About a year-and-a-half ago, when we started to construct our benefits offering at College Parents of America, we had ambitious goal – to effectively serve the huge, and growing, market of families who are supporting their children on the path to and through college.

Our mission is to empower you as a parent while you make this college-bound journey with your children. We are convinced that now is right time to grow the nation’s first – and only – membership association for current and future college parents.

Not only is the market for College Parents of America large in numbers, it is currently over-stressed and underserved. As you know so well, nearly all parents dream of their child attending the college of his or her choice. But, as you also know, nearly every family – no matter what their financial means – is worried about how to best meet rising college costs.

So, taking an inspiration from the success of the AARP, we have created a national membership association to do three things:

  • ADVOCATE on issues such as tuition tax deductibility, improvements to the student loan program and increased student aid;
  • PROVIDE A ONE-STOP SHOP OF VALUABLE AND TIMELY INFORMATION ranging from saving for college to helping your child choose a post-graduate career; and
  • CREATE ACCESS TO DEALS AND DISCOUNTS FOR families on education- and college-related products and services.

Let me first describe our ADVOCACY efforts. When you think about all the interest groups in Washington, isn’t it quite remarkable that, until we gained a seat at the table, no one was representing the interests of this enormous constituency of college parents?

In a very short time, we have established our influence and credibility by methodically covering all the Washington, DC bases. I knew that the Higher Education Act was in play so, after making the rounds on Dupont Circle – meeting with the American Council on Education and many of the other major education associations – I went to the Hill, where, in May 2004, I was invited to testify before the House Education and Workforce Committee on the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

The bottom line here is that we have made significant progress in filling a vacuum with regard to college parents’ impact on public policy. The overwhelming reaction of members of Congress and the Administration – who understand the size and potential influence of you and your peers – is that “it’s about time.”

In our second area of service – INFORMATION RESOURCES – there is anything but a vacuum. Instead there is a glut of data and a slew of jargon, but very little common-sense advice for current and future college parents. As the new Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, who has a senior in high school herself, recently told a conference of higher education leaders, “There is no roadmap for parents to guide them on this very complicated journey.”

So, what we hope to do is to draw the roadmap, to fill the role of “trusted advisor” for families who have the urge to do what’s right by their children, but who maybe just don’t know where to start, or who are overwhelmed by all the information out there.

And finally, we realize that many people – most people – are motivated by economic considerations, and that’s where our third area of service to members – what we call DEALS AND DISCOUNTS – kicks in. Our strategy is to leverage the power of the market to obtain savings on products and services that you as a parent are likely to need in the pre-college and in-college years.

Providers of those products and services have been quick to respond to the potential of the market we can deliver and so far, we’ve struck partnerships with over a dozen companies, including two of the top three college test prep companies, Kaplan and Thomson-Peterson.

As of March 14, 2005, there are now more than 6800 of your peers who, like you, are benefiting from membership in College Parents of America. Nearly three times as many people, over 20,000 total, are subscribing to one of our e-newsletter products. But, of course, we have barely scratched the surface of what our group can and will become.

Thank you for demonstrating your thought leadership by joining College Parents of America. Please tell your family, friends and neighbors to do the same. The more we have of you, the more power we can gain – in Washington, in your state capitals and with all the places you spend money because you are a current or future college parent.