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Statement of ACE General Counsel Ada Meloy on University of Illinois FERPA Case

July 20, 2011


​“The American Council on Education, on behalf of nine other higher education associations, today filed an amicus brief in the appeal of Chicago Tribune Company vs. University of Illinois Board of Trustees.

Public colleges and universities, including the University of Illinois, fulfill a vital role in the nation’s higher education system. The district court's suggestion that public educational institutions subject to state open records laws should simply choose not to accept federal funds to avoid Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act's (FERPA) requirements is a direct threat to our nation's outstanding system of public universities.

This decision could require colleges and universities to release student grades, test scores, financial information and copies of tax returns filed as part of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), documentation of a disability submitted by students seeking accommodations, even application essays that may contain intensely personal information about a student’s family issues or past problems.

In addition, the decision creates a dichotomy between the application of FERPA privacy protections at public institutions and at private institutions, as well as chaos in the application of FERPA in the various states.

The district court’s decision also would deprive institutions of vital federal funding that opens their doors to students who otherwise do not have the means to attend one of the nation’s colleges or universities. The ‘choice’ the court presents—institutions can say no to more than $193 billion in federal funding in order to release personal information about their students—is no choice at all.”

Note: Associations joining ACE’s amicus brief are the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers; American Association of Community Colleges; American Association of State Colleges and Universities; American Association of University Professors; American College Personnel Association; Association of American Universities; Association of Public and Land-grant Universities; NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education; and National Association for College Admission Counseling.

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