4.19 Student Chosen Name/Legal Name Policy

I. Policy

The College recognizes the need or choice for students to refer to themselves by a first name other than their legal first name for identification. This may include individuals who use:

  • A middle name or a version of their first name instead of their legal first name;
  • A frequently used nickname;
  • A first name that an individual is in the process of legally changing; or
  • A first name that better represents an individual’s gender identity or expression.

The College also recognizes the need for students to update their name in College systems and records to match their legal name when changed for marriage, divorce, or other circumstances.

The College acknowledges that a chosen name will be used where possible in College systems and records and in the course of College business and education, except when the use of an individual’s legal name is required by law or state policy, and as long as the use of a chosen name is not intended for the purposes of avoiding legal obligations, for misrepresentation, or as otherwise prohibited in the following policy.

II. Definitions

  • Legal name: An individual’s legal name as it appears on official governmental documents, such as social security cards, licenses, passports, and tax forms.
  • Chosen name: An alternative to an individual’s legal first name, used by a person to refer to themselves, as designated in College systems and records.

III. Chosen Name

Except as set forth in Sections IV, V, and VIII, students may determine the chosen name by which they wish to be known in College systems and records, and they may change or remove their chosen name at any time a maximum of once per calendar year. Only the first name may be designated for the chosen name; the last name must remain the same as a student’s legal last name. Thus, a student’s chosen full name is their chosen first name and legal last name.

As it becomes possible to implement the use of chosen names, the College will make a good faith effort to update systems and records designated for use of chosen names in a timely manner. The College utilizes multiple systems, applications, and forms to manage its operations, and it is continually updating software and incorporating new electronic and other files. Thus, the process of modifying College systems and records is ongoing.

Specific systems and records where the College may use a chosen name are listed as follows:

  • Class and grade rosters
  • Online attendance records
  • Online learning management systems

Visit Student Records to learn how to request a Chosen Name.

Despite these allowances outlined, not all College systems, databases, processes, records, and forms support the display of a chosen name, and many uses require display of a legal name (refer to, e.g., Section IV). Thus, students who utilize a chosen name with the College should always be prepared to reference their legal name and provide corresponding identification, as necessary.

Further, chosen names should be declared prior to the start of each semester. If requested after the start of the semester, changes may not be communicated to faculty. It is also the responsibility of students using a chosen name to ensure that instructors are able to identify student work for grading and other academic purposes.

IV. Legal Name

To change a student’s name on certain official College records, individuals must legally change their name.

  • Legal name changes due to marriage are recognized by submitting a copy of a marriage certificate or a signed social security card.
  • Legal name changes due to divorce are recognized by submitting a copy of a divorce decree stating the individual may resume the use of their maiden name or use an alternative name confirmed by the court, or a signed social security card.
  • All other legal name changes are recognized by submitting a signed social security card, driver’s license, passport, government-issued visa, or applicable court documents.

A legal name change shall be required for the following purposes:

  • reporting to state and federal agencies
  • federal and state tax forms and reporting, including W2, W4, 1099, 1095C, and 1098T
  • immigration and visa records
  • international student reporting
  • financial aid records
  • student accounts, billing, and cashiering records
  • medical and health records
  • insurance enrollment and other records
  • student conduct records
  • campus police and security records
  • student employment, payroll, and benefits records, as applicable (refer to Central Piedmont Policy 1.11: Employee Chosen Name/Legal Name)
  • official transcripts
  • professional licensures
  • course enrollment and degree verification
  • National Student Clearinghouse reporting
  • transfer and external credit records
  • student identification cards
  • other records where a legal name is required by law or College policy

Additionally, graduates can request an updated diploma with their current legal name.

Although the College will change a student’s legal name in applicable databases and records once approved, a student’s former legal name may continue to be listed as a previous identity in College systems and records in order to ensure that any searches of a former legal name will access correct information.

V. Identification Cards

The College understands that it may be important to individuals for their College-issued student identification card to reflect their chosen name. However, as a state institution, and given federal and state regulations that allow use of student IDs for some official purposes (e.g., voter identification, passport applications), the College requires students to provide appropriate documentation of a legal name change before a new student identification card is issued that reflects the changed name.

VI. Student Privacy

Consistent with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the College allows the release of directory information in certain circumstances, which would include information regarding a student’s chosen name. For this reason, use of a chosen name should not be considered “private” for use by the College only.

VII. Limits

The College reserves the right to refuse use of a chosen name. Instances that may result in this prohibition include arbitrary, random, or repeated chosen name changes; chosen names used for the purpose of avoiding legal obligations or for misrepresentation or fraud; or chosen names used in any other manner that violates College policy or federal, state, or local law.

Chosen names may not include symbols (except apostrophes, periods or hyphens) or numbers or reference illegal activity. Further, chosen names may not include those whose usage may be hurtful to others or may be considered vulgar, offensive, derogatory, or obscene, including words and terms commonly perceived as slurs against an individual or group on the basis of race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, religion, age, disability, or other protected characteristics.

Campus Registrars have the authority to deny any chosen name request or to suspend or remove a chosen name in extreme cases — including, but not limited to, the reasons noted in this policy. In the rare circumstance when such a denial is made, a student may appeal the decision in writing to the Dean for Admissions, Records, Registration, and Graduation, whose decision shall be final.


Changes approved by the Board of Trustees on May 6, 2020

Approved by the Board of Trustees November 22, 2019.