Ask Mr. Ethics: Can I Share a Student's Personal Data With Other Employees at Our Institution?

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Question

Dear Mr. Ethics,

Our college's football coach called to ask me for some information from a particular student's FAFSA. The coach wants to use the information to help determine what might be a competitive athletic scholarship offer for the student. The student provided us with a signed release form; does that mean it's OK for us to share their personal data with others in our institution?

Sincerely, 

Sharing is Caring

Answer

Dear SIC:

You're right to be cautious. According to NASFAA's Statement of Ethical Principles, financial aid professionals must protect the privacy of financial aid applicants, which includes: 

  • Ensuring that student and parent private information provided to the financial aid office by financial aid applicants is protected in accordance with all state and federal statutes and regulations, including FERPA and the Higher Education Act, Section 483(a)(3)(E) (20 U.S.C. 1090).
  • Protecting the information on the FAFSA from inappropriate use by ensuring that this information is only used for the application, award, and administration of aid awarded under Title IV of the Higher Education Act, state aid, or aid awarded by eligible institutions.

If the release form the student signed clearly states that the financial aid office is allowed to share the student's FAFSA data, it's OK to provide the requested information to the coach. However, if the data shared would include the student's parents' adjusted gross income (AGI), it's a good idea to get a signed release from the student's parents before sharing their data.

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Publication Date: 5/20/2015


Michelle M | 5/20/2015 1:1:31 PM

That begs the question of whether or not this "competitive athletic scholarship" is Title IV aid or institutional funds restricted to a specific group of students and not generally available to all students, wouldn't it?

Tangene U | 5/20/2015 12:40:21 PM

Isn't the coach using the FAFSA information to award a scholarship? If so, wouldn't the use of the FAFSA be for ensuring that this information is only used for the application, award, and administration of aid awarded under Title IV of the Higher Education Act, state aid, or aid awarded by eligible institutions?

I agree having a signed released would cover any unforseen ethical questions however, it is not necessary in this instance.

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