If you’re sending your child off to college this month, you’re likely dealing with a range of emotions.
As you prepare for this bittersweet moment, here are a few important legal matters to consider:
- Medical Difficulties: Even though your child is a student, he/she is an adult according to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). This means if your child needs medical treatment and can’t contact you, you may not be made aware of the situation and HIPAA privacy laws may prevent you from getting critical information or helping make medical decisions for your child. Protect yourself and your child by completing the appropriate medical release forms and medical powers of attorney. Contact your child’s school or an attorney for assistance.
- Special Accommodations: Federal law requires that public and private colleges and universities provide necessary services and support for students with special needs to participate in all campus activities and programs – academic and social. Students must notify, and in some cases provide documentation of disability, before they request accommodation, and must not wait until the last minute. If your child will need special services while on campus, make sure you direct that information to the correct department – the Admission department or Dean of Students is a good place to start, and they can direct you to the proper channels.
- Drinking on Campus: College students who drink excessively on campus put themselves at-risk for a variety of legal issues, including drinking and driving, property damage, injuring themselves and others and a variety of high-risk behaviors. Their actions can also leave parents exposed legally, so be sure you provide guidance to your child and have an honest, open discussion about the risks.If you or your child have concerns about the amount of alcohol they’re consuming, the Rethinking Drinking website can answer many of your questions: https://rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov/
- Credit: Being away at college presents your child with the opportunity to become more financially aware and responsible. For many, it’s the first time they have their own debit and credit cards, which can also lead to credit issues in the future. According to Nerdwallet.com, these are the most common credit mistakes that college-age students make:
- Getting too many credit cards: It’s best to pick one to establish good credit habits and to more easily track expenses.
- Not tracking expenses: Find a way to track expenses – apps like Dollarbird and Goodbudget can help. Visit this article to learn more about the apps that can help your child (and you) easily track expenses: https://www.forbes.com/sites/samanthasharf/2016/03/02/12-free-apps-to-track-your-spending-and-how-to-pick-the-best-one-for-you/#24f9b06e2b69
- Forgetting the bills: Make a note of your credit card payment due date (another task easily done on your smart phone) and always pay your bill in full and on time!
- Adopting an “I’ll pay for it later” attitude: Your student shouldn’t assume that they’ll graduate, get a high paying job and then be able to pay off credit card debt. Encourage your child to only charge what they can pay off in a month.
- Avoid credit cards: If you don’t think your child is ready to handle having a credit card, stick to a debit card so they don’t accumulate debt. Keep tracking expenses, though, so they know where their money is going and so they’ll have what they need each month.
If you have concerns about a situation that has happened to your child on a college campus or if you have questions about how to best prepare for legal issues that may arise during your child’s college years, contact us today at 866-732-6700.