The proud parents of newly registered St. John’s University
students are going to see a lot of changes in their sons and
daughters over the next four years. As they select their major and
begin to prepare for professional success in their chosen field,
they also will develop a lasting sense of maturity and
responsibility as they complete their journey into adulthood.
One of the early changes you’ll notice in your child is the
transfer of ownership in a student’s personal information. In high
school, parents can call a school administrator and ask direct
questions about a child’s academic or disciplinary history; when
your child enrolls in a U.S. college or university, however, this
is no longer the case.
The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is federal
legislation that was first enacted in 1974. It protects the privacy
rights of college students, allowing them to control who has access
to their academic records, transcripts and judicial history. Only
the student can authorize the release of that information to a
third party, and usually only then with a written and signed
What does this mean to you, as the parent of a St. John’s
University student? In most situations, you will not be able to
obtain information directly from a professor or university official
about your child’s grades, involvement in disciplinary matters or
other personal information. That information is now considered
private and – by federal law – can only be released directly to the
Some parents express concern when they first learn about FERPA’s
regulations. However, there are some important points to remember.
Most importantly, there are certain circumstances that allow the
University to share a student’s personal information directly with
parents without the student’s consent – for example, when students
require medical or may be considered a danger to themselves or
others. The Office of Judicial Affairs at St. John’s also reserves
the right to inform parents when their son or daughter has a
serious alcohol violation (if they are under 21) or a drug
violation of any kind.
Even with these allowances, FERPA still may seem shocking to a
parent who have had a strong hand in guiding their child’s
scholastic career. However, the federal regulations universities
must follow actually create opportunities for increased
communication between parents and students. College students are
rapidly approaching the end of their childhood journey and are
ready for the responsibilities FERPA provides them.
Much of the information parents would ask a St. John’s official
may be obtained from an open conversation with their child. We
encourage parents to give students the room to grow into that
responsibility, while always keeping the lines of communication
open in order to assist your child with his or her journey through
the college experience. Of course, we also encourage students to
share appropriate information with their parents.