As college student affairs administrators gather in Chicago for their annual convention, they are coming to grips with a whole new generation of individuals invading their campuses.
I’m not talking about a new generation of students, but a transitioning generation of parents. Very soon, the so-called “Gen Xers,” those born between 1961 and 1981 will be the dominant group of college parents. That’s right, college parents.
Think about it and do the math. The oldest GenXers are turning 49 years old this year. Even if they waited until their 30s to have children, then those students are now becoming college-aged.
Over the past two years, the University of Minnesota has looked at the age range of its parents and saw a one-year jump from 14% Gen Xers to 24% Gen Xers. As that trend continues, and is felt on other college campuses, it won’t take long for these Gen Xers to be the dominant group of college parents.
Now, of course, in some ways baby-boomer parents have been doing a trial run for what colleges and universities may expect to see in GenX parents.
Baby boomers emerged from the wreckage of the 60s and 70s as the most college-educated generation themselves, and that raised their level of expectations when it comes to college for their children. These baby boomer (and I am one) parents were also largely left alone by their own parents, and that has resulted in a boomerang effect, with these neglected boomers holding on tight to their own children as they progressed from kindergarten through college.
Well, colleges are discovering that GenXers are even more college-educated than boomers and that they were even more left alone as children, becoming the core of what were known as the “latch-key kids.”
These strands of similarities, coupled with the differences that GenXers uniquely lay claim to, make for a compelling case that when it comes to involved parenting styles, colleges “ain’t seen nothing yet” when it comes to GenXers.
These GenX parents have been demanding accountability from the K-12 system for years, and now they will be doing the same of colleges.
These GenX parents have been closely monitoring the lives of their children for years, and it may be much harder for them to let go when it comes to college.
These GenX parents are embracing of new technology, so colleges won’t be able to send out a quarterly print newsletter or put items on their website that have already been made available through other channels.
GenX parents want news about their children delivered unvarnished and without delay. They are more disciplined than boomers, but also less forgiving. As one parent professional put it, they are not so much “helicoptering,” but rather they are “lurking.”
Are you a baby-boomer or a GenXer? If a boomer, what advice can you pass on to your GenX brethren? If a GenXer, what do you want to change about the way that colleges treat parents? Share your thoughts by commenting here.