Writing a letter of recommendation may require express, written permission from the student in order to:
access the student's educational records, and
disclose confidential information about the student to a third party.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) allows for oral or written recommendations to be released, without written consent, to any educational institution where a student seeks or intends to enroll, including professional school admission services or if the communication only contains authorized directory information or other personal observations. A signed release is required, however, for recommendation letters sent to prospective or current employers or for any other purpose.
The CU-Boulder Release for Letters of Recommendation may be used to facilitate student requests of school officials to write a letters of recommendation. If another form of signed consent is used, it is important to ensure that it includes a description of the information that may be disclosed, the purpose of disclosure, and to whom it may be disclosed, and that the release is signed and dated by the student. In addition, the release should include language on whether the student waives his/her rights to review a copy of the letter or to know the contents of any oral communication.
Such documents of authorization should be retained by the faculty or staff member for an agreed upon period of time between faculty/staff and student. While these guidelines address the type of student information that may be disclosed during a written or oral reference, to whom, and for what purposes, it does not obligate faculty or staff members to provide recommendations that are requested of them by current or former students.