Young Adult Law

Do Parents Have the Right to See Their Children's College Records?

April 21, 2018

By Atty. Anne R. Tessier

Congratulations, your son received his acceptance letter to college! The scholarship applications have been sent, he has received his financial aid awards and now you can relax because everything is done, right? Maybe not quite yet.

You may be surprised to learn that under federal privacy laws once your children reach the age of 18, you are no longer entitled to their education or health information records without their express written permission.

The federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) protect your child’s right to privacy. FERPA protects the privacy of student records and health information for schools, including most private colleges and universities. HIPAA protects the privacy of your child’s health information.

What does this mean for you and your family? It means that in most circumstances once your son or daughter reaches the age of 18 you are no longer entitled to see their health or school records without your child’s consent.

As a parent of young children you are entitled to see your student’s school records. However, when your student turns 18, or when he or she enrolls in college courses, those rights transfer to the student. Academic information such as grades or GPA, financial information, tuition payments, and school related health information, will only be released to the student.

Even if your child has not yet turned 18, you may also be surprised to learn that if they enroll in college courses for the summer, or in a dual enrollment program through their high school, the rights still transfer to the student.

There are of course exceptions to the privacy rules, including if the health or safety of your child is threatened. The school may also disclose information to parents without consent if the student is a dependent for tax purposes. In addition, if the student is enrolled as part of a dual enrollment program through their high school the college may exchange information with the high school. Parents may then obtain the college information from the high school. If your student is not enrolled in a dual enrollment program or if you wish to obtain the records directly from the college, the school will probably require that your student sign a consent form. Most colleges and universities require parents have their students sign consent forms that are available on their websites.

This is a good opportunity to start an important discussion with your student about managing their money. Do they know how to create a budget? How will they keep track of expenses and deadlines? How do they plan to manage student loans when they graduate? It can be a valuable learning experience for your student to talk about taking responsibility for their future, with a little help from you.

If you would like to find out more about FERPA, see The U.S. Department of Department of Education.

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