As faculty and staff members, we are often approached by students throughout the year and asked to write letters of recommendation on their behalf. This is an important responsibility, and as such, we want to provide you will a few helpful hints to keep your recommendations FERPA-compliant, and, as a result, will protect both your rights and the rights of the student.
Statements made from your personal observation(s) or knowledge does not require written release from the student. However, if personally identifiable information (e.g., grades, GPA, etc.), is obtained from the student's educational record and included in the recommendation, then you are required to obtain a signed release from the student which:
- Specifies the information that may be disclosed;
- States the purpose of the disclosure; and
- Identifies the party or class of parties to whom the disclosure can be made.
When you have finished the letter of recommendation, it becomes part of the student's education record. It is important to note that one of the four basic rights students have under FERPA is the right to inspect and review their educational records, unless they have waived their right to subsequently review. Therefore, it is important to ask students to provide, in writing, whether or not they waive their right to access; their response may influence what you decide to include in the letter of recommendation. Make sure that you keep all signed releases from the student in a safe location should you need to reference them at a later date.