Attorney Kate Cavanaugh-Forte
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What is FERPA and how does it impact me?

What happened? we went from being given daily updates on our kids school progress to quarterly semester report cards or, if you were lucky, – weekly email updates from Power School. Now the kids are off to college and you cannot access your child’s academic records without their permission. Wait a minute? What? 

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (sometimes referred to as the Buckley Amendment) was designed to protect the privacy of educational records and to establish the rights of students to inspect and review their educational records.  It also provided control over the release of educational record information.  The original intent of this legislation was to keep elementary and high school records private and to give parents access to their child’s school records.

Once a student turns eighteen, or attends school beyond secondary school, the rights of access to the student’s records transfer to the student.  This means that all academic information regarding your college student goes directly to the student unless the student has given specific, written permission to release that information to someone else.  The exception to this law occurs if parents document in writing that the student is still claimed as a dependent for income tax purposes.  The college may require you to submit your most recent tax forms in order to support this claim.

What does FERPA mean for you as a college parent? 

Generally FERPA rules mean that student academic information such as grades or academic standing (GPA, academic transcript, academic warning, academic probation, or discipline records) will be given to the student and not to the parents. College students are considered responsible adults who may determine who will receive information about them.   College representatives are prohibited from discussing information about the student’s academic record with parents.  Most colleges have a waiver form which students can sign allowing records to be released to parents or college representatives, such as faculty members, to discuss records with parents.  Your student may, or may not, wish to sign this release.

Does this mean that you have no way to find out your student’s grades?

Because FERPA legislation prevents parents from finding out student grades and academic standing directly from the school, the best way to find out how your student is doing is to ask him.  The sharing of student academic information with parents becomes a family issue rather than an institutional issue.  It is a decision that families should discuss and make together.  Perhaps one of the benefits of the FERPA rule is that it provides an additional opportunity for parents to communicate with their college student about their expectations and the student’s responsibilities.  Rather than seeing this legislation as a barrier to good college parenting, parents might see this as an important opportunity for meaningful dialogue with a student.

If your college student signs a waiver, does this mean that grades will automatically be sent to you?

If a student signs a FERPA waiver, it allows the college to release academic information if that information is requested.  This means that a parent will still need to request grades, they will not automatically be sent to parents.

In sum . . .

College parents often feel frustrated by FERPA regulations.  They feel that they need, and should have, access to student information.  As college parents, we need to remember that college students are working toward increased independence and responsibility.  Allowing them to determine who receives their academic information is a part of that growing independence.  Some students handle this responsibility wisely and some may struggle with it.  As with many aspects of the college experience, increased communication between college parents and college students will make the experience go smoothly for everyone.

To read the full article and get more helpful info on college related stuff see: College Parent Central

About the Author Kate Forte

Kate's a practicing Attorney for over 20 years. She is a pet rescuer and a strong supporter of pets Rights. Kate expertise is Real Estate, Probate, Estate Planning, Personal Injury, and Business contracts. Kate is happy to discuss any legal or pet matter you may have and if she cannot help; she is more than happy to point you in the right direction. Kate Forte 17 Good Hill Rd Woodbury Ct 06798 Office 203-598-8847 Fax 203-841-1116

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