November 25, 2007

Parental over-involvement

Posted in Misc at 7:08 AM by Joe From Boston

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a great article discussing parental over-involvement, (or so called “helicopter parents”). A paid subscription may be required to read the entire article. I’m including an excerpt below.

I witnessed these parents first hand while at school, and watched their children stay dependent and needy while everyone else grew up and matured. I pray that I don’t ever become one of these parents.

It’s Your Child’s Education, Not Yours
With each passing year, it seems as if parents of college students make more and more phone calls on behalf of their children. Almost daily I am notified of parents who have called this or that campus office wanting someone to respond to their concerns or solve their children’s problems. The fact is, student affairs today is about working not just with students but with their parents as well — and managing their service complaints, inquiries for basic information, and demands for grade changes and guarantees that their children will be safe. There are actually days when I never even speak with students, a phenomenon unheard of several years ago. A more appropriate label for my field has become “family affairs.”

College has traditionally been a transition to adulthood, with campus life and academic experiences providing students with knowledge, tools, and challenges that create a sturdy foundation on which students build their personal and professional lives. But that foundation is eroding because parents are the ones now wielding the tools — such as problem solving, resourcefulness, critical thinking, and exploration — and responding to those challenges. Parents are diminishing the learning opportunities that higher education purposefully presents to students.

Imagine a world in which young professionals are unable to make even the simplest decisions, in which intelligent adults need consultation for even the most trivial matters. Such a world is becoming a reality, as more and more parents call campus housing about air-conditioning problems in residence halls, provide their supposedly grown children with daily wake-up calls, edit their papers, attend career fairs to promote their kids to potential employers, and even sit in on their job interviews. How is that helping students to develop into responsible, decision-making adults?

In that spirit, our mantra should be that we help students to help themselves. We need to direct students to resources that enable them to resolve their own issues and respond to their own concerns. At the same time, we have a responsibility to understand why parents feel the need to be so involved with their children’s college experience.

In 2006 I conducted a nationwide survey of mid- and senior-level student-affairs professionals, at doctoral research universities, who were in a position related to parent service or otherwise had frequent contact with parents. Ninety-three percent of the respondents had experienced a rise in parent interactions in the past five years. The ease of communication via e-mail and cellphones was cited as one likely reason; a new, consumerist view of college as a product, and faculty and staff members as service providers, was another. Survey respondents also noted that parents are increasingly concerned for their children’s safety, and that they have simply always taken care of things for their children and see no reason to change that behavior.



  1. Dan said,

    I recently had a conversation with an acquaintance of mine who lives in Illinois and it turns out he has been dating an Financial Aid consoler with a southern Illinois state university. According to my friend, he has learned through his girlfriend that the financial aid consolers employed by colleges and universities nation wide are treated to what is called ‘training programs or seminars’ but are nothing less than ‘junkets’ by the lenders to entice financial aid consolers to use them as the “preferred lender”, or in the case of the companies that sell student ID/Debit cards, they are swooned into choosing and promoting the card use to the students. .

    During these so called “training programs/seminars” the financial aid consolers are treated to shows and events in the sponsoring cities, free booze and food and many drunken late night parties, and then during the actual “seminar” financial aid consolers are enticed with offers of prizes and bonuses for each student that a consolers can persuade to use their services. In the case of the Student ID / Debit cards, the consolers are rewarded for each student they can convince into activating the card, and given promotional materials to help them do that. Everything from a chance to win a five thousand dollar spring break beach party vacations for one lucky student, to concert tickets and more. Unknown to the student that when they activate the card, they are locking themselves into a nightmare of fee’s and charges sucking up the student loans or federal aid packages because these companies teach the financial aid consolers how to push the package within that gray area of the law and ethics. So if by chance the 19 year old student drooling over chance to win the spring break trip happens to consider what the catch is, the consoler knows just how to make it appear as if it it will only cost the student pennies a month. It appears that many financial aid consolers and the scoundrel mortgage loan officers in the industry have a lot in common. Except the mortgage loan officers who stoop this low don’t go after kids and dont use the educational system as a tool to do it. If what my acquaintance told me is valid, and from what I’ve experienced I believe him, this is deplorable and needs to be stopped. Institutions such as Universities and colleges should not tolerate this, and they shouldnt do business or employ anyone who does. Students and parents should be able to trust these institutions with our children’s lives and financial well being.

    • There have been changes in the past year – those training sessions or junkets are now scrutinized and gifts are no longer allowed.Also, a school using a preferred lender and not allowing other lenders is also illegal.

      As for predatory credit card practices, that’s come up before Congress in the past week, so keep your fingers crossed!

  2. Dan said,

    I have a great idea for a topic here. debit cards are Student IDs. Some schools are starting to require students use a combination debit / student ID cards for everything. The school I am most familiar with is actually holding student loans to try and force students to agree to use the debit / student ID card. If you activate your card, you get your loan money right away, but you also have to pay fees and charges for transactions , including getting your loan money, and, charges if you DONT use the card. The schools share the revenue with the card company. Now as far as I know the major card companies are not involved with this, its a separate company selling this service to the universities as One Higher way to generate income. Then the schools and this company promote this as a great service for the students. Its not. On example is a student in Minnesota who didnt know how much was left on his card, had an over draft for a $1.25 candy bar at the student store, and ended up owing $85 dollars in fees and charges.

    The banks collect interest on the loans, the school (s) sit on the loans to force the students to activate the debit part of this new student ID, Students cant get supplies or books while if they refuse to high fee and many charges associated with this debit card, and the whole time, the student is incurring interest charges on the loan they cant get.

    I dont know about the rest of the parents, but I for one do not think that taking advantage of students this way is appropriate, much less morally and ethically proper. Its basically a form of blackmail , holding what is rightfully a students loan to try to force them to activate a card that will charge them fees, even if they decide not to use the card after its activated.

  3. Annie said,

    No one would want to work their butt off, spend money on something they think is worth it and have no control over what happens to it, especially if having more knowledge would give them more control! I mean, I think of it as customer service – I’ve been in retail long enough to know few customers would take that. On the other hand, the “child” IS an adult here and some are lucky enough to have parents who do have some money and are willing/able to take out a loan. I can totally see both sides.

    For the parent who is investing that much work, time, and money into their kids’ education(s), maybe they can work out a plan with their kid? That would help. For example, I don’t remember what it’s called, but there are some legal ways of allowing the paying party (in this case, the parents) have some more information. While this would totally be up to the parent, I would advise someone like Patricia to draw up a legal agreement with her college student. In this agreement, she could ask that the student give over information that would help her feel at ease. If she’s concerned that she’s paying money for her child to fail classes, perhaps she should ask the student to let her know how he/she is doing on assignments and in classes, and what’s expected of them. She could also go over the student manual with rights/responsibilities to help the student learn which questions to ask.

    This way, the parent (who may have more knowledge of where to begin if the student gets stuck) can sit down with the student and help coach them into helping themselves. That’s still a lot of involvement but at least the student would be learning HOW to help themselves. I know many who don’t even know what questions to ask.

    I know some colleges teach a ‘first year experience’ course, but it’d be nice if there were an in-depth course into understanding the legal information in manuals and those papers many people blindly sign when they feel they’re under pressure. Also, if students drop out of college, perhaps they could share stories/situations and professors and parents and students could discuss what they would have done, or what could have been done. Sometimes, it’s in how the questions are asked.

    Students need to be more open with parents in some cases, because sometimes the parent is coming to help when it’s snowballed. Openness also helps them to learn how to solve problems on their own, it helps them to know what questions to ask and how to phrase them.

    That’s just based on my experience but I know I’m not the only one.

  4. Hi Patricia,

    I understand the need to get your money’s worth, and to check on your investment.

    But I must stress that it is vitally important to let your children take responsibility for himself or herself. I graduated only 5 years ago and I know some people that had a very hard time adjusting to real life after college because their parents had taken care of everything throughout life, including during college.

    • Sonya Walker said,

      Your parent’s probably didn’t have to worry about where your tuition was coming from or even your next meal, so they could afford to just let go. If this seems like criticism, it is. People kill me always trying to tell someone else what is right based off of someone else. What is even more irritating is that everyone leads a different life and has a different financial status. Also, every child is different. I have one that got up and ran and kept going and keeps going (educational wise) and the other I have to push through everything, but she gets it done and she wants to get it done, she just hasn’t matured enough yet. Do I let her go to be whatever life has in store? No! I keep pushing her in the direction she plans to go and support her until she gets it right. If it takes till the age of 50, so be it. If I let go then someone will be talking about how much of a bum she is or treat her like a nobody. So if you agree with parent’s letting go and letting their children just go off and do what they want to do at their expense, maybe you should advocate for the government to let the student incur their own educational expenses, that way if they mess it up, its on them and not the parent.

      • Sonya, I agree that we have to crawl before we can walk, but we also learn alot more from making our own mistakes then from being told what to do.

        My parents definitely worried about tuition and where meals were coming from. They also worried if I was safe and if I was eating healthy, just like any other parent does.

        And yes, I reject your criticism. I’m not telling you or any one else what to do. I’m just relating what I’ve seen in these exact circumstances and the not-so-nice consequences of it hoping that it might help someone. Then again, we learn better from our own mistakes, don’t we?

  5. Patricia said,

    I totally agree. However, I am one of those parents. I do not call the college for grades or anything to do with classes. However, I do check on my Freshman. Not only because it is so convenient ( much more than when I was in college), but because it is my money that is sending him. For the working class of people, it is no drop in the bucket to send our kids to college. It really is an investment in their lives. Most people that invest want to know what is going on with their investment.

    • Sonya Walker said,

      Thank you for saying that. A lot of people are quick to label parent’s who are involved with their children while on the same hand criticize those who don’t take the time. You are right it is my money and I have to pay back the loans or pay tuition monthly, so I want to make sure that my investment is doing what it is supposed to do. The world has gone to aiding those that who do not put any effort into attempting to work by giving them freebies while the working class has to suffer to figure out how to pay for things. People have to realize that although we work, we are not rich and we just don’t have money to throw away, but we want to give our children an opportunity to prosper. The government has made it out responsibility (with no ways around it) to pay for our children’s education, and not they want to criticize us for checking on them. The schools will not just get my money without me having some input, so they can kiss that dream goodbye!

  6. […] admin had some great ideas on this topic.You can read a snippet of the post here.With each passing year, it seems as if parents of college students make more and more phone calls on behalf of their children. Almost daily I am notified of parents who have called this or that campus office wanting someone to respond … […]

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