Book by Clifford A. Ramirez
Review by Rose Rezaei
Pre-Education Advising
University of South Florida
Tampa, Florida

The surge of privacy legislation in the 1970s had a profound effect on higher education with the enactment of the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Compliance with FERPA is required for anyone who creates, accesses, disseminates, or alters educational and student records. FERPA clear and simple: The college professional’s guide to compliance presents a comprehensive overview of FERPA while integrating practical implications and methods of compliance for higher education professionals.

Instead of focusing on how professionals can violate FERPA, the author demystifies FERPA by exploring the historical context that lead to the formation of the law, the terminology used within the legislation and how events in higher education led to amendments in 2008.This approach gives the reader the proper foundation to understand and feel comfortable with FERPA. The majority of the guide explores the rights of institutions, and individuals under the law while noting how exceptions can impact issues of compliance. For example, “Chapter Four: FERPA Exceptions for Parents and Safety” is particularly relevant for advisors because it addresses the role of parents or guardians of students in post-secondary education. Since advisors often deal with parents this section provides some clarity on when an advisor can communicate with parents without violating a student’s right to privacy. 

Another area of interest for advisors is the applications section of the guide. This section gives practical examples of compliance strategies like assessing institutional and department policies dealing with educational records, creating a standardized method of record maintenance, and establishing continual training for professionals. The section also lists a variety of on-line and published sources for FERPA training. 

FERPA clear and simple’s greatest strength is the formatting of the guide. Author Clifford A. Ramirez enhances the guide’s content by providing three visual accessories throughout the text. These aids — direct FERPA wording, content summary charts, and detailed expansions of individuals, legal cases, and organizations mentioned provide clear illustrations of the material presented. Ramirez does an effective job of illustrating how major events in higher education, such as Virginia Tech, influence the 2008 amendments to FERPA. This is relevant for seasoned advisors who may be familiar with FERPA but are unfamiliar with how the 2008 amendments affect compliance. 

The only drawback to FERPA clear and simple is the lack of compliance strategy examples in higher education institutions. Having examples in the form of case studies would be useful for advisors who are seeking to make changes but want examples to draw from. 

Overall, FERPA clear and simple is a guide that is essential to all advisors. Utilizing this text as a working reference will “…empower you with the knowledge and confidence to perform your academic and student services functions with assurance and confidence” (p. xix). It is a valuable addition to any professional’s library and will contribute to one’s understanding of educational records privacy.

FERPA clear and simple: The college professional’s guide to compliance, (2009), Book by Clifford A. Ramirez. Review by Rose Rezaei. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 304 pp. $40.00. ISBN # 978-0-470-49877-4
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