Student Information & Policies: Parental Access to Student Records
If you would like your parent(s) or guardian(s) to have access to your educational records, such as your academic progress or tuition balance, you must provide Minnesota West with written consent.
Why do colleges and universities say they need to protect the privacy of student records?
It’s not just a college policy, but it’s the law. Minnesota State Colleges and Universities are subject to federal law, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and state law, the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act (MGDPA), which contain detailed rules about student record privacy. One key provision of those laws is that college and university students have the right to control disclosure of private education records about themselves to third parties - including parents, spouses or other family members. These rights apply to all college or university students - even if they are minors.
What is an “education record?"
“Education records” that are subject to these privacy laws encompass a wide scope of information. Examples of education records include: grades, housing information, class enrollment, attendance information, counseling or medical records from campus health centers, disciplinary records, tuition balance information - and much more. Most education records are classified as “private.”
Schools may release your private education records to third parties - including family members - only if the law permits or if you have signed a valid authorization. Of course, you may release your own information as you wish.
When may school officials release private education records to family members?
It depends on a number of factors; some situations do not require your consent. For example, if your health or safety or the health and safety of others is at risk, school officials may release information to deal with that emergency. Those are rare situations.
For your convenience, you may complete and submit the Authorization to Release Student Information form. However, this release form is not required. Any document that includes the following information would be valid:
- The Minnesota West official or office authorized to release the information.
- The person or persons to whom the information may be released.
- The information authorized to be released
- The purpose for which the information may be used
- The student’s signature.
- The date.
A simple email from the student is not a sufficient authorization.
Minnesota West encourages you and your parents to discuss signing a release before issues of access arise. Releases may be as broad or a limited as you desire. Consider the potential negative consequences of not permitting your parents to have access to your information.
Doesn’t the fact that my parents pay my tuition give them automatic access to information?
No. Colleges are permitted to have a policy whereby the parents of a financially dependent child may have access to private education records without the child’s consent. Minnesota West does not have such a policy, so your parents will need your written consent to have access to your private information, even if they financially support you in whole or in part.
Can’t a college or university require students to sign a release to parents?
No. Any release of privacy rights must be voluntary.
Is there any information that is public about students at a college or university?
Each college or university defines certain information about its students as “directory information," which is available to anyone without student consent to release it. Disclosing this information would not generally be considered an invasion of privacy. However, you have the right to suppress your directory data so that it is treated as “private.” If you do so, school officials may not release your directory information without your written consent or other legal authority. Directory information is subject to change.
Is there further information on the privacy of student records?
Crystal Strouth, Minnesota West Data Practices Officer