FERPA's "directory information" clause is what enables institutions to have hometown news programs (more than 80% of colleges do), release the dean's list publicly, publish news stories about student athletes and scholarship award winners, and more.
Institutions are required to allow students to opt-out of releasing their directory information. Most colleges handle this during the orientation process or via a form on the college's website, but you should check with your registrar to be clear on what the procedure is at your institution. Students who have opted not to release their directory information should not be included in stories you publish via Merit. Ensure that when your registrar provides you with the list of students who made the dean's list or graduated, for example, that students who have opted-out of releasing directory information are omitted or deleted from the list before you import it to Merit.
Student emails and Merit:
The US Department of Education includes student email addresses in its definition of "directory information". Though you include students' emails in the spreadsheets you upload to Merit to create your stories, Merit requires student emails to be included only so that a notification email can be sent from your college to your students telling them that their Merit page has been updated with a story published by your college. Students cannot find their Merit achievement or Merit page online if you don't notify them.
Merit and student opt-outs:
Merit has robust opt-out procedures built right into the software. Any student, regardless of whether they have opted out of releasing their directory information with your college, may separately choose to opt out of Merit. This will remove their Merit page from the web and disable your college from publishing or distributing any stories about that student in the future via Merit.
There are three ways students can be opted-out of Merit:
- An opt-out link is included at the bottom of the email notification students receive when you publish their first Merit story, or can do so after signing into their Merit page. Learn more
- Students can also contact Merit directly and we will remove their story or page.
- You can manually opt-out students from within your college's Merit account. Learn more about managing opt-outs within Merit.
Our opt-out guarantee:
Once a student has been opted out of Merit, the software prevents your college or any other institution from accidentally publishing or distributing a story about that student in the future -- even if they accidentally show up on one of your future spreadsheets! We've worked with more than 500 colleges and universities who've created 3 million+ Merit stories, and are proud that we have never had an issue with FERPA. We respect student privacy and give students lots of options to manage the privacy setting of their Merit page or choose not to participate in Merit entirely.