By Amanda Thomas, MS, CFP®
Client Advisor at Mission Wealth
Congratulations! Your child has been accepted to college, and while they have the best intentions of doing well in school, sometimes the adjustment to being on their own doesn’t translate into good study habits or grades. However, while you still have time before they begin, what can you do to ensure that you both have an understanding of expectations, responsibility, and accountability?
If you're interested in financial aid or funding college needs, read our guide to financial aid for parents and students to get started.
I recently read about a “parent-student contract” that details what steps both the child and the parent will take during the child’s college years. Both the parent and the child sign the contract and agree to its terms. Here are some examples of general items that each may agree to:
Terms for the Student
- What GPA they must maintain
- Attend all classes
- Employment or part time job requirements and how many hours per week
- Graduate in X number of years
- Should they drop a class, the child is responsible to pay for any replacement class
- If living at home, what chores are expected
- Abide by the college rules and make good use of private study time
Terms for the Parent(s)
- Be helpful, supportive and respect the child as an adult
- Pay for X% of tuition, room, board, books and fees
- Pay for X% of transportation to and from the college
- Health insurance on their policy, valued at $X a year
- To provide emergency financial support as needed within their ability
So, how do you monitor some of these items, such as grades and class attendance?
Accessing Your Student's Grades
If you are paying for college costs, many parents want to see how the child is doing, so they can address any issues before they are a problem.
But how do you do that? There is a federal law – the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) – that was enacted to protect the privacy of student education records. You will not be able to access your child’s records (if they are 18 or older) from the college without the child’s written permission.
However, nowadays, grades and classes are posted online to the college website via the child’s username and password.
As part of the parent-student contract, the child should agree to give the parent the username and password, or regular updates on grades, so the parent can monitor the classes the child has signed up for. Part of parenting is helping your child grow into honest and respective young adults. If the student denies access to the online account or refuses to give updates, perhaps a conversation of expectations and referring to the contract can help define the goals of the educational process.
I have heard numerous stories from parents of their children not attending classes and/or failing, and the parents find out only after a year or so. By then, the child is on school probation, and may have already lost financial grants/aid or needs to reapply to gain acceptance again.
Typically, in these situations, the child has had a hard time adjusting to a big school, or perhaps they don’t have good study habits, or maybe they have been having too good of a time partying. If the parent can monitor the grades and classes, they can catch any problems before things get problematic.
Ultimately, the student is responsible for their own actions, or inactions, in their higher education courses. But as we well know, it takes a village, and the best prepared young adults have a support system keeping them accountable.