Kennesaw State UniversityKennesaw State University

Office of Research

Use of Student Data in Research

Abstract Lab Work

Faculty members proposing to use information obtained from student records in research should familiarize themselves with FERPA regulations, which govern the disclosure of student record information.

The following information is taken from the FERPA Online Tutorial at https://campustraining.kennesaw.edu/, which was published by the KSU Office of the Registrar as part of their FERPA Awareness Campaign launched in April 2011. Click here for a copy of the tutorial transcript.

What is FERPA?

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), is a federal law that sets forth requirements regarding the privacy of student educational records. Student records are considered confidential and information therein should not be disclosed without written student consent unless the disclosure meets one of the FERPA exceptions.

In order to ensure FERPA regulations are met, researchers should be fully aware of what constitutes a student educational record and when student written consent is required.

What is an Educational Record?

Educational records are defined by the regulations to be any personally identifiable information that is directly related to a student and maintained by an educational agency, institution, or party acting for the agency or institution. Records can exist in any medium, including, but not limited to, typewritten, hand-written, computer generated, videotape, audiotape, film, microfilm, microfiche, and email.

Examples of student information that generally should not be disclosed without prior written consent of a student include:

  • Social Security Number/KSU Student ID Number
  • KSU Student Email or Personal Email Addresses
  • Grades, Credit Hours (attempted or earned)
  • Grade Point Averages
  • Current Class Schedule
  • Enrollment Status (part/full time)
  • Residency Status
  • Marital Status
  • Race, Gender, Citizenship

The following are not considered educational records:

  • Sole-possession Records (i.e., records/notes in sole possession of the maker, used only as a personal memory aid and not revealed or accessible to other persons)
  • Medical Treatment Records
  • Employment Records (unless employment is based on student status)
  • Law Enforcement Records
  • Post-attendance Records (alumni records)

Who May Access Student Records?

School officials are granted access to student information only for legitimate educational interest; i.e., for completion of their job responsibilities. A school official is defined as a

  • KSU employee (administrative, supervisory, academic, research, or support staff position),
  • person elected to the board of trustees,
  • company or person employed/contracted by KSU to perform a special task (i.e., attorney, auditor, or collection agency), or
  • person or student serving on an official KSU committee (i.e., disciplinary/grievance, scholarship) or assisting a KSU official in his/her tasks (i.e., work study student)

Accessing records of current students for other than legitimate educational interest, is prohibited by FERPA. Researchers are reminded that accessing records to obtain GPAs, test scores, grades, credit hours, etc., FOR RESEARCH PURPOSES is not allowable without prior written consent by students.

Retention of Records

student data

The University System of Georgia Records Retention Manual states that examinations, tests, term papers, and homework records, documenting a student's subject mastery, may not be retained for more than one term following course completion for uncontested grade results or until resolved for contested grades (see K38 at http://www.sos.georgia.gov/archives/pdf/state_spec_reports/USG_Records_Retention_Manual_ 033010.pdf). Records may include but are not limited to examination and answers, quizzes and answers, homework assignments, course papers, term papers, and essay assignments. Researchers should ensure written consent is obtained from students when records are to be retained outside of these limits.

All questions concerning access, use, and retention of student educational records should be directed to the Office of the Registrar or the Office of Legal Affairs.