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8.3.1 Retention of Student Records: Policy

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Last updated on:
Tuesday, September 6, 2016


Describes university and degree program responsibilities for the retention of, access to, and disposal of student records 


Stanford University assigns responsibilities to the Office of the Registrar and to the various degree programs for the collection, handling and disposition of student records.



Applicable to all graduate students.

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8.3.2 Retention of Student Records: Implementation

1. Transcripts

Transcripts of Stanford records are issued by the Office of the Registrar upon the student's request when submitted in writing or via the Axess web portal. There is no charge for official transcripts. The courses taken and grades given in one quarter do not appear on any student's transcript until all grades received by the grade deadline have been recorded; generally, this is two weeks after final exams. The university reserves the right to withhold transcripts and similar records where students, for example, have unmet obligations to the university (see GAP 5.5 Enrollment Holds).

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2. Certification of Enrollment and Degrees

The Office of the Registrar can provide oral or written confirmation of registration, enrollment, or degree status. The printed certification can be used whenever enrollment or degree verification is required for car insurance, loan deferments, medical coverage, scholarship purposes, and so on. Using Axess, students are able to print an official certification at no charge. Certification of full- or part-time enrollment cannot be provided until after the study list is filed.

After conferral, the degree awarded to a student can be verified by contacting the Office of the Registrar for an official transcript or a certification form, or by contacting the National Student Clearinghouse. Requests for transcripts must be made by the student in writing or through Axess (see GAP 5.7 Conferral of Degrees).

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3. Registrar’s Office Files

The Office of the Registrar maintains a record for each enrolled graduate student. At the present time, that file generally contains the student’s application to Stanford (except letters of recommendation), the student’s transcripts from other universities, and may also contain various records from the student’s career at Stanford. At the present time, the Office of the Registrar also stores, on-line or on microfilm, some historical evidence of student completion of forms such as study lists, registration commitment forms, tuition adjustment requests, graduation applications, etc., as well as final transcripts after graduation.

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4. Degree Program Admission Files

Application materials including letters of recommendation submitted through the university system will be available to academic degree programs during the Retention Period for both enrolled students and applicants who were denied or declined an offer of admission. Because application materials are retained by the university, there is no need for degree programs to retain these materials at the local level. Should degree programs choose to locally retain application materials, they should follow relevant School guidelines and policies. At the end of the Retention Period, application materials will be purged by the Office of the Registrar from the university system. 

The Retention Period for this policy is two years and is the period between the receipt of the submitted application and the date the admissions materials will be purged. For example:

  • Application Submitted: AY 2014-2015
  • Application Materials Purged: August 2017

Evaluative information (for example, notes and comments) entered into the university system by degree programs is purged by the university registrar prior to the student’s first day of enrolled attendance. Evaluative information for applicants who were denied or declined an offer of admission will be retained in the university system until the application materials  are purged at the end of the Retention Period. 

Degree programs preferring to maintain a paper file for an applicant are advised to discard all evaluative information including the letters of recommendation to which the applicant waived his or her access after the admission decision has been made and prior to the student’s first day of enrollment.

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5. Degree Program Student Files

Degree programs' student records contain important documents that chart the student’s progress or lack of progress toward the degree. Degree programs are encouraged to keep complete records for students and to set regular schedules for secure file destruction (see 1.6, below). Examples of documents to be kept in student files include, and are not limited to, program proposals, applications for candidacy, dissertation reading committee forms, change of advisor forms, oral examination forms, requests for extension of candidacy forms, formal correspondence related to degree program milestone attempts/completion, and letters, if any, warning of unsatisfactory progress or dismissal. These are important to keep, either as paper files or transferred to an approved lasting medium such as scanned pdf files, for as long as the school recommends. Usually, retention of the complete file is recommended for five years after the student leaves the program.  If a student leaves the program without graduating (i.e., dismissal or expulsion, failure to register, voluntary termination), retention of the complete file for ten years is recommended.

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6. Student Access

In general, students who enroll at Stanford have the right to review educational records in their student record (central or degree program), or that are kept elsewhere by the university about them. The information is available to the student only, for review while enrolled or anytime thereafter. This right is guaranteed by the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (see GAP 8.2 Privacy of Student Records/FERPA). 

A Stanford employee may keep letters to or notes about a student in that employee’s personal files. These records are not accessible to the student, as long as (as a general proposition) they are not shared by the employee with anyone else.

Items to which the student has explicitly signed a waiver of access - such as letters of recommendation for admission, a job, an award or honor - should be kept separately from the student’s file. 

For more information about the privacy of student or applicant records, degree programs may wish to consult the Stanford Bulletin, the Registrar’s Office website on this subject, or senior staff within the Office of the Registrar. For advice regarding unusual requests or legal subpoena for records, degree programs are advised to consult with the Office of the Registrar, who may also consult with the Office of the General Counsel.

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7. Disposal of Student/Applicant Documents

Any document that contains non-public information about students or applicants — especially sensitive items such as admission applications, letters of recommendation, grades, or private addresses — should receive special handling when retention is no longer needed. It should either be shredded or destroyed in some way that maintains its confidentiality. There are several companies in the Stanford area that specialize in confidential waste disposal.

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