice, including attorneys, at the student's expense. The hearing officer will be the Vice President for Student Services or such other person as designated by the President.

Decisions of the hearing officer will be final, will be based solely on the evidence presented at the hearing, and will consist of written statements summarizing the evidence and stating the reasons for the decisions and will be delivered to all parties concerned. The education records will be corrected or amended in accordance with the decisions of the hearing officer if the decisions are in favor of the student. If the decision is unsatisfactory to the student, the student may place with the education records statements setting forth any reasons for disagreeing with the decisions of the hearing officer. The statements will be placed in the education records, maintained as part of the student's record and released whenever the records in question are disclosed.

FERPA rights cease upon a student's death. However, it is the policy of Western Illinois University that no confidential records of deceased students will be released after the date of death unless required by law or specifically authorized by the executor of the deceased's estate or by next of kin.

Notice of these policies and procedures will be published by the University, and copies will be made available to students upon request through any of the following offices:

  • Admissions
  • Registrar
  • Financial Aid
  • Student Development Office
  • Student Assistance and Parent Service Center
  • University Housing and Dining Services
  • Alumni Relations
  • Graduate Studies
  • Career Development Center
  • School of Distance Learning, International Studies, and Outreach
  • College Deans

The foregoing statement of the University becomes effective immediately. Revisions and clarifications will be published as experience with the law and institutional policy warrants.