Parents’ Guide to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects your college student’s privacy and grants him exclusive right to view and share his education records such as grades, transcripts, disciplinary records, contact information, and class schedules. Under the law, colleges and universities may not disclose education records to anyone other than the student.

FERPA’s restrictions often frustrate parents, especially parents who pay for tuition. But, as College Parents of America suggests, “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.”

Building a healthy relationship with your student is about giving him enough independence to grow, while being there to support him when he makes a mistake. When it comes to grades, talk to your student as an adult. Voice your opinions, but respect his decisions.

There is so much more to being a college parent than just checking in on grades at the end of the semester. And at that point it’s too late to have an impact. For parents whose students are not forthcoming with grades, there are several things to do to build trust and communication:

  • Be available early in the semester to help set academic goals for studying and grades.
  • Show support during stressful times like finals week by sending encouraging emails and care packages.
  • Ask questions about your student’s classes and what he’s learning; show that you’re interested in more than just his grades.
  • Then, after supporting your student through the whole semester, ask if he’ll share his grades with you.
  • Respect his decision, whatever it might be. Continue to support your student academically.

As far as working within the restrictions of FERPA, support your student in taking personal responsibility for his transcript and financial obligations. Although this legislation restricts parents from involvement in many ways, it also empowers students to grow in independence. Encourage your student to be aware of his rights, which will help him take ownership over his education.

Key Things to Remember about FERPA

  1. Colleges and universities cannot disclose academic information to parents without written consent from the student.
  2. Don’t be frustrated by the law. Use it as an opportunity to help your student grow independent.
  3. Support your student academically throughout the year and not just when grades are released.
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