Guidance on the Applicability of FERPA
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a Federal law that protects a student’s privacy interests in his or her “education records.” FERPA provides that educational institutions, such as postsecondary institutions, may disclose education records, or personally identifiable information from such records, if an eligible student has provided prior written consent.
FERPA enters the Census picture if students do not complete and return their census forms to the designated MIT contact. If that occurs, Census officials will ask MIT to provide the information on the student that is being sought by the Census. FERPA permits a school to disclose properly designated “directory information” on students, without consent, provided that the student has not opted out of directory information disclosures.
According to FERPA, MIT may disclose names, dates of birth, and campus addresses of students to Census officials, as well as any other directory information, so long as the student has not blocked such disclosure. For reference, directory information at MIT is below. Items asterisked will be requested by the Census.
- Term and permanent home address*
- Date of birth*
- MIT office address
- Term phone number
- Term electronic mail address
- Year and registration type
- Degrees received
- Dates of attendance
- Any honors and awards received
- For an intercollegiate athletic team member, weight and height
The Census forms also ask for non-directory information, such as gender, ethnicity, and race. If a student does not complete the Census form, MIT may not disclose this or any other non-directory information to Census officials. The Department of Education guidance (affirmed by MIT General Counsel’s Office) is very clear: Census law does not trump FERPA.
More information about FERPA at MIT can be found on the web at