Yes, parents, colleges are talking about you. In this age of constant communication between students and their parents, this age of increased parental involvement in many aspects of their students’ lives, and this age of growing concern over student success and persistence in college, institutions are continuing their quest to find ways to reach out to and engage the parents of college students.
This may sound strange as we hear so much about helicopter parents and snowplow parents. Aren’t institutions trying to discourage parents, to get them to “let go?” The answer is, “no.” Colleges want parents to connect to the institution and to engage with the school – and with their students – in appropriate ways. And they are realizing that parents may need help discovering how to do that.
This month, the Association of Higher Education Parent Program Professionals (AHEPPP) held its fifth annual conference in Boulder, Colorado. Nearly 200 college personnel gathered to discuss the parent programming at their institutions. Many of the individuals at the conference have as their sole job description working with the parents of students at their institutions. So, parents, don’t think for a moment that your student’s institution doesn’t care about you – beyond your tuition dollars.
As parent programming personnel gathered in Boulder this month, they shared programming ideas, successes and frustrations with each other in order to take ideas home to improve their programming and their relationships with parents. Personnel also shared a growing body of research on the effects of parental involvement on student success. There may be some secrets to student success, and research is just beginning to scratch the surface of the investigation.
Topics at the conference were wide ranging, including ways to elevate family engagement, programming for campus events such as orientation and family weekend, improving communication with parents, parents’ understanding of FERPA laws, ways to reach multilingual families and international families, using social media and webinars to get information to families, parental involvement in career education, cross-campus collaboration, and several other themes.
Parents, we think it is important for you to know that many colleges and universities are working hard to find ways to help you help your students. The work, and the research, about parental involvement on the college level is growing. AHEPPP is a relatively young organization, but one vitally important to the future of college-family relationships.
If you haven’t already done so, check with your student’s school to find out if there is a parent office or parent liaison. Ask about ways to get involved. Learn as much as you can about the appropriate ways to help your student. Everyone will benefit!