One of the most significant changes a family experiences in sending a student off 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 often raise 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
which contain information directly related to a student and which are maintained by the University or a
person acting for the University.” Examples of records entitled to FERPA privacy protection are grade reports,
transcripts, and most disciplinary files.

How can I find out my student’s grades?

You should ask your student directly. While communicating with young adults can be a challenge, the college years are a period of growth and maturation. The willingness of students to share information 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 student can sign so I can have access to all of the records or are there separate waivers for different offices?

The U-M does not have a single waiver that students can sign to give families access to their records. Generally, FERPA requires that students provide written consent for their parents to access their education records, and each consent is typically permission for a specific occurrence - not a blanket consent for all education records.

In carrying out their assigned responsibilities, many offices 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. Student Financial Services maintains information about charges assessed and payments made to a student’s account. If you desire access to your student’s information, we recommend that you ask your student to provide permission to the office that is handling a particular matter. The Office of Financial Aid and Student Financial Services, for example, require completion of an electronic authorization form, which authorizes up to four individuals access to student financial aid data. Students can locate the authorization form by visiting the U-M Parent/Family Authorization page on Wolverine Access and inputting the authorized name, email address, and nature of relationship for the individuals they wish to authorize (see p. 18 for more information).

Why do I have limited access to my student’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 institution. Parents can be given access to their student’s records if the student authorizes the permission in writing.

How can I make sure the university-related bills are sent to me?

The U-M uses online billing statements. Students view their statements through Wolverine Access, the U-M student database. Parents can access 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 create a Friend Account to access the information. Additional details on how students can authorize parents to have access to Wolverine Access is at wolverineaccess.umich.edu. Information about setting up a Friends Account at documentation.its.umich.edu/node/305.

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) at: ed.gov/offices/OM/fpco/ferpa/parents.html. In addition, copies of the “Policies on Student Rights and Records” and the pertinent federal law, FERPA, are available at ro.umich.edu/records-registration/student-rights-records.

Will I be notified if my student is placed on academic probation?

No. Information about grades/academic standing is provided directly to students. You can ask your student to keep you informed about academic performance.

Will I be notified if my student 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 in accordance with specific departmental emergency notification policy and procedures. Hospitals and police agencies may also maintain separate emergency contact information. Similarly, other U-M departments or programs may request and maintain emergency contact information for specific purposes, such as University Housing or study abroad programs. Students should update their contact information to facilitate outreach in emergencies.

What if my student is hurt or in danger in a sorority or fraternity house?

Fraternities and sororities are separate, private residences that generally are not under the control, ownership, or supervision of the University. Students living in fraternity and sorority houses have greater autonomy than students residing in residence halls, especially because the fraternity or sorority houses are located “off-campus” and are under the police jurisdiction of the Ann Arbor Police Department. Like other off-campus housing options, these facilities are typically managed by independent housing corporations, which enter into individual lease agreements with students rather than the U-M. Nonetheless, the fraternity and sorority student officers and facilities managers are requested to inform U-M staff 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 Fraternity & Sorority Life staff members 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. Students and other university community members may also file a complaint with the Office of Student Conflict Resolution against the students involved in an incident at a sorority or fraternity house which constitutes a violation of the Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities.

What if my student is in danger off-campus?

Generally, students are not subject to the University’s control or supervision while off-campus. However, if we learn of an emergency involving a U-M student, 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 parents to have access to their student's educational records if the parent claims the student as a dependent for federal tax purposes. What position has the University taken regarding this provision?

FERPA regulations authorize – but do not require – disclosure of student records to parents of a student who is claimed as a dependent for federal tax purposes. The University of Michigan’s student record privacy policy does not take the student’s federal tax dependent status into consideration. Generally, student records will only be disclosed to parents when the student provides written permission to do so or when there is a health or safety emergency that warrants such disclosure.

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 rule?

FERPA governs release of and access to student education records. In 1998, Section 952 clarified that institutions of higher education are allowed (but not required) to notify parents if a student under the age of 21 at the time of notification commits a disciplinary violation involving alcohol or a controlled substance. Because of the health and safety risk inherent in alcohol and other drug misuse, the University of Michigan notifies parents/family members when a first year student under age 21 has a serious alcohol or other drug (AOD) event. Examples may include alcohol-related hospital transport, an arrest for marijuana, or more than one alcohol or drug-related violation of either the Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities or the Community Living At Michigan (CLAM). For more information visit www.uhs.umich.edu/parent-communication.

Will I be informed if my student is treated at the University Health Service?

By law, UHS treatment services are confidential for students 18 and older and emancipated minors.  These students must consent to release of medical information. Parents of minors, however, are entitled to medical information, except for information about contraception, pregnancy testing, sexually transmitted infections, and substance abuse services. UHS clinicians encourage students to talk to parents when appropriate and will contact parents of minors for serious conditions and some procedures. Additionally, UHS clinicians will contact parents of students 18 and older for serious conditions, with student permission.

Will I be informed if my student is seeing a counselor at Counseling and Psychological Services?

State laws and professional ethical codes preclude the U-M 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 that their conversations will be reported to others. 

 

How will I know if my student is subject to University disciplinary action?

In general, the University does not inform parents of student disciplinary action but regularly encourages students to inform their parents regarding serious infractions. 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 at oscr.umich.edu. Due to FERPA, federal law prohibits OSCR staff from releasing most information about a student’s involvement in the resolution process without the student’s written permission, even to family members. In addition, at U-M each school and college has its own policies regarding academic misconduct and those records are kept in those units. 

 

The University does have a policy regarding communication with parents/family regarding alcohol and other drug misuse. Because of the health and safety risk inherent in alcohol and other drug misuse, U-M will notify parents/family of first-year students under the age of 21:

  • If a student has committed an alcohol or other drug violation accompanied by other serious behavior such as needing medical attention, significant property damage or driving under the influence.
  • If a student has an incident that resulted in the student being transported to the hospital or jail.
  • If a student has had a second alcohol or other drug violation.
     

The AOD Parent-Family Communication Program Manager at UHS Wolverine Wellness will contact parents/family in these circumstances. For further information, please visit uhs.umich.edu/parent-communication.