As a parent, many of your previous rights now transfer to your student once they are enrolled in college. You are still afforded some rights regarding your student’s educational endeavors. However, these are more limited than for K-12. For more information as to what you may or may not expect, please visit the website for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
Higher Education Expectations
Students with disabilities have a right to participate in a college education as long as they are qualified in meeting college and university admission requirements. However, education beyond K-12 is still considered a privilege and not an entitlement. Graduation from college is not guaranteed. Graduation is ‘earned’ through the fulfillment of specific course requirements. Failure to meet those requirements may result in a failure to graduate.
As a general practice, an instructor in higher education has the authority to institute certain requirements for their course. These requirements are usually spelled out in a course syllabus. It is the student’s responsibility to meet these requirements in order to receive a grade for the course. How well the student fulfills these requirements will often determine the type of grade the student will receive.
Accommodations are provided for students to assist in meeting these requirements. Rarely, if ever, is an accommodation implemented that negates any of the requirements, or an essential element, of a course. If such an accommodation is needed, then the student may be considered otherwise not qualified, especially if it is determined that the requirement is fundamental to the course material or how the course is delivered. This general rule also applies to academic major programs.
For example, some courses have strict attendance policies. Depending upon the nature of the course, this requirement may not be one that is negotiable as an accommodation. Laboratory courses, in particular, often build on each other and missing one or two puts a student at a distinct disadvantage. If a student is unable to meet the attendance requirement due to a particular disability, the student may not be considered able to fulfill the requirements of the course.
Some courses may institute ‘make-up’ sessions in response to unavoidable absences. It will be the responsibility of the student to choose to attend these sessions if the student is to avoid the consequences of missed sessions.
Accommodations must be requested prior to when the accommodation is needed. For example, if a student does not utilize extra time on an exam and does poorly and then request extra time on the next exam, the grade for the first exam stands. Accommodations are not retroactive.
A student who has a disability that affects their ability to fulfill specific requirements of a course may request an adjustment in fulfilling the requirements. As with all accommodations, however, this request must be made prior to the time fulfilling the requirement is an issue unless there are unforeseen circumstances. Again, if the requirement is fundamental to the nature of the course or program of study, an adjustment is not required by law.
At the age of 18, your student is now considered an adult. As an adult, your student is expected to make decisions and be accountable for those decisions. As a parent of a college student, your role changes once your student is enrolled. While your support of your student is essential to their success, how you provide that support may differ from the strategies you’ve had to employ while navigating the K-12 system.
While you may have been responsible for advocating for your student in the K-12 system, at the college level your involvement will take a backseat to your student’s self-responsibility. That means when something comes up that creates an unfavorable situation your student will be expected to resolve the issue, not you. Instructors and administrators working with your student will not likely discuss issues with you unless your student gives written permission to do so. Even then, the instructor or administrator will consider your student an adult and responsible for their behavior.
You may be tempted to assist your student in resolving specific situations by contacting individuals at the university. Those individuals may or may not be amenable to your involvement. Instead, it is suggested that you encourage your student to talk directly to the individuals who have influence over the resolution of the situation. It can be an opportunity for your student to learn how to handle life events independently.
How To Help
Do encourage your student
- To pay attention to the requirements of a particular course or academic program
- To determine whether or not the requirements are manageable for themselves
- To discuss possible accommodations that might be needed with SDC accommodations/advocacy specialist
- To seek appropriate assistance when problems arise
- To meet with their instructors and other administrators when needed
- To find different strategies when old habits no longer are effective
- To realize that not all things in life will go as they planned
- To be responsible for their behavior
- To learn to deal with the consequences of mistakes if they are made
- To not give up when things seem unfavorable to their situation