According to the US Department of Education website, "FERPA gives parents certain rights with respect to their children's education records. These rights transfer to the student when he or she reaches the age of 18 or attends a school beyond the high school level." This act has been frustrating parents since 1974!
FERPA means that the university that Thing 1 attends will not release any information about his grades or his financial standing unless he signs a release authorizing them to do so. Let me repeat that -- financial standing. Financial standing meaning the status of the account which DH and I finance every single month by writing a substantial check (a substantial check that represents, for example, years of foregone leather pants, island vacations, branded (vs. generic) boxes of cereal. Just sayin').
Thing 1 DID sign the FERPA release, because I threatened him with
We hadn't had a chance to test the gravitas of FERPA until today, when I called the Accounting Office to inquire about a thin rectangular envelope I received yesterday. It was the kind of envelope that's both a letter AND an envelope: to open it, you have to fold back the top and sides along the perforations and then rip them off (I usually just end up ripping through the entire thing). It had the look of the mid-term reports I used to receive from the high school (which were never good news). I immediately jumped to the conclusion that he was involved in some kind of freshman hijinks. But...no! There was a check for $604 inside! Without any explanation.
So I called Accounting to ask why they were sending us such a bounty. I gave them his ID number and blurted out, even before being asked, "And he invoked FERPA!" (Actually, I don't know whether one "invokes" FERPA, "waives" FERPA or tosses FERPA around like a football), fully expecting silence on the other end, followed by a whispered "I can't discuss this with you. It's FERPA-proof."
Turns out, Thing 1's "FERPA status" was fully visible on whatever computer screen the clerk was reviewing and she readily shared the information that we had overpaid his term bill, thus prompting the refund.
That was great news, but I still don't understand why, if we - his parents - are paying his way and a refund is due, the refund check was made payable to Thing 1. That seems like an ferpatastically good deal for our Dear Thing 1.