Under federal law, the Solomon Amendment supersedes most elements of Family Educational
Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and permits for the disclosure of student information
if the request conforms to the parameters and requirements set forth in the law.
Legal Authority under the Solomon Amendment
The Solomon Amendment (10 U.S.C. §503) allows military organizations access to education
records and information ordinarily restricted under FERPA for the purposes of military
recruiting. The Solomon Amendment supersedes most elements of FERPA and requires
colleges to release certain information pertaining to their students. Colleges that
fail to comply with the Solomon Amendment risk losing funds from several federal agencies,
including: the Departments of Education, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Defense
(10 U.S.C. §983).
Scope of the Request
The Solomon Amendment allows the Department of Defense entities, such as the U.S.
Army, to obtain certain information about currently enrolled full-time students, ages
17 and over, once per term. This information is limited to:
1. Student names
3. Phone numbers
5. Level of education
6. Degree program currently enrolled in
7. Degrees received for recent graduates
8. Educational institution last enrolled in
The request letter should be sent on the Department of Defense entity’s standard letterhead
and must cite the relevant legal authority under the Solomon Amendment. In addition,
the scope of the request must specifically ask for the aforementioned information.
Specifically, a request for information pertaining to a particular group of students
between certain ages is permitted and encouraged to clearly define the scope of the
request (e.g. “full-time undergraduate students between the ages of 17 and 35).
Exceptions and Exemptions to Request
The Solomon Amendment requires educational institutions to disclose student information
in its possession, but does not actively require institutions to collect student information.
As such, institutions are exempt from responding if they do not currently collect
or have any responsive information.
In addition, the Solomon Amendment does recognize student and parental rights under
FERPA to withhold disclosure of private information. Students and/or parents of students
can request that a local educational agency withhold student information unless prior
written consent is obtained from the students and/or parents (10 U.S.C. §503(c)(B)).
What Colleges Need to Do
Upon receiving a request under the Solomon Amendment, colleges should confirm if the
request meets the requirements set forth in the law.
If the requirements are met, colleges should then determine if the defense entity
has made any recent requests within the school term since each entity is only allowed
one request per term. Though not legally required, the colleges should also reach
out to the recruiting specialist to confirm the specialist’s identity and validate
the request. This practice would not only ensure that the request is coming from
someone who is legally authorized to make such a request, but would also allow the
colleges to clarify the scope of the request over the phone if needed. If a change
to the scope is made, a confirming letter detailing the phone call and any changes
should be sent to the requestor immediately.
Once the request has been validated, the college should then check to see if it collects
the student data that is requested and if any students and/or parents exercised their
FERPA rights to withhold student information before authorizing disclosure by written
consent. Colleges that do not collect student data should notify the requestor in
writing within a reasonable time that the college does not have any responsive information
to the request.
Lastly, the colleges that have responsive information should provide the requested
data within a reasonable time period or run the risk of losing federal funding under
Title 10, U.S.C. Section 983. A best practice would be to send a confirming letter
to the requestor within a reasonable time to inform the requestor that the college
does have responsive student information. More importantly, the letter should advise
the requestor that the college is in the process of obtaining the responsive information
and such information will be provided within a reasonable time period.
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