In its continuing efforts to assist college parent programs, College Parents of America recently conducted a survey of parent programs on campuses around the country to identify the most significant challenges they are facing. The survey also requested college and university administrators to share any perceived trends among their parent constituency that may impact future directions for parent programs.

Parent outreach programs at colleges and universities can be very helpful in keeping parents informed on individual institutional policies, practices and issues, as well as provide assistance if any problems may arise. Each institution’s parent program can be very different in its level of activities, services and in the opportunity for parents to get involved. Each program’s structure also can vary, but generally will consist of a parent office, association, council, board or individual staff coordinator under the direction of the student affairs/life office, development/funding office, alumni relations or parent association.

College Parents of America regularly works with college parent program administrators in serving as a resource for information and other support. For example, during parent orientations and weekends this summer and fall, colleges and universities across the country are briefing and providing College Parents of America materials to tens of thousands of parents to assist them in talking and instructing their students about proper money management and related skills.

The College Parents of America survey is intended to further assist college parent programs in identifying and responding to the current and future needs of their constituents. Responses to the College Parents of America survey indicated the most significant challenges to individual campus parent programs include:

  • Identifying and meeting parents’ needs, and being perceived as meeting parent needs;
  • Lack of funding, staffing and resources;
  • Alcohol abuse issues and effectively involving parents in education and intervention strategies;
  • The need for more comprehensive interdepartmental authorization for parent programming, conflicting interests and the apathy of professors and academic administrators; and
  • FERPA amendment policy issues including the apathy of parents on the issue of alcohol.

Additional challenges most often cited by those administrators surveyed included the need for more parent involvement in parent orientation sessions; the increased cost of higher education and indebtedness; employment placement after graduation; safety on campus; the growing sense of entitlement among parents and technology differences among parents in regard to accessibility.

The most common new trends in the needs of parents, as identified by the surveyed administrators, include increased parent interest in:

  • Campus fire and other safety issues;
  • Customer service, getting information faster and the perceived return on the parents investment;
  • Alcohol abuse issues;
  • Increased cost of higher education and indebtedness; and
  • Career outcome after degree.

While they did not make the top five list of trends, administrators identified additional trends among their parent constituencies, including increased parent involvement in their students higher education; concern over meningitis and other health issues; interest in expanded student disability accommodations, continued development in their students character and making sure their students graduated in four years.