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New College Parents: Do This or You’re Just an ATM

Soon, you’ll be moving your former high school senior to a new campus.  And you’re going to find out that you have just been relegated to becoming an ATM machine UNLESS you take action right now.

Up until now, you’ve been the go-to person for all things related to your student.  Remember that call from the Dean of Students or principal after that scuffle in the cafeteria?  Remember those report cards you had to sign for?  Well, that’s all changed as your teenager has graduated not only from high school but to adulthood.

The Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA) is now in effect and you are no longer permitted access to your student’s grades, courses, or financial aid records without your student’s permission! The last answer you want to hear when asking about grades is, “My grades… my business.”

And if something happens out of the classroom or your student ends up in the hospital, well, you may never know because the school doesn’t have to tell you – legally.

Wait a minute, you say.  But I’m the one paying the bills.  “I have every right to know what’s going on with my son or daughter,” you say.  Well, yes and no.

Maybe you’re not a helicopter parent. However, you do want to stay on top of the financial aid requirements and the status of such. If you aren’t proactive, you could find out well after the deadline that a document or form was missed. That could have serious financial consequences.

And since your money and signature are on the line here, you’ll also want to protect your investment in your student’s education.  Interest on those student loans is only deferred as long as your student is enrolled.  You’ll want to know if he’s actually attending classes and passing or at risk of failing and dropping out.

To avoid disaster, before moving day find out from the school what the procedure is for you to become a PROXY on your student’s account. And see a good lawyer to draft a health care power of attorney while you’re at it.  You’ll first have to have permission from your student. If they’re nervous about this, consider reminding them – with charity and a smile of course – of the simple truth that you are the one who’s writing the checks.

By having access to your student’s account, you can keep up with billing, make emergency contact changes, and update health care benefits information. Of course, you will also have access to class schedules and grades (not that you’d have any interest in that– wink wink).