Student Privacy/FERPA

The Board of Trustees of the California State University recognizes that the right of privacy is an inalienable right protected by Article 1, Section 1 of the California State Constitution. Under the authority delegated to the Chancellor in Title 5, California Code of Regulations, Section 42396.5, Executive Order 796 (January, 2002), was issued for the implementation of the policy for the administration of student records consistent with the federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA, 20 U.S.C. 1232g) and the regulations adopted there under (34 C.F.R.99).

Executive Order 796 states: "Each campus shall adopt a written policy statement establishing procedures by which the campus intends to comply with FERPA and this executive order. These procedures shall include a requirement to periodically review campus information management practices concerning student records at least every two years or more often as the need arises."

As required by EO 796, the University Registrar is responsible for the biannual review of this document. The document establishes the language and procedures by which the campus guarantees student education record privacy rights and complies with FERPA, California state law and EO 796.

For the purposes of these procedures, San Diego State University is using the following definitions of terms:

Student - any person who attends or has attended San Diego State University.

Education records - any records (in handwriting, print, tapes, film, computer, or other medium) maintained by San Diego State University or an agent of the university that is directly related to a student, except:

  1. A personal record kept by a staff member if it is kept in the sole possession of the maker of the record and is not accessible or revealed to any other person except a temporary substitute for the maker of the record.
  2. Records created and maintained by the San Diego State University Department of Public Safety for law enforcement purposes.
  3. An employment record of an individual whose employment is not contingent on the fact that he or she is a student, provided the record is used only in relation to the individual's employment.
  4. Records made or maintained by a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, or other recognized professional or paraprofessional if the records are used only for treatment of a student and made available only to those persons providing the treatment.
  5. Alumni records that contain information about a student after he or she is no longer in attendance at the university and that do not relate to the person as a student.

Students will be notified of their FERPA rights by publication in the University Catalog. An e-mail will also be sent to students on an annual basis with information about their FERPA rights.

The Office of the Registrar will annually review the draft versions of the University Catalog to ensure that the appropriate notification is present, complete, and correct.

Students who wish to view the contents of their Educational Records must make a written request to the Unit Custodian of those records (see "Types, Locations, and Custodians of Educational Records" in the Records Policy). The Unit Custodian (or designee) will meet with the student during normal business hours, at a time set by the Unit Custodian, and in the Unit Custodian's office. The original records may not leave the Unit Custodian's office.

The Unit Custodian must comply with the student's request within fifteen working days. If the records the student wishes to view are under the control of various Unit Custodians, the student must make individual requests to each Unit Custodian.

When a record contains information about more than one student, the student may inspect and review only the records that relate to him or her.

The student will not be allowed access to any of the following:

  • The financial statement of the student's parents;
  • Letters and statements of recommendation for which the student has waived the right to access, or which were maintained before January 1, 1975;
  • Records connected with the student's application to attend SDSU if that application was denied;
  • Personal notes about a student made and kept by a faculty/staff member if the notes are not accessible or revealed to any other person except a temporary substitute for the person who made the notes;
  • Records created and maintained by the San Diego State University Department of Public Safety for law enforcement purposes;
  • Records made or maintained by a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, or other recognized professional or paraprofessional if the records are used only for treatment of the student and made available only to those persons providing the treatment;
  • Alumni records that contain information about the student after he or she is no longer in attendance at the university;
  • Any other records that are excluded from the FERPA definition of education records.

While the student retains the right to inspect his or her records, San Diego State University may deny copies of records:

  1. If the record requested is an exam not directly related to a student or set of standardized test questions, unless the instructor or creator of the exam has no objection.

With the exception of academic transcripts, which are covered by executive order, the fee for copies will be 25 cents ($.25) per page or fifteen dollars ($15.00) for a microfilmed or electronically imaged record in its entirety. Computer reports for SDSU departments will be provided at no charge.

Reports to authorized non-university entities will be provided for forty dollars ($40.00) per report. If mailing labels are requested by any entity, there is an additional charge equal to the Central Stores current price for mailing labels.

Fees collected will be deposited in the Unit Custodian's Supplies and Services account.

The Provost is the University Custodian of Student Records. The Unit Custodian is the person who possesses the records or is in charge of the office that possesses the records. It is the Unit Custodian's responsibility to properly control access, handle, store, and dispose of the records as appropriate.

The Personnel Director is the custodian of employee records. The Public Safety Director (Chief of Campus Police) is the custodian of law enforcement records. Neither personnel nor law enforcement records are covered by these procedures.

The following is a list of the types of records that the university maintains and the unit custodians:

San Diego State University will not permit third party access to information contained in a student's education records without the written consent of the student, except under the circumstances described below.

San Diego State University may permit access by third parties under the following conditions.

  1. To school officials who have a legitimate educational interest in the records.

    Examples of persons whom SDSU has determined to be university officials include the following:

    • a person employed by the university in an administrative, supervisory, academic or research, or support staff position, including health or medical staff.
    • a person elected to the Board of Trustees.
    • a person employed by or under contract to the university to perform a special task, such as the attorney or auditor.
    • a person who is employed by San Diego State University Department of Public Safety.
    • a student serving on an official committee, such as a disciplinary or grievance committee, or who is assisting another school official in performing his or her tasks.
    • an emeritus faculty member serving as an ombudsperson.

    Examples of situations in which SDSU has found there to be a legitimate educational interest in student records include the following:

    • performing a task that is specified in his or her position description or contract agreement.
    • performing a task related to a student's education.
    • performing a task related to the discipline of a student.
    • providing a service or benefit relating to the student or student's family, such as health care, counseling, job placement, or financial aid.
    • maintaining the safety and security of the campus.
  2. To officials of another school, upon request, in which a student seeks or intends to enroll.
  3. To certain officials of the U.S. Department of Education, the Comptroller General, and state and local educational authorities, in connection with audit or evaluation of certain state or federally supported education programs.
  4. In connection with a student's request for or receipt of financial aid to determine the eligibility, amount, or conditions of the financial aid, or to enforce the terms and conditions of the aid.
  5. To state and local officials or authorities if specifically required by a state law that was adopted before November 19, 1974.
  6. To organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the university.
  7. To accrediting organizations to carry out their functions.
  8. To parents of an eligible student who is claimed as a dependent for income tax purposes.
  9. To comply with a federal or California judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena.
  10. To appropriate parties in a health or safety emergency.
  11. To individuals requesting directory information so designated by the university (see directory information below).
  12. The results of any disciplinary proceeding conducted by the university against an alleged perpetrator of a crime of violence to the alleged victim of that crime.
  13. To U.S. Military recruiters pursuant to 32 CFR 216 (Solomon Amendment).
  14. To comply with other federal legislation passed subsequent to FERPA, including but not limited to the Student Right To Know Act, the Taxpayer Relief Act, et al.

Each Unit Custodian will maintain a record of all requests for and/or disclosures of information from a student's education records. The record will indicate the name of the party making the request, any additional party to whom it may be re-disclosed, and the legitimate interest the party had in requesting or obtaining the information (with the exception of disclosures to a school official). The record may be reviewed by the eligible student.

Although federal law allows for the release of address, telephone listing, e-mail address, photograph, place and date of birth, grade level, enrollment status, previous educational institution attended, and information related to participation in athletics, San Diego State University designates only the following items as Directory Information:

  • student name
  • major field of study
  • dates of attendance
  • degrees, honors and awards received

SDSU designates the following items as Directory Information for Academic Student Employees only:

  • name
  • address
  • enrollment status
  • department employed
  • telephone number
  • e-mail address
  • status as student employee (i.e., TA, GA, ISA)

The university may disclose any of those items without prior written consent, unless the student requests to "restrict directory information" via my.SDSU.

Requests for Directory Information, or access to non-directory information, from academic or administrative offices of the university, or offices allied to the university, such as the Alumni Association, who have a legitimate educational interest in utilizing the information, will be directed to Enrollment Services for consideration.

Students have the right to restrict the release of certain categories of directory information, preventing the university from disclosing the directory information above without prior written consent.

When considering the restriction of directory information, students should be aware that their names will not appear in the commencement program, college Dean’s Lists, and other university publications. Further, employers, credit card companies, loan agencies, scholarship committees and other similar requestors will be denied any of the student's directory information and will be informed that there is no information available about the student's attendance at San Diego State University.

Directory information can be restricted in my.SDSU by navigating to the Profile tile and selecting the Privacy Restrictions menu option. To restrict information, check Restrict All for each category or select an individual row and then select the Restricted checkbox. To provide exceptions to the restriction of the release of information, select a row and then select which Exceptions you wish to allow.

Students have the right to ask to have records corrected that they believe are inaccurate, misleading, or in violation of their privacy rights. Following are the procedures for the correction of records:

  1. A student must ask the appropriate custodian of records to amend a record. In so doing, the student should identify the part of the record to be amended and specify why the student believes it is inaccurate, misleading or in violation of his or her privacy rights.
  2. The appropriate custodian may comply with the request or the custodian may decide not to comply. If the custodian decides not to comply, he or she will notify the student of the decision and advise the student of his or her right to a hearing to challenge the information believed to be inaccurate, misleading, or in violation of the student's privacy rights.
  3. The hearing will be conducted by a hearing officer who is a disinterested party; however, the hearing officer may be an official of the institution. The student shall be afforded a full and fair opportunity to present evidence relevant to the issues raised in the original request to amend the student's education records. The student may be assisted by one adviser, who may be an attorney.
  4. The Hearing Officer will prepare a written decision based solely on the evidence presented at the hearing. The decision will include a summary of the evidence presented and the reasons for the decision.
  5. If the university decides that the information is inaccurate, misleading, or in violation of the student's right of privacy, it will amend the record and notify the student, in writing, that the record has been amended.
  6. If the university decides that the challenged information is not inaccurate, misleading, or in violation of the student's right of privacy, it will notify the student that he or she has a right to place in the record a statement commenting on the challenged information and/or a statement setting forth reasons for disagreeing with the decision.
  7. The statement will be maintained as part of the student's education records as long as the contested portion is maintained. If the university discloses the contested portion of the record, it must also disclose the statement.

Frequently Asked Questions

FERPA is an acronym for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974

FERPA protects the privacy of a student’s education records

All educational institutions that receive federal funding must comply with FERPA.

Faculty/Staff with access to student education records are obligated to comply with FERPA and must protect those records according to the law.

Violation of FERPA may lead to disciplinary action or formal complaint to the U.S. Department of Education.

Our students depend on us to keep their educational information confidential.

The rights under FERPA apply to eligible students. An eligible student is an individual who has reached 18 years of age or is attending or previously attended San Diego State University.

Student education records are considered confidential and may not be released without the written consent of the student.

University employees have a responsibility to protect education records in their possession.

Some information (called “Directory Information”) can be released without the student’s written permission. However, the student may opt to consider this information confidential.

Faculty/Staff have access to information only for legitimate use in completion of their responsibilities as a university employee. “Legitimate Educational need to know” is the basic principle.

All inquiries for student information should be directed to the Registrar’s office.

FERPA permits university employees to have access to student education records in which they have “legitimate educational interest.” Such access does not require prior written consent of the student. Essentially, legitimate educational interest (“need to know”) is necessary for employees to carry out their responsibilities.

Curiosity is not a legitimate educational interest. Just because employees have access to my.SDSU and are able to view the record of a student who may be a friend or relative, does not mean that you have a legitimate educational interest in accessing the grades and GPA.

Employment at the university does not automatically constitute legitimate educational interest. The need to know must be related to your job responsibilities.

Such things as progress in a course, deficiencies in a subject area, scores and grades on papers, exams, etc. are all examples of personally identifiable information that make up part of the student's education record. This information is protected under FERPA and parents may not have access to it unless the student has provided written authorization that specifically identifies what information may be released to the parents.

For crises and emergencies, please contact the Office of the Registrar directly.

Revised January 2024