MParents: FERPA : Your New Student

Your New Student

Parental Notification & Student Privacy

One of the most significant changes a parent experiences in sending a son or daughter to college is the difference in privacy standards for educational records at the University. The University of Michigan has a long history and tradition of protecting student privacy. Additionally, the University of Michigan is subject to a federal law called the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (also called FERPA or the Buckley Amendment) that sets privacy standards for student educational records and requires institutions to publish a compliance statement, including a statement of related institutional policies. The University of Michigan policies are online on the Registrar’s website. Reference to this policy often raises questions from parents, and we have provided the answers to many of these questions here:

What records does FERPA cover?
The privacy protection FERPA gives to students is very broad. With limited exceptions, the FERPA regulations give privacy protection to all students’ “education records.” Education records are defined as “those records that are directly related to a student and are maintained by an educational agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution.” Examples of student records entitled to FERPA privacy protection are grade reports, transcripts, and most disciplinary files. FERPA does not cover counseling or medical records but other policies do. Please see below for further information about these types of records.

How can I find out my student’s grades?
The best approach is to ask your son or daughter directly. Communicating with young adults can be a challenge. They’re not always as forthcoming as we would like. The college years, however, are a period of remarkable growth and maturation. The ability and willingness of students to share information and insights usually grows, especially as they acquire the confidence that comes with assuming greater responsibility for their own lives.

Is there a single waiver that my son or daughter can sign so I can have access to all of his or her records or are there separate waivers for different offices?
The University of Michigan does not have a single waiver that students can sign to give parents access to their records. In carrying out their assigned responsibilities, many offices at the University of Michigan collect and maintain information about students. Only two offices have records on all students. The Registrar’s Office maintains information pertaining to a student’s enrollment (registration) and official academic record. The Student Financial Operations Office maintains information about charges assessed and payments made to a student’s account.

By direction of the Board of Regents, however, each office that maintains student records is required to develop a written statement of its policies and procedures for handling those records; that statement is available in the particular office. In addition, copies of the University’s “Policies on Student Records” and the pertinent federal law, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), are available at the Registrar’s Office (500 S. State St.) and in all deans’ offices. U-M policies are also available online. If you desire access to certain information, we recommend that you ask your son or daughter to provide permission to the office that is handling a particular matter.

Why do I have limited access to my son or daughter’s college records especially when I am paying the bills?
Under FERPA, the access rights that parents and legal guardians had in the elementary and secondary school setting are transferred to students, once a student has turned eighteen, or is attending any post-secondary educational institution. Parents can be given access to their son or daughter’s records if the student authorizes the permission in writing or in connection with the student’s application for, or receipt of, financial aid.

How can I make sure the university-related bills are sent to me?
The University uses online billing statements; they are not mailed. Students view their statements through Wolverine Access, the U-M student database. Parents can also have access to student account and financial aid information through Wolverine Access, with the student’s consent. First, the student authorizes a parent to have access to selected student information. Then, parents can create a Friend Account in Wolverine Access to access the student account and financial aid information. To get more information on how students can authorize parents to have access to Wolverine Access, visit the website. For information about setting up a Friends Account in Wolverine Access see the Information Technology web page.

Where can I find out more information about FERPA?
FERPA is enforced by the U.S. Department of Education. The Department maintains a FERPA website, with links to FERPA regulations.

Will I be notified if my son or daughter is placed on academic probation?
No. Information about grades and academic standing is provided directly to students. You can, of course, ask your student to keep you informed about his or her academic performance.

Will I be notified if my son or daughter is hurt or in danger?
If we learn of an emergency involving one of our students, we will attempt to notify the student’s parents only in accordance with specific departmental emergency notification policy and procedures. Hospitals and police agencies will also follow their own notification protocols. Students are responsible for submitting their emergency contact information in Wolverine Access and with other University departments or programs that request and maintain emergency contact information, such as University Housing or study abroad programs, as examples.

What if my son or daughter is hurt or in danger in a sorority or fraternity house?
Fraternities and sororities are separate, private residences not under the control or supervision of the University. Students living in fraternity and sorority houses have greater autonomy than students residing in residence halls, especially when the fraternity or sorority is located off-campus.These facilities are managed by independent house corporations, which enter into individual lease agreements with students rather than the University. Nonetheless, the fraternity and sorority student officers and facilities managers are instructed to inform University personnel when a health or safety emergency occurs. Often these representatives of the group have already notified family members of the student involved. If the Office of Greek Life staff are aware of students in life threatening situations and parents have not already been contacted by health or safety personnel, they will make every effort to contact parents at that time.

What if my son or daughter is in danger off-campus?
Generally, students are not subject to our control or supervision when they are off-campus. However, if we learn of an emergency involving one of our students, we will attempt to notify the student’s parents, in accordance with our emergency notification policy and procedures. Hospitals and police agencies will also follow their own notification protocols.

I’ve heard about a FERPA provision allowing notice to parents when a student violates alcohol or drug laws. What position has the University taken on this new rule?
FERPA regulations authorize—but do not require—disclosure to parents of “the student’s violation of any Federal, State, or local law, or of any rule or policy of the institution, governing the use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance.” The University of Michigan has not changed its privacy policy to permit such disclosure.

Will I be informed if my son or daughter is treated at the University Health Service?
Not normally, if your son or daughter is over 18. State and Federal laws preclude the University from sharing student health information with third parties, including parents, without the student’s consent. UHS routinely encourages students who are very ill to let their parents know the situation, and to let the provider contact the parent. However on occasion, in cases that are critical to life safety, UHS has contacted parents without or against the permission of the student. If your son or daughter is under 18, the State and Federal laws are different, and UHS will contact parents, except in cases of family planning, sexually transmitted disease, and substance abuse treatment, per state laws.

Will I be informed if my son or daughter is seeing a counselor at Counseling and Psychological Services?
In most cases, no. State laws and professional ethical codes preclude the University from sharing student counseling records with third parties, including parents, without the student’s consent. There are important policy reasons supporting these confidentiality requirements, including the proven therapeutic benefits associated with encouraging students to talk openly and candidly with a counselor—without fear their conversations will be reported to others. Confidentiality, of course, is not absolute. It can be broken (and parents notified, as appropriate) if counselors determine that a student poses an imminent danger to self, or to an identifiable third party.

How will I know if my son or daughter is subject to University disciplinary action?
As the family member of a student at the U-M, you may have numerous questions and concerns about the non-academic conflict resolution process. The Office of Student Conflict Resolution (OSCR) administers this process, and they have general information about the Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities on their website. The OSCR staff is always available to discuss general information about the resolution process, University regulations, and related laws. It is important to know that federal law prohibits OSCR staff from releasing any information about a student’s involvement in the resolution process without the student’s written permission, even to family members. In addition, please note that at the University of Michigan, each school and college has its own policies regarding academic misconduct and those records are kept in those units.