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Office of the Registrar

FERPA Scenario Q&A

Question:  A student has asked you to write a letter of recommendation for him for graduate school.  This request was taken over the phone.  Should you include the student's grade or GPA in this letter?

Answer: No. A faculty member should have a student sign a release before providing a job reference or a reference for the student for certain academic purposes, such as scholarships or awards. The job reference is one area where faculty often forget to obtain a written release.
Proposed regulations under FERPA specify that a school may accept electronic consents and signatures when reasonable security is provided for the process. Until the amendments become law, an electronic consent is not acceptable because it does not contain the student's signature. Therefore, a faculty member should not consider an e-mail from a student to be a valid consent for release of education records.
If a record contains personally identifiable information on other students, delete that information before disclosing the record for the student who has provided written consent.

The Registrar is the University official responsible for keeping all official academic education records. Only the Office of the Registrar may release an official transcript. All requests for education record information originating from outside the University should be directed to the Office of the Registrar.

* General Rule: Ask the student to provide a letter to you authorizing you to release grades or address the student's abilities without referring specifically to the grade. Often times the letter of recommendation for graduate school are submitted on specific forms on which student grants permission for the release of personally identifiable information.

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