With the recent Facebook data leak affecting more than 87 million users, the issue of protecting individual privacy has once again become a mainstream topic. However, long before the internet, when it came to protecting student privacy, Congress enacted the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. FERPA, as it is more commonly known, protects a student’s educational records provided they are over the age of 18 and attending a post-secondary school.
Of course as we all know, when it comes to paying for school, more often than not it’s the parents who pay. In order for parents to access their child's billing information and make payments or view any other education records, the parent must get approval from the student. In the past this process has been cumbersome. Written forms needed to be completed and accessible to administrators should a parent call looking for information about a student’s account. With the advent of the internet, colleges and universities now have multiple ways to get ahead of FERPA permission requests.
Stevenson University in Owings Mills, Maryland introduces parents and students to FERPA at orientation and hands-out a “FERPA Waiver” to be completed by the student. According to the school’s website, FERPA doesn’t go into effect until after the first day of official enrollment which is seven days after the start of the school year and the last day that a student can drop classes.
Stevenson students must complete and deliver a FERPA Waiver to the Registrar’s office upon arrival. The Registrar’s office must then confirm that a FERPA Waiver is on file before any student information is shared with parents. Parents can also obtain student payment info online provided the student has invited a parent to access an application they call “WebXpress for Students.” Here the student has only two options, either “Access Allowed” or “No Access.” Once they’ve chosen Access Allowed, the student enters the parent’s email address. The parent then receives an email with instructions on how to activate their account in WebXpress. The downside is that Stevenson only allows access to all information or none at all.
The University of Wisconsin offers students two ways to make payment and billing information, “Designate Access” online or by completing a “Student Consent Release.” The online set-up allows access to To Do Lists, Financials (including viewing statements, making payments and viewing Financial Aid), and Grades only. Detailed directions on how to designate access, create an account ID and a password for third parties are provided on the U of W’s website. Students may also deny access through the same process. The second way to set-up access is by filling out and submitting a Student Consent Release. The release is also available online as a PDF.
The University of Minnesota enables students to allow or deny access to third-parties using their “One Stop” website. There, students can link to what U of M refers to as their Parent/Guest Access application. By following some simple instructions students can provide their parents access to their billing and payment information as well as other education records. Students can still complete and sign a release form which is available on their One Stop website as a PDF.
In the U of M online process students send an email invite generated from the Parent/Guest access application to their parents. The parent accepts the invite on the website and provides some basic demographic information. Students receive notification that their parents have accepted the invite and have signed up for access. Students can select which information they will allow parents to access. Students can then authorize specific areas of information, including grades, holds, enrollment summary, financial aid status, financial aid awards, student account, housing information, and conduct matters for on-campus housing. Once the initial set-up is complete, parents can view bills and make payments through the Parent/Guest Application from a checking or savings account, or use any of the major credit cards. Parents can also mail payments to the school.
Gathering FERPA permissions is easier online. Using emails, posts on social media, and text messages, schools now have a number of ways to both educate and remind students and parents about FERPA guidelines and how and when to set-up access.
Tuition Management Systems (TMS) is the sponsor of this post. The sources who contributed ideas to this post do not endorse or recommend any commercial products or services, including those of TMS. All information and opinions of the contributors are provided for informational purposes only. As with any other service you seek, the recipient of the information is responsible for conducting appropriate research and making relevant decisions. TMS neither endorses, has any responsibility for, nor exercises control over the views of any contributor to this article or the accuracy of the information provided by any of them.