Whether you are new to life as the parent of a college student, or a seasoned expert, the federally mandated privacy laws that enshroud almost every area of your student’s collegiate life can be absolutely baffling. Preschool through High School you as parents were granted access to every area of your child’s records. However, now that your student is in college it may seem as if you are blocked at every turn in your attempts to gather information about the education you are paying for. As staff and administrators we recognize the frustration this may cause you and your family, especially as you interact with the groups that are responsible for your student’s academic, financial, and health information.
While our staff is committed to being as helpful and forthcoming as possible in response to parent’s questions, there are in fact federal laws that protect students’ information from all third party inquiries, including families’. The University as a whole, but specifically the Accounting Office, the Office of the Registrar, and the Learning Center are governed by a regulation known as FERPA, or the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. The Health Center, and Counseling Center are under an additional set of regulations known as HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Below we have traced out the implications each of these regulations have on the University’s ability to communicate your student’s protected information to you as a parent, and any steps that can be taken to allow you more free access to your student’s information.
Under FERPA, students hold the right to the release of their accounting information. FERPA prohibits the disclosure of financial records to anyone other than as provided by law or by the written consent of the student.
Biola students may decide who they would like the Accounting Office to speak with and give their permission by following these steps:
If parents are not made Authorized Users, account counselors can only share general information and financial policies. Nothing specific to the student’s account may be shared without the student’s consent. Parents seeking access to their student’s financial information will need to ask their student to make them Authorized Users.
Under FERPA, students hold the right to the release of their academic information. Even if parents pay tuition for their student, they do not have access to their student’s educational records without their student’s signed, written consent to do so for each access. As is required of all colleges and universities based on federal law, Biola University complies with these regulations by dealing exclusively with the student. It is now the responsibility of the Student to pass on any FERPA protected information their parents request. This includes academic information such as financial aid information, account balance, class schedule, chapel attendance and grades.
The Learning Center maintains student records in accordance with university policy for the handling of student records under FERPA. Access to clinical information is restricted to the professional staff of the Learning Center, the Dean of Student Development, the Director of the Health Center, and the Director of the Counseling Center. Clinical information provided in the professional documentation of disability includes the diagnosis of a physical, learning, or psychological condition, related test scores, and supplemental information provided by a licensed health care or mental health professional.
FERPA requires that parents of students over the age of 18 receive written permission from the student before records within the institution may be released. Should the student wish to allow parent(s) access to their file, they may complete and sign a Parent Release Form, available at the Learning Center. While permitting their parent(s) access to their file, the student may choose to indicate any desired limitations in thereof.
According to HIPAA, Biola University, which includes Biola’s employed physicians, nurses and other clinical personnel, is required to protect the privacy of students’ medical information (health history, symptoms, examination, test results, diagnoses, treatment, and any plans for future care or treatment).
If a student is 18 years old or older his or her medical records cannot be shared with anyone. It is a legal document and the Student Health Center may not share any of its contents with anyone, including parents, unless the student’s life is in danger or there is a signed release from the student. Students also have the right to request to receive protected health information by alternative means of communication or at a different address or location.
Biola is required to obtain the student’s permission before using or disclosing their protected health information except for the purpose of treatment, payment, and healthcare operations. Any other use of a student’s personal health information must have the student’s written consent before disclosure to any person. Once granted, students may revoke this consent in writing except to the extent that Biola University’s Student Health Center has already taken action in reliance upon the consent. Students also have the right to request specifically restricted use or disclosure of their protected health information. All requests for such consent and/or restriction must be made in writing.
However, under appropriate circumstances, including emergencies, the Health Center may disclose a student’s protected health information to designated relatives, caregivers or personal representatives. Such persons may also be notified of a student’s location and general condition. If students object to such disclosures, they must notify the Health Center office staff to verify.
The Health Center may also disclose protected health information for the purpose of reporting to public health authorities, the FDA, or to alert persons who have been exposed to a communicable disease. Also, if the Health Center has reason to believe that a student is a victim of abuse, neglect, or domestic violence, they may disclose protected health information as required by law to a social services or other governmental agency authorized to receive such reports. In addition, they may disclose protected health information to police, or other law enforcement officials.
The Biola Counseling Center provides psychotherapeutic services in compliance with California State Law. Information revealed by a client who is 18 years of age or older is protected by legal, professional, and ethical standards, such that, with a few important exceptions, all material is confidential and cannot be released to anyone without the written consent of the therapy client. Protected information includes all information regarding a client’s association with Biola Counseling Center. This includes, among other types of information, confirmation that a particular person is or is not a patient at BCC. Ethically and legally, however, if a psychotherapist functioning in his or her professional capacity is given information that results in reasonable suspicion that the client may harm themselves or someone else, the therapist must inform appropriate personnel in order to protect the client. Additionally, if there is a reasonable possibility of abuse occurring to a child, to an elder, or to a person who is developmentally incapable of functioning as an adult, California law requires that the therapist notify proper authorities.