Growing a College: Why Parents Matter
September 7, 2012
As we slowly come to the end of the great economic recession, now is probably the right moment for American colleges and universities to take stock of the role of parents in the life of the college.
In conversations with one another, college and university presidents often share “parent” stories – usually “helicopter” parents, of whatever income, who are often well-intentioned couples who over nurture their college-age children. These stories seem to grow each year, as the competition for students mixes with consumer expectations on quality, service and price and a culture of entitlement.
The influence and role of parents in college governance has always been a murky affair. The fact is that parents’ support directly affects the college’s bottom line, but it comes at a cost. Relegating parents to fundraising or busywork, often with appointed babysitters chosen from among the administrators or elsewhere, misses a critical opportunity to move beyond treasure to make the best use also of a parent’s time and talent.
As we slowly come to the end of the great economic recession, now is probably the right moment for American colleges and universities to take stock of the role of parents in the life of the college. [They] should not interfere with the duties and responsibilities of trustees, senior administration and faculty — the principal players in shared college governance… They can be invaluable and trusted advisers, communicators and promoters of a college’s institutional vision.
First, parents want the best education for their children. No one group pays more attention to strategy and vision… For a president, parents can carry the flag, provide the encouragement, and offer the insight that shapes the nuance to make the tactical objective a success.
Second, parents know their children, often have a sharpened sense of the soft underbelly of an institution, and live in real time. They have invested psychologically and emotionally in the enterprise. They know that you start with the fundamental underpinnings of an institution, fix the problems, and build from there.
We can all tell our helicopter parent stories. Some of us, however, will forever be grateful for the insight, collegiality, cooperation and good advice that parents offer.
This week’s question: What role should parents play and what influence should they have in building a college or university?
To read the full article, you may view it here on Huffington Post.