Parents—while your child was in high school, you had the privilege to access school records, but did you know that all that changes when your student goes to college? That’s right—the same law that governs parental disclosure of academic records for high school students, gives college students nearly exclusive control of their records. The law is called the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act or “FERPA,” and applies to all schools that receive funding from an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education. Here is some basic information you may want to know as your student prepares to go to college.

FERPA was created to protect the privacy of the educational records of students. Parents of high school students have the right to look at their student’s records, and schools are required to provide these records to parents when they request them (though, they are allowed to charge copying fees, mailing fees, etc.). But when your student embarks on the journey that is college, these rights transfer to your student, and they now have the right to access the records on file with their school that pertain to them.


Because in college, the rights belong to the students now, the students must give written permission to disclose any information from the educational record, even if it is only to the student’s parents. Translation for parents: you cannot gain access to your student’s college records unless your student gives you written permission to do so. This means that everything from their grades to their disciplinary record is private if they want it to be private. This may be upsetting to you since you may be paying the bill for your student’s college experience, but your student is an adult now, and the law recognizes him or her as such. Now, of course, there are certain exceptions to the disclosure rules, including compliance with judicial order or subpoena, or health and safety emergencies.


Of course, there is much more that FERPA encompasses than just this, so research it if this is a subject that is of interest to you. And remember, this law is in place to protect the privacy of your student’s records, and is not a nefarious way to keep parents out of the collegiate environment. Talk with your student about your expectations for their college experience and let you know you support them in their effort to make positive decisions for their life, and will be there for them if something does not go as planned. Your student will likely want you to share in the joys of their great grade in a hard class or need your support and guidance if they are caught breaking a school rule. Encourage an open dialogue and be thankful that not just anyone can access your student’s records!

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