Financial Aid Information Sharing Policy
Due to the nature of our work, the Financial Aid Office is entrusted with highly sensitive information about each student and his/her family. Our staff is obligated to safeguard this information in compliance with three applicable laws that govern access to, disclosure of and use of student financial aid information. The three applicable laws include:
- The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
- The Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (HEA)
- The Privacy Act of 1974, as amended (Privacy Act)
The intent of FERPA is to protect the privacy of students, in part by prohibiting post-secondary institutions from disclosing personally identifiable information (PII) contained in education records to any third party – including the student’s parents – without permission. FERPA applies to all post-secondary institutions that receive federal funds.
The HEA specifically restricts the use of FAFSA data and states that data collected on the FAFSA form shall be used only for the application, award, and administration of aid awarded under federal student aid programs, state aid or aid awarded by the institution.
The Privacy Act governs the collection, maintenance and use of records maintained by federal agencies and generally prohibits agencies from disclosing data contained in those records. The Privacy Act can impose restrictions on institutions as well if a federal agency lawfully provides records or access to records to an institution.
What does this mean for students at St. Thomas?
- The HEA is the most restrictive of these laws. It applies specifically to FAFSA data and financial aid information and does not include any provision to allow students to authorize the release of this financial aid information to any entity. Because of HEA, the financial aid office will not disclose information collected from your FAFSA or your financial aid award or eligibility to any third party person or entity requesting this data on your behalf. If you are applying for scholarships, benefits, housing, etc. where the application requests information about your financial aid, you must provide that information directly to the organization.
- Students coming to the financial aid office in person will be asked to present a photo ID to discuss matters of your financial aid. Students contacting our office by phone will be asked a series of questions to verify identity.
- Current St. Thomas students’ specific records and personal information will not be shared with any third party person (including parents or spouses) unless that third party is designated as a proxy on the account and that proxy is authorized specifically to discuss the information requested. The student identifies a proxy through the Murphy Online system at St. Thomas. The student must establish the dates that the proxy is valid as well as the specific information for which proxy has access (grades, outstanding balance, financial aid awarded, financial aid file status, etc.). The identity of a proxy will be verified in person by photo ID, if the student is not present. Proxies calling the financial aid office will be identified through the use of the proxy passphrase. If the passphrase has not been established or if the proxy does not remember the passphrase, a series of questions must be answered correctly. If the financial aid staff is unable to ascertain identity through these questions, no student-specific information will be provided, however, general information (policies, procedures, general aid eligibility information) can be provided.