Keep Lines of Communication Open With Your College Student

I was away for an entire week for the first time in a long time. It felt different from what I expected. Even though most of the interactions with clients took place just as if I were home, there was more free time not having household chores to do or meetings to attend.

With more time for reading, I did just that. One of the articles I happened upon had to do with parents of a college student who had committed suicide. This is a topic seldom talked or written about, so most parents don’t realize it ever happens on a college campus. The reality is that, “Suicide is currently the 2nd most common cause of death among college students. 1,100: number of suicides that occur at colleges every year – that’s roughly 7.5 per 100,000 students.” The actual numbers appear to be small until you understand that the number has tripled since the 1950. Also, that number looks like 100% to the families of those 7.5 students who decide that taking their own life is their best course of action.

What was most intriguing about this story is that a number of faculty and staff members at the college knew this young man was struggling and many had referred him to student support services. The logjam that kept his family in the dark is known as The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Because families are sending the young adults in their household off to college, the privacy of that young adult is protected – from even the people financing their education. With each tragedy on a college campus that may have been avoided if parents became involved, this law comes into question. Colleges walk a tightrope managing any student who begins to struggle with trying to decide if the resources and policies in place on campus are adequate to secure a good outcome, or whether to involve the parents.

There is an exceedingly simple way to avoid worrying about how your child is doing in college. Have them grant you access to their college records. All that needs to be done is to waive the privacy act stipulations and allow parents and guardians to receive grades and get updates about student interactions with the university both good and bad.

Why don’t more parents do this? I believe it’s because they don’t know. How do you get your child to waive their right to privacy? Well, if it were me, the purse strings would remain tightly tied until I saw proof that I could call the college and get an answer when asking how my kid was doing. Which is more important to you, their privacy or their well-being?

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