ED Issues Guidance on Census Disclosures
September 25, 2009
The Department of Education's Family Policy Compliance Office recently issued guidance for postsecondary institutions regarding the disclosure of student records to the Census Bureau for the 2010 population survey. The letter advises institutions on what information can and cannot be disclosed under the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
Census Bureau officials will visit colleges and universities between September 28 and October 23 to determine if there are on-campus residence halls, the number of students residing in each building, and the Resident Assistant or contact person for each. This information will then be verified between February 1 and March 12, 2010.
In April and May, the Census Bureau will request that institutions provide "directory information" for students living on campus. This information will include the students' names and resident hall addresses. RAs will be asked to distribute envelopes addressed to each student, containing a one-page questionnaire, and to collect responses.
If forms are not returned, Census Bureau representatives will contact RAs or other university officials to obtain the information sought in the survey. In deciding to provide information, schools must comply with the regulations set forth in FERPA. Under FERPA, an institution is allowed to disclose "directory information" if it has given public notice to all students identifying what information may be disclosed. Students, however, must be given the opportunity to opt out, in writing, to all or parts of the designated "directory information." Some of the information on the census form (sex, ethnicity, race) is not considered directory information under FERPA and therefore may not be released without written consent from the student.
Institutions are encouraged to review the guidance and FERPA regulations and ensure that RAs and others understand how to respond to requests from census takers.
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