A contentious court case in Illinois is making students re-evaluate the assumption of privacy of their personal information at public universities. The Chronicle of Higher Education is reporting that FERPA, the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, does not necessarily prohibit schools from releasing student information like name, address, GPA, and test scores to outside parties like news outlets.

Rice University CampusThe case arose after the Chicago Tribune requested information from the University of Illinois regarding students’ parents contact information for a story on politics in college admissions. The school refused to release the information, citing FERPA compliance.

The federal judge’s ruling stated that, technically, releasing student information is not prohibited. Federal funding, however, is tied to compliance with FERPA regulations. Therefore schools may choose to violate FERPA if they are willing to forfeit their federal funding.

Judge Joan Gottschall wrote:

“Illinois could choose to reject federal education money, and the conditions of FERPA along with it, so it cannot be said that FERPA prevents Illinois from doing anything.”

The ruling was narrow by definition, but raises questions about personal privacy rights for students attending a public institution, as well as Congress’s power to encourage certain practices by tying funds to their implementation.

What do you think? Should enforcement of a regulation protecting students’ private information be tied to federal subsidies?

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One Response to “Students: Is your name and school record public information?”

  1. [...] forfeit almost $50 million in federal highway money to enact this change. We’ve written about other instances where state compliance is tied to federal funding recently and asked if enforcement of a regulation at the state level should be tied to national [...]

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