Registrar 101: What is a Student Record or Student File?

Every school has student records and student files; however, very few have defined what constitutes a student file. In fact, you might say that a student file is whatever you say it is.

That’s not very helpful in the face of a request for information from a lawyer, which often word such requests like this:

Please send us a copy of all educational records including but not limited to academic achievement, attendance, personal history, and disciplinary records for student John Smith.

Some are so vague you’re not sure what to do with them:

Please send us all schooling records for student John Smith.

All schooling records… you mean, if we have a copy of his junior high transcript we have to release that? If he was a member of a school club or team do we say anything about that?

What is an education record, student record, student file, or schooling record anyhow?

Let me strongly suggest that if you haven’t answered that question for your institution yet, you’d better do it soon. At the risk of sounding like a know-it-all or of leaving something really important out let me make three recommendations.

  1. Legal alert! Pay close attention to any privacy legislation for your jurisdiction. Here in BC, there are fairly clear laws and guides available for the Personal Information Protection Act. If you keep it, you may be asked to release it. If you collect it, you’d better have a good reason (i.e., a legally defensible reason) to do so .
  2. A student record should be narrowly defined to keep from becoming a catch-all and growing to an unwieldy size. For example, at TWU, something doesn’t get into the student’s file unless it can affect the student’s transcript.
  3. Have a good business case to collect and keep information in a student’s file. For example, if you need a high school transcript to admit the student, that’s a good reason to collect it. However, ask yourself once the student has been admitted or graduated from your school, do you need to keep it? If the student worked for the school newspaper, is there any point in that being included in the student file?

Anything to add? What have I missed? Please comment.


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