Frequently Asked FERPA Questions

FERPA stands for the Family Rights and Privacy Act of 1974.

What does FERPA really mean for me?

What information has NMU defined as directory information?

If a questionable source requests directory information on a student, must NMU release this information?

Do faculty members have a right to inspect education records of any student without giving a reason?

I received a telephone call from a parent claiming there is a family emergency and they need to contact their child immediately. Can I, as a university employee, tell the parents the day, time and location of their child's class?

How do I prevent my directory information from being released?

How can my parents, insurance company or private scholarship administrator get a copy of my grade report?

I want my information restricted for personal safety reasons, but I wonder, are there any negative consequences to restricting release of my directory information?

I have decided that I want to limit release of my directory information, but what if there is an emergency?

Do I have any choices about which pieces of information I authorize to be released and which ones may not be released?

Does all of this apply only to my academic records?

I would like to view my records. How long will I have to wait?

I have heard that Northern Michigan University sells student information and that I can expect to receive a lot of junk mail as a result. Is that correct?

What should I do if I think FERPA is being violated?

When do my FERPA rights begin?

Can an instructor post grades or exam results in a public place using my NMU identification number?

Where can I get more information about my privacy rights?

What does FERPA really mean for me?
Grades and transcripts can not be requested over the telephone. Student services requested by phone are limited because the university cannot confirm the students identity. All students must provide a picture I.D. for in-person access to their academic and other confidential records. Students must use their confidential (e-mail) User I.D. and password for registration, drop/add, fee payment and grade information on the Web. General  directory information on a student may be released to the general public.

What information has NMU defined as directory information?
FERPA allows the university to identify information which it considers public record and can release this directory information without student authorization. Directory information at NMU includes the following information about the student:

  • name
  • local address, local telephone number, permanent address, permanent telephone number
  • NMU e-mail address 
  • dates of attendance at the university, enrollment status, degrees earned, honors, awards, participation in officially recognized university activities and sports, current term candidacy for degrees and/or teaching certification 
  • program level, class standing, major/minor 
  • photographs
If a questionable source requests directory information on a student, must NMU release this information?
No. Northern Michigan University is under no obligation to release directory information to anyone. FERPA only states that an institution may release directory information. When in doubt, NMU will not release directory information. NMU may require the individual to provide a written release from the student before releasing directory information.

Do faculty members have a right to inspect education records of any student without giving a reason?
No. Faculty members are considered school officials, but the faculty member must demonstrate a legitimate educational interest in their request to access student records. For example, NMU provides transcripts to faculty members for advising purposes.

I received a telephone call from a parent claiming there is a family emergency and they need to contact their child immediately. Can I, as a university employee, tell the parents the day, time and location of their child's class?
No. At Northern Michigan University, a student's class schedule is not considered directory information, therefore this information may not be released. If you feel that the parent has a legitimate emergency, you should refer the parent to NMU Public Safety at 906-227-2151. If Public Safety determines that there is an emergency, they will send a police officer to the student's class and give the student a message.

How do I prevent my directory information from being released?
Students can complete a request to prevent disclosure of directory information form at the Student Service Center, 2201 C.B. Hedgcock. Or, the student can mail a letter including their NMU identification number and signature to: Northern Michigan University, Registrar's Office, 2202 C.B. Hedgcock, 1401 Presque Isle Avenue, Marquette, MI 49855.

Directory restrictions placed before September 10 of each year will prevent the publication of the student's address and/or phone number in the campus telephone directory.

Note: It is important to remember that a request to prevent disclosure of directory information remains in effect until the student requests to have it changed. It will remain in effect even after you leave the university.

How can my parents, insurance company, or private scholarship administrator get a copy of my grades?
Northern Michigan University policy prohibits the release of grades to anyone other than the student without written consent. It is the students responsibility to provide a copy of their grades to an agency or individual outside the university. If a print-out from the Web is not sufficient, the student can request that an official transcript be sent.

I want my information restricted for personal safety reasons, but I wonder, are there any negative consequences to restricting release of my directory information?
Yes, and each student will need to determine the appropriate balance between their desire to restrict directory information and the need for people to be able to locate them. Here are some examples of what could occur after a student has restricted the release of directory information: Northern Michigan University could not provide the student's telephone number to a classmate trying to contact them about a class project. The university could not give an address or telephone number to a relative who is in town unexpectedly for the weekend but forgot to bring your address and telephone number.  After the student graduates, Northern Michigan University could not confirm for a potential employer that the student has completed their degree, without advance written consent. Following a request for full non-disclosure, the university could not even confirm that a student had ever attended the university.

I have decided that I want to limit release of my directory information, but what if there is an emergency?
It is important that we use the same definition of emergency. If a student's brother forgot to make a deposit into their checking account and needs to find you right away, that would not be considered an emergency. However, if there is an emergency or safety situation, the individual will be directed to NMU Public Safety, 906-227-2151, and a public safety officer may contact the student.

Do I have any choices about which pieces of information I authorize to be released and which ones may not be released?
No, requesting a restriction of any information will result in a confidentiality indicator being set on your record FOR ALL INFORMATION. This means that you must transact all business in person or via the web. NMU staff will not be able to assist you over the phone, nor will the university acknowledge your presence as a student to outside agencies or in university publications.

Does all of this apply only to my academic records?
No, FERPA applies to all education records, which includes essentially everything the university maintains about you in any media. Categories of education records areas may include academic, financial, residential life, activities, disciplinary, etc. Medical and/or personal counseling records are protected under separate regulations and professional guidelines.

I would like to view my records. How long will I have to wait?
At Northern Michigan University, usually, you will be able to review your records immediately upon request with a valid photo I.D.

I have heard that Northern Michigan University sells student information and that I can expect to receive a lot of junk mail as a result.  Is that correct?
The university does have a policy in place that controls the release of directory information. Northern Michigan University is mandated under the Freedom of Information Act to provide directory information to companies or organizations on request. However, the information is not sold. The university does charge a reasonable fee to cover administrative costs associated with producing the lists.

In addition, each semester Northern Michigan University offers a student health insurance plan negotiated at a group rate. The company that is awarded the contract is sent mailing labels from the university. The company mails each student a brochure informing them about the health insurance plan available.

Note: Students who have restricted the release of their addresses from directory information will be excluded from the above listings and mailing labels.

It is quite likely that names, addresses and telephone numbers of individuals who receive a lot of junk mail or telemarketing calls have been acquired in another manner. For example, the annual printed Northern Michigan University Telephone Directory is available free to anyone who requests it. As described above, all students who have not directed the university to limit the release of their directory information will be listed in that directory. Additionally, there are other non-university sources from which vendors and others may acquire student information.

If you believe that someone has inappropriately acquired your information from a university resource, you are strongly encouraged to call the Registrar's Office immediately at 906-227-2258 for assistance.

What should I do if I think FERPA is being violated?
You are encouraged to discuss the matter with the individual or office responsible for the alleged violation. If that is not possible or is not comfortable for you, please contact the Registrar, 2202 C.B. Hedgcock, 906-227-2258, and ask for assistance.

When do my FERPA rights begin?
Officially, the first day you begin courses at NMU. Although, prior to initial attendance, your application information is treated with confidentially, as well.

Can an instructor post grades or exam results in a public place using my NMU Identification Number?
No. In order for an instructor to post grades or scores, they must either have the written permission of the students or use an identifier that is known only to the instructor and each individual student. Violations should be reported immediately to the Registrar.

Where can I get more information about my privacy rights?