FERPA compliance: automate document workflows and keep student data safe

FERPA compliance

The coronavirus outbreak is affecting organizations and businesses of all scales and industries around America. Well, nearly all. As a matter of fact, since about 90 percent of Americans are practicing social distancing, we’ve become heavily reliant on tools for remote communication. Really, it’s no wonder why video conferencing platforms like Zoom and Google Meet remain immune to the market crash caused by the coronavirus.

In a world of social distancing, every level of education is being affected and left with no other option than to go digital and adopt an online model. Zoom, Microsoft, Google, and Slack, along with dozens of other platforms out there, have all sorts of tools for managing remote working processes. The problem is that not all of those tools, many of which are designed for enterprises, are compliant with educational regulations.

Remote learning and its current challenges

A significant number of institutions had been regularly utilizing online learning opportunities long before the pandemic caused mass cancellations of events and school closures. In fact, as of 2018, over a quarter of all college students in the U.S. were already taking online classes.

It doesn’t matter whether your institution has experience in online learning, or like hundreds of other universities and K-12 schools, had to make a hasty switch to online education. In either case, you may be facing any number of issues, especially when having to make changes at the last moment:

  • Does every student have a device to use?
  • Does every student have an internet connection?
  • What software tools are best for your educational goals and practices?

Even after finding a solution that satisfies everything you can think of in terms of usability, there’s still another obstacle. Businesses have been concerned about data security for a long time, however, data security isn’t something most educational institutions have had to think about even though student information is valuable and has to be protected. It’s time to become familiar with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA.

What is FERPA compliance, and what is it not?

According to Techopedia, FERPA is a law that governs the educational records of students and protects those records from amending or disclosure. Students themselves gain those same rights upon turning 18 years old.

In simple words, FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) protects students’ academic records and governs the release of personal information. It gives parents the right to limit how that information can be released to the public. FERPA regulates how and when school officials can publish information, for instance, bulletin boards that show student grades and/or progress.

There are a few misconceptions about FERPA. One of the most popular is that parents cannot access their children’s academic records once they turn 18 years of age or enroll in college. However, according to the U.S. Dept. of education: in some cases, an institution can still share a particular student’s educational records with their parents.

In fact, if the student is a dependent in the eyes of the IRS, under IRS rules, FERPA allows schools to disclose academic records to parents without the student’s consent.

As long as the student qualifies as a dependent on his or her parents’ tax reports, parents have the right to view any information they request.

Why to choose a FERPA compliant software?

signNow continues to support those who need the most help during the coronavirus outbreak. To help educational institutions resolve the challenges they are facing with distance learning, signNow is offering free 3-month access to Enterprise plans. For educators, this means that they get free access to advanced tools for creating documents, sending them for signing/approval, securely storing them, and much more.

signNow uses FERPA compliance to ensure that nobody except yourself and the people you authorize can access your data. Additionally, signNow provides anti-tampering controls so that your documents are processed and fully completed without unauthorized changes after being sent out.


How can educational processes benefit from an e-signature solution like signNow?

signNow has a variety of features that make the lives of teachers easier. For example, creating a team to collaborate on documents can be done in seconds. A Team admin can add documents, view documents of other members, and track all changes made to them. Features like these and many others accelerate the process of managing and signing documents such as:

  • timesheets
  • schedules
  • teacher reports
  • permission slips
  • FAFSA forms
  • course enrollment worksheets
  • student loan applications

There are, of course, many more exciting capabilities that you can introduce to your educational processes.

Bottom line

In these uncertain times, an e-signature solution plays a huge role in saving you time and money. E-signature apps significantly reduce document processing costs such as printing, mailing, signing, scanning, and faxing. All of which can be easily replaced with the right e-signature solution.

With signNow, you can easily automate document-driven workflows, maximize your organization’s efficiency, and keep student data safe and FERPA compliant.

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