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Rutgers receives five requests to view admission records after Stanford publicizes FERPA

PHOTO ILLUSTRATION | An academic privacy act, the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is taking an upturn in popularity after Stanford students discovered they could utilize the law to reopen their college applications after applying. – Photo by Yvanna Saint-Fort

The school year is coming to a close and incoming first-year students seem to be popping up for campus tours every weekend. Once students are accepted, many forget about the college admissions process.

But for those still interested, a group of students at Stanford publicized a federal act earlier this year that requires universities to release educational records within 45 days of the student’s request, including teacher recommendation letters and admissions notes. 

After the Stanford students publicized the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) in their anonymous newsletter The Fountain Hopper, colleges such as the University of Pennsylvania and Duke University saw a spike in the number of file requests.

Rutgers too, has seen a jump. 

The school has received five requests this year to view admissions records under FERPA, said Deborah Epting, associate vice president of Enrollment Management. This is compared to last year, when the admissions office received zero requests.

FERPA states that a school must provide accepted students with the “opportunity to inspect and review” their education records, which includes teacher recommendations and admission officer’s notes.

But the undergraduate admission records at the University do not contain letters of recommendation, since they are not solicited or required for admission, Epting said. The University also does not write notes about admission candidates in their files.

Still, Epting said the FERPA records requests reveal little. 

When a Rutgers student sends a request, the file contains SAT scores, official high school transcripts, a copy of their Self-Reported Academic Record and the actual application.

“There is nothing revelatory in our files in any case,” Epting said. “A lot of the interest in this has really started in the Ivy League schools. They have very different admissions processes.”

The act applies to students who were admitted to the university and who are currently or formerly enrolled, she said. The university does have a records retention policy, so in some cases the admission records may no longer be available if multiple years have passed.

“The Office of University Undergraduate Admissions will make a student’s admission records available for inspection and review in the Admissions office on an appointment basis,” Epting said.

To protect the privacy of students, the Office of University Undergraduate Admissions asks for two forms of photo identification. Education records are not sent via mail to students, but rather can only be viewed in person at the Office of Admissions.

FERPA will have an effect on the admissions process at Ivy League universities, Epting said, but will not affect how students are admitted to public institutions like Rutgers.

“(The University is) pretty straight forward in our admissions process,” Epting said. “We believe that admissions applications should be considered on factors that all students are able to submit, such as high school transcripts, SAT scores and essays. When you get into the area of parent legacy and parent alumni status, that is not a fair process for a public university. As the State University, we must be able to fairly select our class based on academic factors through which all applicants may compete."

Avalon Zoppo is a Rutgers Business School first-year student majoring in pre-business. She is an Associate News Editor at The Daily Targum. Follow her on Twitter @avalonzoppo for more stories.

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