Executive Director Update - August 3, 2017

In June, the U.S. Education Department sent out a request for comments on regulations that may be appropriate for repeal, replacement, or modification in accordance with Executive Order 13777, "Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda." AACRAO will submit comments in response to inform the Regulatory Reform Task Force of existing regulations and guidance that we
believe have a detrimental policy impact on our members, particularly with regard to education records and student privacy. View AACRAO's Comments on Regulatory Reform Agenda to the Education Department.

​I would like to encourage all AACRAO members to consider using the following form letter (Institutional/State or Regional Form Letter) to submit comments on behalf of their institutions and state or regional associations, as well. The deadline for all comments is August 21, 2017.

Submit your comments directly to the department using this website and please send a copy to William Gil, AACRAO Director, Government Relations, at gilw@aacrao.org.

Specifically, AACRAO's comments to the department will focus on the following issues:

2012 Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) Regulations

In 2012, the Obama Administration, through the Department of Education, implemented
regulatory amendments that dramatically expanded FERPA. The amendments greatly
broadened the definition of who is given access to personally identifiable information (PII) from
student records on a nonconsensual basis.

​AACRAO strongly urges that the following 2012 regulatory amendments to FERPA be
rescinded.

  • We believe that the definition "Authorized Representative" should be restored to its previous definition of "individuals and entities under direct control of officials" as designated in the original statute.
  • The 2012 regulations also overreached on the definition of "Implied Authority" to audit programs and have created much confusion, and lacks legal precedent. We urge the Task Force to close this loophole for non-consensual disclosure of education records.
  • The 2012 regulations vastly widened the definition of "Education Programs" to include programs not administered by educational authorities. We believe that the definition should revert back to the original "programs administered by an educational agency or institution."
  • The 2012 regulations expanded the meaning of non-consensual disclosure of personal information from education records to organization conducting "for, or on behalf of" educational agencies or institutions. We strongly urge the restoration of the limitation on the purposes for which the research exception may be invoked, and to statutorily prohibit re-disclosure of personally identifiable information by organizations accessing education records under this exception.

Guidance on the Disclosure of Student Medical Records

On August 24, 2016 the Department issued a Dear Colleague Letter outlining its final guidance on the obligations of institutional school officials under FERPA, 20 U.S.C. 1232g and the regulations in 34 C.F.R. Part 99, to protect students' education records from disclosure without consent, and provides guidance more specifically on the disclosure of student medical records.

The guidance reviewed and clarified the agency's views regarding the protections applicable to student medical records, specifically in cases where litigation occurs between the institution and the student. The letter advised colleges to handle the privacy of student medical records under FERPA similarly to the way health care providers and hospitals are required to treat such records. 

We urge the task force to recommend that the department modify its​ guidance to defer to FERPA when student medical records are involved, as previous joint guidance advises. 

2017 Changes to the Family Policy Compliance Office (FPCO)

On January 19, 2017, the outgoing Obama administration issued a final rule that amended FERPA to change the name of the office designated enforcement functions by the Secretary from the Family Policy Compliance Office (FPCO) to the Office of the Chief Privacy Officer as part of an expansion of student privacy operations at the Department.

We urge the task force to recommend that the department rescind this regulatory change and restore FPCO and its Director as the office designated to administer FERPA in all aspects.

 

For more detail on these issues, you can review the association's full response to the department's request for comments. 

We urge all AACRAO members to become engaged in this effort to impact regulatory reform. Institutions or state and regional organizations interested in drafting their own comments to the department may use the following form letter to guide their responses. Please submit your comments directly to the department using this website and send a copy to William Gil at gilw@aacrao.org.

Institutional/State or Regional Form Letter