FERPA - Key Terms

Directory Information (public records)

The following is considered public directory information that can be released without the student’s written consent:

  • Name
  • Postal addresses
  • Telephone numbers
  • E-mail addresses
  • Date of birth
  • Major field(s) of study and number of academic credits earned toward degree
  • Attendance status (including current year, credit load, and full- or part-time status)
  • Dates of attendance (including matriculation and withdrawal dates)
  • Degrees and awards received (type of degree and date granted)
  • Previously attended educational agencies or institutions
  • Participation in officially recognized activities
  • Participation in athletics and height and weight of athletes

Eligible Student

Someone who is currently enrolled for classes at UW-Madison or who has ever been enrolled at UW-Madison. For students new to UW-Madison, FERPA coverage begins on the first day of the first term for which they have enrolled for classes.


Educational Records

Educational records include those records (except those noted in the third paragraph of this section), in any medium, directly related to a student and maintained by UW-Madison, a UW-Madison school official, or by a party acting for the institution. Examples include, but are not limited to, documents with a student’s name and ID number, class rosters, grade lists, student employment records, student disciplinary records and student information displayed on a computer screen.  Educational records are stored in the Office of the Registrar and other locations around campus.

Educational records include certain records which students do not have the right to inspect and review.  Those records include but are not limited to financial records of a parent, and confidential letters and statements of recommendation for admission, employment or honorary recognition which the student has waived the right to inspect and review.

Educational records do not include:

  • Personal notes of UW–Madison faculty and staff that are kept in the sole possession of the maker and are not accessible or revealed to any other person
  • Medical and counseling records available only to health care practitioners for treatment purposes
  • Records created and maintained by University Police for law enforcement purposes
  • Grades on peer graded papers before they are collected and recorded by an instructor
  • Alumni records
  • Observable behavior

Legitimate Educational Interest

FERPA allows a UW-Madison school official to share a student’s educational record information (public information and private information), without the student’s written consent, with other UW-Madison school officials who have a legitimate educational interest. Legitimate educational interest means the school official needs to review an educational record in order to fulfill their professional responsibilities. Disclosure of educational record information to a UW-Madison school official having a legitimate educational interest does not constitute authorization for that person to transmit, share, or disclose any or all of that information to a third party who does not have a legitimate educational interest.


Non-Directory Information (private records)

Non-directory (private) information, otherwise known as personally identifiable information about a student, must be protected at all times and may not be released without the student’s prior written consent, except as permitted by FERPA.  Examples of non-directory information include, but are not limited to, social security number, campus identification number, place of birth, ethnicity, residency status, advisor’s name, academic actions, class schedule and courses completed, grades and related information, disciplinary actions, balance on food account, and biometric record.


School Official

A school official is a person who serves UW-Madison in an administrative, supervisory, academic, research, or support staff position, including but not limited to UW-Madison law enforcement personnel, health staff, certain appropriate student employees, and field supervisors. This definition also includes a person or company with whom UW-Madison has outsourced institutional services or functions, such as a contractor, consultant, or volunteer; a person serving on an official UW-Madison committee, such as a disciplinary or grievance committee; or a person legitimately authorized to assist another UW-Madison school official in performing their professional UW-Madison responsibilities.