Are You Colliding with Helicopters and Students over FERPA?

HelicopterIn her ebook “Why Today’s Parents Clash with FERPA,” journalist, content creator and former adjunct professor, Nancy Mann Jackson addresses the elephant, or should I say the helicopter in the room. That is the helicopter parent.  Portrayed in the media as a cross somewhere between a College Business Officer’s worst nightmare and a savvy consumer looking to get the most from his or her purchase, the helicopter parent is part of the new normal administrators must face.

Of course, in that “somewhere in between” is the student and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act also known as FERPA - this is where the collisions begin.

Mann Jackson speaks with a variety of college and university administrators to parse out a more realistic view of the hovering parent. Helen Garrett, Dean of Enrollment Management at Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon, a self-described “Blackhawk helicopter parent” sees the Millennials in particular as having “grown up with (parents) taking care of their every need.” This wry and somewhat cynical tone - Garrett goes on to say, “this group of students does not want to have to conduct business in such rudimentary and archaic methods such as call a human during the 9 to 5 classic business hours”  - is balanced by Clifford Ramirez, Registrar at Claremont Graduate University who offers this observation. “Many parents say they are involved because they want their children to focus on their studies, so they do the legwork to gather information about requirements, about deadlines and about campus opportunities.”

Special Consideration Not Necessarily a New Issue

Whatever the reason that parent’s hover and despite judgments made by the media or others, the fact of the matter is that students and their parents are paying high tuition and in many cases taking on debt in order to get a degree. Changing cultural attitudes and a savvier consumer no longer see higher education as a privilege, but rather as a right, one that they are paying for dearly.

Mann Jackson, makes an interesting point when she suggest that this is not a new issue, quoting Marjorie Savage, Parent Program Director at the University of Minnesota. “Until about 15 or 20 years ago, it was only the wealthiest parents - particularly those who had the social capital that comes with a university degree or the financial capital that comes with an influential position - who asked for special consideration for their children or for themselves.”

Partners in Student Success

Of course the purpose of this ebook is not to further agitate parents or administrators, or to focus on class, privilege or economic inequality, but rather to provide insight into improving communication about FERPA. Mann Jackson points to a suitable compromise position as articulated in a quote from Tina Falkner, Ph,D, and Director of Academic Support Resources, “we, at the University of Minnesota try very hard to work with our parents as partners in student success.” Falkner takes a realistic and nuanced approach suggesting that those parents who are particularly assertive on their child’s behalf are motivated more by fear than anger, or out of a need to control.

Best Practices

Navigating FERPA and avoiding “collisions” between administrators and parents requires better communication and more education, firstly, for parents who are used to a particular level of access based on their role and experience in the K-12 years and, secondly, for students, in an effort to restore a rite of passage in which higher education has traditionally been a catalyst. This means that students need to take on greater responsibility and a higher level of accountability. And finally, for administrators, this ebook contains the “7 Best Practices for Communicating with Parents About FERPA". Here Mann Jackson offers a proactive approach with both guiding principles and a very real world approach.

Click here to read Nancy Mann Jackson’s ebook “Why Today’s Parents Clash with FERPA and Best Practices for Communicating with Them.

Ferpa eBook - TMS



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