Providing a Legal Student Reference

In the past, personally providing student names and your opinion about their qualifications to employers was a fairly routine exchange between faculty, career services personnel and employers. Things have significantly changed today. What may seem harmless may actually have legal consequences that place you in violation of equal opportunity laws or in the role of an "employment agency," if you regularly provide student names to employers.

The same is true if you provide a student reference, without the student's permission. Under FERPA, material that is often addressed (i.e., GPA, courses, performance, etc.) in letters of recommendation or verbal endorsements are considered part of a student's educational record.

To ensure your "good deed" in helping your students does not result in negative consequences, it is prudent to obtain a student's written permission before you provide a recommendation. This serves as documentation that the student has asked you to write a letter of recommendation and provide it to the designated organizations or institutions. While it is more time consuming, it will be well worth it if at some point a student complains that they did not give permission for you to provide any information to an employer.