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How Long Should a Graduate Program Maintain Student Records?
Through Standard 5.2, the CAA requires programs to describe their policies for retention of student information. The CAA does not have a specific policy that mandates the timing or method for retaining these data. However, in response to inquiries on this topic received by the Accreditation Office at firstname.lastname@example.org, the CAA provides the following considerations for programs that may be reviewing or formalizing their policy on student record retention.
- Review the university's record retention policy.
- Where is it published?
- How do faculty and students have access to that policy?
- Is the policy clear about who maintains records and for how long?
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 FERPA. A program's policy should be consistent with the institutional policy.
- Decide which components of students records will be maintained by the program, if any.
- Which components of a student's record will the program maintain (e.g., academic record, advising records, knowledge and skill acquisition summary, clinical hour summary)? Are any of these components included in the university's policy?
Standard 5.2's implementation language requires programs to "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 (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.
- 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.
- Determine how long records will be maintained by the program.
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 or alumni will be made aware of the records maintenance policy. How will this be accomplished - through Student Handbook? Web pages? Orientation sessions? Exit conference/interview?
- Identify a records disposal process, if appropriate.
- What process will be used to dispose of records 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.
CAA's Standards for Accreditation (2008, revised 2011)
FERPA Online Guide (AACRAO's member site for publications)