How Long Do Schools Keep Student Records? A Detailed Guide

Academic records are critical for both institutions and students. Moreover, student transcripts can prove pivotal for many reasons, and schools and colleges therefore preserve them for a long time, well past student graduation.

These student records may denote various student activities and achievements, ranging from purely academic to co-curricular and extra-curricular activities. Moreover, these records reflect a student’s entire college career, from enrolment until graduation.

Typically, student records are maintained in the form of transcripts that can be easily accessed via online services. As a result, students can gain access to these reports at any point, as needed.

But for how long do schools retain these records?  This is a critical question and knowing how high school transcripts are handled after graduation is vital.

In this post, we will explore different aspects of high school record storage duration, and why this is important for different people.

What does “Permanent” School Record Storage Mean?

Most schools claim to store student records permanently or indefinitely. However, the definition of what constitutes “permanent” storage is different in every state, as federal law does not restrict institutions to a fixed period of record-keeping.

Therefore, your student record may be stored anywhere from between 5 to 60 years after graduation. If you wish to know the exact number of years, it is best to consult your school administration.

What Type of Student Records are Stored by Schools?

Schools store a variety of student records, based on the type of education and activities at the school.

Generally, most schools store student records such as:

  • Attendance records
  • Test scores
  • Student honors and awards
  • Disciplinary actions taken against the student during their school career
  • Suspension and Expulsion records
  • High school transcript
  • Sports and extra-curricular certifications

Generally, schools store these documents and educational records in CA-60 file folders.

Accessing Student Records

While your school records are always available, they are not necessarily accessible to anyone at any time. Generally, schools retain this information in case they are required to share it with various entities such as security organizations, parents, employers and others.

Typically, when students graduate from school, their immediate access to some of this information is revoked. From that point on, students may only be allowed to check their educational records, with specific permission from school management.

Generally, your school system is likely to prevent further access to your records for security reasons, and to prevent any misuse of your records.

Is there any National Legislation Governing the Retention of Student Educational Records?

There are no specific federal regulations governing the preservation of student educational records for any specific time period. As such, high schools are not bound to keep student records. Decisions of this nature are generally made within each school district.

Here is a quick look at some of the regulations regarding student record storage in different states.

  • Indefinite Duration

Alaska is the only state where records are kept indefinitely. It is ultimately left up to each school to decide when they may dispose of student records. Generally, schools mention such durations in their official documents, to help better inform students about these matters.

However, if you are a student in Alaska, it is probably best to request copies of all of your educational records immediately after graduation. This can prove pivotal later in your career when you need recommendations or documented evidence of your educational activities.

  • Permanent Record Storage Duration

Only a few states in the US allow permanent record storage in schools. California, Maine, Oklahoma, and North Carolina are among the states that allow permanent record-keeping.  In these states, it doesn’t matter when you graduate, you may still contact the school at any time after graduation for records and other relevant information.

  • Five-year Storage Duration

Arizona, Maryland, Mississippi, Louisiana, Wisconsin, and New Jersey require educational institutes to preserve educational records for at least five years. The five-year period begins when a student graduates, transfers, or withdraws from the school.

  • 50 to 100-year Storage Durations

In Minnesota, schools are directed to keep student records for at least 50 years. Schools in Illinois and Massachusetts have a minimum of 60 years before they are permitted to discard student records. In Pennsylvania, records are available for at least 100 years.

In other states, permanent records storage is preferred. Students have access whenever the need may arise to provide an educationally relevant document. In some cases, records may be deleted after the student turns 23 years old.

Additionally, some states destroy records two years after graduation.  In these cases, it depends on the available storage facilities and resources, and schools with access to more services tend to store records for longer. 

  • Notification of Data Destruction

Some states that don’t keep permanent records will notify students before destroying their records. There is therefore time for students to collect any critical information before their data is permanently destroyed.

Access for Students Based on The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act

Once a student graduates from high school, their access to student records will depend on the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

FERPA defines who is an eligible student and who else can access educational records after graduation. According to the act, the following individuals can gain access educational records:

  • Eligible students or their parents
  • School officials having legitimate educational interest
  • The Educational institute to which the student will be transferring
  • Specified personnel and parties who need it for evaluation purposes
  • Accreditation bodies
  • Parties related to student financial aid and securing support services
  • Health and safety emergency state officials
  • Juvenile justice system authorities on the local and state level

The Need to Access Student Records

From the above eligibility criteria, it is abundantly clear that student records may not only be relevant to graduate students or their parents. Thus, while you may need your high school transcript to apply for a program, there are many other instances where you may need to show your academic record.

Since your transcript is a summary of your school life, there is no better document to illustrate your performance throughout high school.

Below is a quick summary of possible instances where you may be required to present your academic record:

  • Tracking Academic Progress

A student record is essential for tracking progress. Whether it is for your parents or educational agencies, record tracking allows institutions to assess you for eligibility for admissions and scholarships and so forth.

  • State Laws

Some states require schools to maintain student records and track their progress. This allows the school district to maintain local and state-level educational records.

  • Security Reasons

Record keeping helps security agencies to track individuals. For instance, they might want to verify a person’s identity and their educational record may prove to be vital during such investigations.

  • Provision of Learning Opportunities

States often provide scholarships and learning opportunities for deserving students and they may want to access student records to make more informed decisions. Likewise, students can more easily decide on their future educational options when they have their records available.

  • Research and Evaluation Programs

Third-party research and evaluation programs and education agencies may require student records for conducting surveys for state or local authorities. In this case, the schools must abide by state laws and provide the required information to such authorities.

Other than surveys, student records may be used for various research programs. Moreover, accreditation councils or the Department of Education also require records for education and pupil services, to evaluate high schools and similar educational institutes.


Student records may remain intact for up to 100 years in some parts of the country. Other states store records for as little as two years after a student leaves school. There are various reasons for record maintenance.

While knowing how long your student record will be stored in your school is critical, it is also important to retrieve all relevant information as soon after graduation as possible to avoid any problems in the future.


How long do schools keep records in Virginia?

In Virginia, the academic progress record is destroyed immediately after graduation, but alumni transcripts are retained for up to a year.

How long do schools keep student records in California?

California state laws require schools to maintain records and student files for at least five years. However, in many schools, records are kept for much longer.

How long are school records kept in Massachusetts?

Massachusetts schools must keep student records for at least five years after graduation, withdrawal, or transfers to other schools. Special educational records may be maintained for longer periods.

How long do schools store student records in Florida?

Florida state laws require that student education records be retained for a minimum of five years.

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