It will be twenty-nine years ago this fall when a rusting 1968 Pontiac Bonneville, packed with polyester clothes, flannel sheets and a used IBM selectric typewriter, moved without hesitation up Chicago’s Lakeshore Drive, the last leg of the move-in trip to college for this writer.

There were three passengers upfront, ducks in a row across the flat velour bench. Dad was on the far side, occasionally looking up from his AAA triptik for a quiet gaze at the tranquil blue lake. Mom was in the middle, asking no one in particular who could possibly live in all those tall apartment buildings. And I was in the driver’s seat, growing increasingly interested in what my assigned roommate from North Little Rock, Arkansas would really be like, and increasingly excited about the events of orientation, scheduled for the next day on the campus of Northwestern University in Evanston, where I would spend the following four years.

Now fast forward to a similar “drop-off” a few months from now, at Northwestern or hundreds of other schools across the country. As the SUV approaches campus following the directions of the satellite navigation system, Dad sits in the leather bucket passenger seat, checking his e-mail on his Blackberry while complaining aloud – to no one in particular – about the high gasoline prices. Mom sits in back, pausing between paragraphs of The DaVinci Code to pepper her incoming freshman child with questions that may or may not be addressed during the upcoming two-and-a-half day orientation, with its separate student and parent tracks:

“Have you remembered your MP3 player?

“What is the e-mail address for your freshman advisor, in case I want to contact her?”

“Did you put your flights home for October break, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas on my American Airlines Visa Card, so that I can get the miles I need for your Dad and I to visit on Parent’s Weekend, Homecoming and the weekend right before your final exams?”

Yes, times have changed, and many schools, forward-looking schools, are adjusting.

These colleges and universities, many of whom are listed in the Schools section of this Web site, recognize that effective recruitment and retention of students needs to include a parental service and support component.

Perhaps these schools came to this position because they are visionary, or because they are just plain practical. But whatever the underlying reasons, all that really matters is that a growing number of schools are revving up their parent relations activities and that is to your benefit.

At College Parents of America, our goal is to be the schools’ partner. We are not a union movement of angry parents, organizing to take on administrators. We are a group of involved and supportive parents, hoping to supplement colleges and universities’ own parent relations activities with our unique mix of advocacy, information resources and access to deals and discounts.

Everything that we do springs from a dual, working premise: first, that the United States has the greatest system of higher education in the world, and second, that those who pay much of the bill for that system, namely parents, deserve a seat at the policy table when it comes to discussions of college costs and ways to meet those costs.

So whether you have already made that first “move-in” drive to campus and will be repeating it this fall, or will be for the first time, or won’t be until sometime well into the future, consider us to be a resource to help you on your journey. We can’t promise that the ride will be perfect, but we can certainly help to smooth the inevitable bumps along the way.