What is one thing that every educational institution, from early education to higher learning has in common?
The answer: Paperwork, and tons of it!
On-boarding new students, hiring staff, and meeting fiduciary responsibilities generates a massive amount of documentation.
And to make matters worse, complying with state guidelines and federal privacy laws like FERPA means that educational institutions are responsible for storing these documents securely for a period of up to 5 years, or more!
As a result, many schools end up dedicating a lot of their time, space, and limited resources toward managing all of this paperwork.
It’s easy to see why educational agencies benefit from a comprehensive student records scanning solution.
Digitizing student records with a FERPA compliant document scanning service can help educational institutions save time and money, avoiding the typical pitfalls and additional overhead involved when handling it yourself.
Read more to learn more about how educational records scanning.
What are “education records”?
Education records are any records maintained by an educational agency or institution that are directly related to a student.
These records are protected by one of the strongest privacy protection laws in the nation, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which applies broadly to any educational institution that receives funds from the US Department of Education.
FERPA defines protected student records as any record that contains:
- Date and place of birth of a student, parent(s) and/or guardian addresses
- Grades, test scores, courses completed, and official letters regarding a student’s status in school
- Special education records
- Disciplinary records
- Health records that the school creates or collects that contain PHI (Personal Health Information)
- Attendance records, courses taken, and degrees earned
- PII, such as a student’s identification code, social security number, picture, or other information that make it easy to identify a student
What are the requirements of FERPA?
The purpose of FERPA is to protect the confidentiality of student records. Educational agencies receive numerous requests for confidential student information each day. These requests can come from potential employers, law enforcement, relatives, or even the students themselves.
FERPA requires that schools have explicit permission from the parent or eligible student before releasing any information from a student’s education record to a third party. Only under certain circumstances outlined by FERPA may a school disclose student records without consent.
The law also ensures that parents and eligible students maintain the right to inspect and review a student’s education records maintained by the school with limited notice. Once requested, a school must provide an eligible student or guardian with an opportunity to inspect and review his or her education records within 45 days.
While FERPA does not specify any specific document retention guidelines, it does recommend that a school should keep temporary student information like attendance records for a minimum of 5 years after a student’s last day of attendance. FERPA also recommends that permanent student records should be kept for at least 60 years.
What are the consequences of failing to comply with FERPA?
Accidental/unauthorized disclosure of student records to a third party comes with an extremely harsh financial penalty: the withdrawal of U.S. Department of Education funds from the institution or agency that violated the law. This applies to any school, school district, or state education agencies receiving funds from the US Department of Education who violate any element of FERPA.
What state laws affect the handling of student records?
While FERPA focuses primarily on parental rights and consent, states are on their own when it comes to implementing student data privacy legislation.
As a result, many states have enacted one or more privacy laws that reinforce the existing protections provided by FERPA, further restricting the disclosure of student records in a variety of ways.
For example, New York passed New York Education Law 2-d, which among other things, provides guidance to educational agencies and their third-party contractors on ways to strengthen data privacy and security.
States may also provide data retention guidelines to schools under its jurisdiction.
For instance, the state of New York requires that every school licensed pursuant to this article shall maintain adequate and accurate records for seven years, two years beyond the FERPA recommendation of 5 years.
Many statutes also provide specific state authorities with access to students’ records for legal reasons. For example, Arizona law states that the Department of Juvenile Corrections has access in some circumstances.
This can make things complicated for managers of student records, especially for educational agencies operating in multiple states.
What are the consequences of violating state student privacy laws?
Penalties for violations of school record privacy laws vary from state to state. More often than not, state penalties include injunctive relief and hefty fines.
In other cases, the state provides the opportunity for victims of unauthorized sharing of data with the ability to sue.
In general, it is recommended that schools, districts, and state education agencies should contact legal counsel for information about state confidentiality requirements and state recommended procedures to avoid penalties.
How does student record scanning help educational institutions stay compliant with FERPA and state privacy laws?
Digitizing student records addresses FERPA’s two main concerns: preventing unauthorized access to confidential student data, and ease of access to student records when requested.
A FERPA compliant scanning service provides educational agencies with the ability to convert student records into a text searchable archive of electronic files, improving both the security and ease of access to student records.
Hiring a professional scanning company to handle the task ensures that the document conversion process is completed in accordance with applicable state and federal privacy laws as well, eliminating the need for additional staff training, expensive equipment, and logistics involved with completing such a complex process.
What are the benefits of outsourcing educational scanning?
There are many reasons why storing student records electronically is advantageous for educational agencies. Some benefits include:
Educational agencies are required to store large volumes of confidential student records. However, many schools don’t have the space to store the sheer number of documents they are required to.
Documents must be stored in a temperature/moisture controlled environment to prevent deterioration, and must be protected behind strict security measures to prevent sensitive information from getting into the wrong hands.
For this reason, it is not uncommon for educational institutions to use an offsite storage facility for this purpose.
Unfortunately, offsite document storage can be quite expensive.
Thankfully, digital storage has become a much more affordable alternative in recent years. Digitizing student records can greatly reduce the ongoing costs associated with document storage and maintenance and allow schools to reclaim space.
Secure your student records with enhanced security features like encryption and password protection. Tightly control access to student records, ensuring only faculty who require access to these records to perform their job roles can do so. Prevent the accidental disclosure or abuse of sensitive student records by staff members.
Improve Accessibility to Student Records
Digitizing student records allows school faculty to locate the documents they need near instantaneously via intuitive text-based searches, making it easy to respond quickly to access requests to student records. Daily tasks become more efficient, with less time spent searching through files to locate the documents they need.
Reduce Faculty Responsibilities
Educational agencies must continually train faculty and staff regarding their obligation to treat personally identifiable information confidentially as it is.
Hiring a third party scanning company alleviates faculty from additional responsibilities, putting the burden of digitizing and storing documents in compliance with privacy laws on the shoulders of your scanning partner.
Digitizing your student records with a professional scanning company offers substantial short and long term savings, providing efficient access and reduced storage costs per document.
Meet Long Term Retention Goals
Storing documents digitally allows education agencies to keep redundant copies of critical data, preventing the possibility of data loss associated with deterioration, natural disasters, or misplacement.
How does the process of scanning student records work?
SecureScan has over 20 years of experience providing secure education records scanning services to schools and universities throughout the Northeast. Our FERPA complaint student record scanning solution can help you streamline your records keeping system, reduce document storage costs & more effectively manage your data.
Our straightforward approach to student records scanning involves the following steps:
- A free consultation with one of our scanning experts where you can discuss any special requirements and develop an efficient approach to help you tackle your project.
- Our mobile document scanning team will arrive at your location to take a full inventory of all documents to be scanned
- Your records will be loaded and securely transported to our scanning facility for processing.
- A second inventory is taken to verify the successful transportation of all documents and to ensure that the chain of custody is fully documented.
- We will calibrate our equipment against a small sample from your documents to ensure that we achieve the maximum quality of the final scans.
- Once the optimal configuration has been determined, we will begin scanning your records with our high-speed, high resolution document scanners
- Each and every resulting image must pass quality control. Any scans found that do not meet our high quality standards will be rescanned.
- We will index your student records based on the fields you require, enabling rapid search and retrieval. We can optionally perform full OCR if requested.
- We will deliver your documents digitally on an encrypted USB drive, secure FTP, or directly into your existing document management solution based on your preferences.
- Physical documents can be repackaged and returned, or we can securely shred your documents, providing a certificate of destruction upon completion.