Through Standard 4.7 (2017), the CAA requires programs to describe their policies for retention of student records for completing degree and credentialing requirements. The CAA does not have a specific policy that mandates the timing or method for retaining these data. However, the following considerations for programs may be helpful in reviewing or formalizing program policies on student record retention.
Review the University’s Record Retention Policy
One of the benefits of reviewing and aligning a program’s policy with that of its university is that the university’s policy takes into consideration federal and state laws, including the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). A program’s policy should be consistent with the institutional policy.
- Where is the record retention policy published?
- How do faculty and students have access to that policy?
- Is the policy clear about who maintains records and for how long?
Components of Student Records to Maintain
Decide which components of students records will be maintained (e.g., academic record, advising records, knowledge and skill acquisition summary, clinical hour summary) by the program, if any. Are any of these components included in the university’s policy?
Programs should maintain documentation on each student in sufficient detail so that the program can verify completion of all academic and clinical requirements for the graduate degree and eligibility for relevant state and national credentials. Outside of the academic transcript, which components need to be considered by the program to complete these verifications once the student leaves the program? For the degree requirements for your program? For credentials in your state (e.g., license, teaching certificate) or nationally (e.g., ASHA certification)?
If specific types of records are not maintained after a student graduates from the program, such as clinical hour summaries, the program should advise students/alumni accordingly to ensure appropriate measures are taken to keep personal records.
Storage Format and Security
Determine the storage format and needed security:
- In what format will records be maintained and by whom? How will confidential materials be secured?
- How will program-maintained documents be kept—electronic documents, database, papers in a locked file cabinet in the program/departmental offices?
- What security measures need to be considered to ensure confidential information is maintained?
- How can program records be accessed? Is there a point person in the program or department that has been identified as the administrator of those records?
The university’s registrar’s office will maintain official academic transcripts likely in an electronic format for a set period of time.
Timelines for Maintaining Records
Programs should consider any state or federal requirements, especially as they relate to verifying credentialing qualifications, when they determine how long the program will maintain student records. Many state or federal guidelines suggest a minimum of 5 or 7 years. Programs should employ timelines consistent with university policies, where appropriate.
Identify how students are informed about the record retention policies or procedures. The program must consider how students and alumni will be made aware of the records maintenance policy—through the student handbook, webpages, orientation sessions, or exit conference/interview?
Records Disposal Process
Identify a records disposal process, if appropriate, once the retention period is over. Confer with university policy or staff to make informed decisions about ways to dispose of old records. The program needs to protect any confidential information contained and should determine, and then follow, appropriate protocols.