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Research Shows Parents Who Pay College Tuition Have Very Few Rights

YONKERS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Imagine sending loads of money to your kids to cover tuition and other expenses only to find out they've dropped out of class -- and pocketed the cash instead.

It happened in Connecticut. A student is accused of calling in a bomb threat during graduation to hide from her parents that she wasn't enrolled at all.

The Quinnipiac College bomb hoax case raises questions about how little information some parents have. Danielle Shea, 22, attended the school for three years and then stopped, but her parents were sending along checks to her for tuition anyway.

They may have gotten into the habit of not knowing much because by law they have no right to know, according to Allen Green, the Dean of Studies and Student Life at Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers.

"Yes, the right to ask and the right to pay the tuition bill," Green told CBS 2's Lou Young.

It's the same story everywhere, even at the most expensive colleges in America. Parents who write those big tuition checks have to ask their children's permission for access to progress reports and transcripts. That sets up a debate often about "why don't you trust me?" It's a conversation guidance officials say should take place long before the child sets foot on a campus.

"Parents ask their students to sign an affidavit saying 'I give you the right to communicate with my parents about my academic work,'" Green said.

Many parents, though, leave the students on the honor system.

When asked how her parents find out how she's doing at Sarah Lawrence, student Rachel Tynes told Young from "me, myself and my word."

"I feel it was of the process of growing up and becoming an adult, having the choice to share the information with them, rather than them just receiving the grades like a report card," Sarah Lawrence graduate Talia Anatulli added.

But not everyone is trustworthy, and parents Young spoke to said they should be able to demand the information if need be. School officials said they do have the right to stop paying if they're not getting cooperation from the student.

"It's a substantial amount of money. You should have the right to find out what's going on," parent John Walsh said.

In the Quinnipiac case, though, the information was available. Anyone can find out if a given person is enrolled in a school.

"That would be a symptom of someone who dropped them off and said 'I'll see you in a year,'" Green said.

Trust, we're told, is established early and is a transaction between the parent and child --not the institution.

An informal survey seemed to indicate that state schools have a higher percentage of parents who check on their kids. Private schools tend to encourage the honor system as a tool for assuming responsibility, Young reported.

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