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)
FERPA protects 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 prohibits the use of FAFSA data for any reason other than the application, award and administration of financial aid awarded under federal, state or institutional student aid programs. In addition, FAFSA information may be disclosed to outside the institution upon written authorization of the student only if the student is applying for assistance/aid/funding that is used specifically for items in the student’s cost of attendance (Tuition, Fees, Housing, Meals, Books/Supplies, Transportation) . The authorization must specify what part of the Cost of Attendance the student’s application for assistance will cover.
The Privacy Act of 1974 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 the institution with records or access to records.
What does this mean for St. Thomas Students?
The HEA 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 many entities. Due to HEA restrictions, the financial aid office will not disclose information collected on your FAFSA, your financial aid award or eligibility to any third-party person or entity requesting this data on your behalf. With your written authorization, the financial aid office may disclose this outside of the institution if the organization is providing you with assistance to cover any part of the cost of attendance (Tuition, Fees, Housing, Meals, Transporation, Books/Supplies). The authorization must specify which item(s) in the cost of attendance are the target for the assistance being received.
- If you are applying for, benefits, housing, etc. and the application requests information about your financial aid, you may provide that information directly to the organization by requesting a report of this information from the financial aid office or printing your award information from Murphy Online. If you must have the information provided by the financial aid office, you must provide an authorization to release the information and that release must state specifically the type of assistance for which you are being considered.
- 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.
- The personally identifiable information (PII) of any St. Thomas students will not be shared with any third party (including parents or spouses) unless the third party is designated as a proxy by the student and authorized to access the specific information requested. Instructions regarding assigning proxy access is available at stthomas.edu/proxy. The identity of a proxy will be verified in-person using a government-issued photo ID, if the student is not present. A proxy calling the financial aid office will be prompted to recite their 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 to verify the identity of the proxy. If financial aid staff is unable to verify proxy identity through these questions, no student-specific information will be provided. General information (policies, procedures, general aid eligibility information) can be provided regardless of proxy status.