Guidelines for Accepting Digital or Electronic Signatures

In general, North Carolina law recognizes the validity of electronic or digital signatures for contracts or other legally binding documents (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 66-58.1, et seq.).  Federal law, including the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (34 C.F.R. § 99.30(d)) and the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (E-SIGN) (15 U.S.C. § 7001, et seq.), also accepts as valid electronic or digital signatures.  However, for a public educational institution like UNC Charlotte to accept electronic or digital signatures, several criteria must be met. 

Please adhere to the following guidelines when contracting with another entity or receiving any forms or documentation requiring a signature.  If you have questions about the acceptability of any signature, contact the Office of Legal Affairs (7-5732).

General Rule

When negotiating a contract, both parties must agree that utilizing digital or electronic signatures is acceptable for the particular agreement.  Therefore, if any unit head or supervisor does not want to accept a digital or electronic signature from the other party, he/she may make that decision for the unit and require hardcopy documents with original handwritten ink signatures.

Acceptable digital/electronic signatures

  • A handwritten signature on a document is valid, including when the entire document is scanned or faxed to the university.
  • A graphic image of a signature placed on a document using secure software that verifies the identity of the user on the other end (e.g. DocuSign) is valid.
  • Marks, initials, or checkboxes provided through an online form that is accessible only after inputting one’s NinerNet credentials and is tied to that individual’s NinerNet account are valid (for student or employee signatures).
  • In the case of a student’s consent for disclosure of his/her education records, an email from the student’s official UNC Charlotte email address, consent provided through the Guest Access Portal, and any paper or online form that complies with one of the criteria above are acceptable.

Unacceptable digital/electronic signatures

  • A graphic image of a signature placed on a document and not verified by secure software is not valid.
  • A typewritten name, regardless of font, that has not been verified by secure software or through NinerNet verification is not valid.
  • In the case of a student’s consent for disclosure of his/her education records, an email from an email address other than the student’s official UNC Charlotte email address, text message communications from any phone number, social media communications, or any other unauthenticated communication is not acceptable.

An exception

  • Loan programs that require a student’s signature are subject to different requirements than those listed above.  Please see U.S. Department of Education guidance or contact the Office of Legal Affairs (7-5732) for more information.

Last updated February 19, 2018