Parental involvement in college has increased

by Grace

More evidence that parental engagement in their children’s college has increased over last few years.

Colleges and universities have noted parents’ seemingly boundless concern for their children’s well-being and have shifted strategies in response. They have boosted parental involvement, or engagement, as it is known in the fund-raising industry. Schools have doubled the number of on-campus parent associations in roughly 10 years, according to the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, and parents, in turn, have given generously, even as college costs have hit new highs. Parent donations to higher education, from 2001 to 2010, increased by nearly 50 percent, according to a study published by the Council for Aid to Education.

College parent orientations used to be rare until recently.

According to the National Survey of College and University Parent Programs, in 1999, some 35 percent of institutions offered parent orientations. In 2007, over 95 percent conducted them.

Is this good or bad?  Probably both, depending on the type of parental involvement.  One thing to consider is that skyrocketing college costs may have caused parents to become more careful about making sure their money is being spent wisely.  Hence, the increased oversight of how their children’s college is adding value.


13 Comments to “Parental involvement in college has increased”

  1. I wonder how much is the changing demographics of kids who go to college. I know when we run our accepted student days in the spring, most of the kids come with parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles – entire contingents. But most of these kids are HIspanic, African-American, Asian-American, or recent immigrants from places like Russia. The few kids of “traditional” white non-immigrant background are the ones without families.


  2. That’s interesting … while I might expect the “Tiger Parents” to attend these events, I’m surprised about the others.


  3. Oh no, having a kid go to college is a huge deal for many of these families. And it is seen as a family thing. I would say that the biggest family turnouts tend to be from the students of Hispanic or West Indian background, but I see extended family attending from all the demographics. Generally I find that these students are far more tied to their families than students from the white, non-immigrant demographic


  4. We also have an end of year dinner for students who are in the honor society, to which the families are invited – and they all turn out. I always go because I like seeing the students with their families – by that point I know a lot of the students and it is fun to see what their parents are like


  5. As a doctoral student studying higher education and adult learning and a mom with a freshman at college, I believe that the cost of college is certainly a factor in increased parental involvement. In today’s economy, what is the true value of a degree? While I am far from being a helicopter mom, I will make sure that my children are not wasting their money (and mine) on a program that will not add value to their lives. The question is, what do parents see as adding value? I think most focus on what employment awaits them when they complete. I tend to believe that there is value in the experience of going away to college.


  6. “The question is, what do parents see as adding value? I think most focus on what employment awaits them when they complete.”

    No doubt this has been on the mind of parents in the past, but with costs so high I think the importance of college paying off in the form of better employment is even more important today. Student loans have to be paid off!


  7. If employment is top in the minds of college students and their families, why are so many choosing to major in communications. At my school,it is booming, one of the largest majors, and growing fast. I have heard the same is true at other schools. I don’t get it.


  8. That is is an interesting observation. When my son was first looking at colleges and attending open houses, he checked out a few media and communication programs. At the open houses those were the programs with the longest lines. He ended up in economics, but you make a great point. Cost is definitely a factor, he ended up at a state college partially because of cost, but how much does it play a part in choosing a major? Are parents more likely to push a student into a major they may not really have a passion for based on cost and employment concerns? It would be interesting to explore this more.


  9. I would guess that about half the CS and engineering majors are there because of parental pressure, not because they have any real interest in the subject. That lack of interest combined with difficult material results in a higher attrition rate in these fields than in less popular ones.

    Almost every campus has a major of last resort for students who can’t hack the more demanding majors, or who are looking for a minimal-work degree. What that major is varies from campus to campus, but business, communications, and psychology are often cast in that role.


  10. A lot of our CS majors are there, not because of parental pressure, but because a high school guidance counselor told them that they should major in CS because “you love video games so much”.

    Generally,our students parents are pleased that their kid is in college, but don’t have much advice to give on majors because they didn’t go to college themselves. We get a lot of students majoring in security, health administration, and criminal justice because our students may actually have a relative in the police force or working at a hospital.


  11. “Are parents more likely to push a student into a major they may not really have a passion for based on cost and employment concerns?”

    Speaking as a parent, I think yes. While it sounds harsh, I am resistant to paying for a “useless” degree if I can steer (not “push”), my kid to one that will pay the bills after graduation. However, other factors enter into this. If I think my kid will reap important benefits from a college “experience” while majoring in an impractical degree I could see myself doing it. But this is all assuming I can afford to pay for this enriching college experience.

    I think I just contradicted myself, but my rambling might offer some insight into how parents end up paying for useless degrees.

    My oldest is studying economics but journalism is his passion. He claims he’ll be conducting a two-pronged job search, with one focusing on journalism and the other on more traditional economics jobs. I just want to see him land a “real” job after graduation. 🙂


  12. “If employment is top in the minds of college students and their families, why are so many choosing to major in communications.”

    Misinformation, ignorance, acknowledgement that student can’t handle tougher majors, wishful thinking, denial, belief that any degree is better than none, etc. I’m sure I’ve missed some reasons.

    And I’m sure that many communications majors do end up with good (or good enough) jobs.


  13. Well, I have an 11 year old who has been insisting he will be an architect since he was 3. Though, yesterday, after seeing a lot of wheelchair racers, he started speculating that what he really wants to do is design uber high tech racing wheelchairs. I suspect that “racing wheelchair designer” is a profession with even fewer jobs than architecture. Perhaps I need to nudge him in the direction of wanting to design things that people will spend money on


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