Hawk Talk: What Parents & Families Need to Know About Student Privacy & Communicating with the University

The start of the college journey is a huge time of transition for your student, but also for you as a parent or family member! One aspect of this transition that can sometimes come as a surprise to parents/families is the way that the university is allowed (and not allowed) to communicate information. Many families are used to the way communication happens in the K-12 system, where parents/families can access information about their student from teachers and staff. Once your student starts college though, their educational records are considered private, and professors and administrators are bound by FERPA (Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act) in terms of what they can share with you about your student.

But what if your student WANTS you to know their information and be able to discuss information with faculty and administrators?

If your student wants to allow you this access, there are a few ways they can authorize the release of information and allow administrators to share information with you:

  • If your student wants to share information related to their academics (grades and class schedule) or their financial information (billing and their student account), they can set up a guest access log-in for you that will allow you to access that information in the student information system (SIS). This program is called UShare Guest Access and can be set up online by your student.
  • If your student would like to share information related to their housing or have you speak with Residence Life Staff, they can fill out a FERPA Waiver Form by logging into the Online Housing Portal.
  • If your student would like to give you permission to speak to a member of the Health Services staff, they should try to set up a phone call or meeting where they (the student) are also present and give consent to share information.
  • If your student wants to share their student conduct information and give you permission to speak to Student Conduct Staff, they should contact studentconduct@uml.edu and request a FERPA Waiver for Student Conduct.

There are specific situations where UMass Lowell will automatically initiate communication to parents/families (as long as they are listed as emergency contacts in SIS). These specific situations include:

  • If your student is under the age of 21 and is found responsible for a drug or alcohol violation.
  • Your student is found responsible for a conduct violation that impacts their status as a student
  • (if the situation results in suspension, expulsion, or removal from on-campus housing).
  • Your student is transported to the hospital and is unable to call on their own.
  • The university is unable to locate a student and determines that the student may be missing.

We know that adjusting to a new way of communicating can be tough, but know that staff and faculty are here to partner with you to ensure your student is successful during their time at UML!  

Want to be sure you get updates and information as the semester progresses? Check out the different resources on Family Communication from Family Programs!