Permission to Release Grades

LainySeptember 2, 2002

My son has just started his first year at college. When we went to orientation, they had separate programs (run simultaneously) for the incoming freshman and for the parents. In their orientation, the students were told that unless a student signed and submitted a special authorization form (which they were all given), their grades will be kept private and not released at any time to their parent(s) or guardian. We parents were advised of this at our session, so that we'd be aware of this policy. I was wondering if this is a normal thing for colleges to do nowadays?

When we got home from orientation I noticed that my son had not signed or handed in the Grade Release Authorization Form. I felt awkward about it because clearly that meant he would rather I not know what his grades will be (or he simply wants to decide what to tell me and what not to). In a way I also felt hurt, because ever since 1st grade his father would put him (any myself) through six kinds of h**l every time a report card came out, because anything less than an A- or a 90 was "unacceptable" to him. On the other hand I never considered anything cause for concern unless it was lower than C+ or 72, and they both knew this. His father died last fall and so my son knows that he won't be under the kind of pressure in college that he was put through for the last 12 years - so his reluctance to want me to know his grades, is puzzling me. He is, by the way, going to a college of his choice - not one of the ones his father would have insisted he attend whether he wanted to go there or not.

I am wondering if anyone else has run up against this situation in college and whether you think the "Permission Needed" policy is a good or a bad thing?


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I find this interesting. You will be knowing how well your son will be doing by staying in contact with him. Why wouldn't you ask him? Please keep us informed on how well he is liking college. I have a son and daughter-in law in college. My other two children have finished college. One is a lawyer and the other a teacher. You son will do fine, just give him your love and concern.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2002 at 5:09PM
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Hm. Now that you mention it, when I was in college (graduated 10 years ago) my grades were mailed to me at my local address (as opposed to the "permanent address" which would have been my parents' address). I don't know if they would have told my parents my grades or not. They also sent the tutition bills to my local address. I wasn't shy about giving either one to my parents! The grades were almost always good, but I had my down classes. I think it was sort of an unspoken understanding that the check didn't get mailed until they saw the grades, and I did WANT to keep going to college. (I'd keep going now if they kept sending the check, I'd even show them my grades, hehe.)

I kinda think it's good. It can say to kids that respect and responsibility go hand in hand. I respect your right to privacy, but you have the responsibility to tell me those grades. It also encourages communication about what's going on in class, and out, if it causes a problem with the grades.

I can say that because my oldest is still 9 years from entering college. ;o)

    Bookmark   September 2, 2002 at 5:43PM
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My concern isn't so much as what his grades will be -- because, after all, he's the one 100% responsible for how he does from now on -- as with the question of why he wouldn't want me to be notified of what they are. And also the more general question of, At what point in a student's life does a parent's "right to know" stop? College is so expensive today, and many parents have put themselves in debt so that their child(ren) have the chance to get a degree. Especially in situations like that, wouldn't the parents have some right to know how things are going? No hardworking parent deserves get a nasty surprise of "well, uh, um, I flunked half my courses" after being told from October through May that Everything Is Just Fine; but I can imagine that sort of scenario could easily happen. It is true that one can ask one's child but in the total absence of proof otherwise, how many students would truly never be tempted to "exaggerate" a 80 to an 85? or, even more likely, a D to a C or an F to a D? You hope your own child wouldn't do that, but I saw firsthand how rife ghostwriting, plagiarism, and other forms of cheating were in middle and high school -- and from kids that come from what people would consider the 'best' and 'most respectable' homes too. It's scary. And it seemed the more emphasis the parents put on how well their child did or should do, the more those kids were likely to cheat, or claim achievements or skill levels that they didn't actually have.

I guess what I am saying is that I'm enough of a realist to know that if I ask my son what his grades are (or if he volunteers the information verbally), there is no guarantee that the answer I get will be 100% truthful. I would hope that it would be, logically because he knows I'd never get on his case like his father did, so why not tell it like it is? But would I feel better if I were sent a copy of his grades, just so that I'd be aware if there was an academic problem developing that I could offer to help him resolve? Definitely.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2002 at 5:56PM
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After saying all that, still I can put myself in my son's position; that being, relief and downright gladness at being given the right of privacy regarding his "work" which at this point is college. I am a very private person myself, probably from growing up an as only child (as my son also is) so I can fully understand. My own space, stuff, and secrets were vitally important to me; it drove me crazy when my mom would "snoop", as I called it, and thus I would no sooner pry into my son's personal affairs as cut off my hand. He's had one serious girlfriend (bad breakup) so I learned real fast what subjects are "hands off" and which aren't!

Of course, being able to relate to all that doesn't stop me from wishing he would confide in me, but I suspect that is also part of the whole 18-year-old-guy thing. :)

    Bookmark   September 2, 2002 at 6:04PM
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We just learned to live with it with our 3 college students. Communication is very important. You can get an idea from just asking how things are going. Usually I asked about their grades. Our poorest student in k-12 graduated magna c-m laude--2 B's and all the rest A's! You never can tell with kids. This grade privacy is how it is at every university that I know of. One friend required a print out of the grades from her son before the check for the next semester or quarter would be paid. They don't always get their grades in such a timely manner, but something like that could be worked out. At any rate, I think it is important to talk with them about the importance of their grade point since most professions now seem to require a master's degree at some point for promotion. A low grade point will close some doors that they may prefer to work to keep open.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2002 at 12:56AM
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Thanks for letting me know that the grade privacy policy is universal. I didn't know whether it was just at this particular college or whether it was the norm at private colleges but not at state u's, or whatever. Luckily my son does realize that he needs at least a BA, and also luckily his chosen degree (Sports Management) is offered as an MA at this school but if he only gets a BA then it would be simply Management. Thus if we wants that Sports Management degree he will need to get the MA.

I wouldn't be able to tie in his grade info with the tuition checks, though; his father had made him the beneficiary of his life insurance policy so that he would have money for college, thus he now can pay his tuition himself. Guess I'm lucky that he didn't choose to use the money for a fancy sports car instead! :)

    Bookmark   September 3, 2002 at 8:04AM
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Wow...I actually haven't had to sign any release in my experience with college, but I am an adult student, they do however get mailed to my home, so anyone could open the report card. Interesting...thanks for sharing and I hope your son enjoys and appreciates his opportunity to be educated!:)

    Bookmark   September 4, 2002 at 12:49AM
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It's a (legal) privacy issue which relates to people over the age of 18.

When I worked on my bachelor's degree, my parents paid for it. They wanted my grades mailed to them & since they were paying the bill, I did so. When I did my post graduate work, I was on my own, so I had them mailed to me.

I don't know what sort of financial arrangements you have to pay for your son's college. All of my neighbors are paying 100% for their kids college & have the grades mailed to them (the parents). They figure if they're paying thousands of dollars, they want to see if their student is keeping up with their work & grades.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2002 at 1:17AM
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