Parents and students are experiencing college costs that are straining nearly every family budget. In order to cover those costs, families are being forced to make the very tough choices and huge sacrifices that will affect them for the next twenty or thirty years. And yet, year after year, most colleges continue to raise tuition by five, six or even seven percent. With parents receiving low or no pay increases in this bad economy, those tuition increases don’t seem right.
If the truth be known, the goals of college parents can be quite different from the goals of colleges and their leaders. Because that difference can be large, it is starting to become a problem for some parents and their college-age children. So, let’s get it out in the open. What exactly do parents want and expect from colleges today? Parents want colleges to:
Minimize Tuition, Room and Meal Costs – Parents want colleges to do everything possible to keep their costs down. Since many families have two and three children, it is becoming the norm for them to spend huge sums of money to put their children through college. Now that the cost of a college education has grown to between $100,000 and $200,000 for each child, can anybody blame parents for being concerned about costs?
Maximize Scholarship and Grant Money – When students receive scholarship and grant money, the need for college loans and family sacrifices is reduced. Parents want colleges to provide more grant and scholarship money to students. They believe that it’s time for colleges to work harder and get more creative, in order to help students with their college expenses.
Parents do not consider college loans to be financial aid. They see loans as huge, nearly life-long, financial burdens disguised as financial aid. That’s why parents ask, “Why is it that colleges often have three, four or even six people working in the financial aid office helping with parent and student loans, but not even one person is dedicated to uncovering and obtaining money that doesn’t have to be paid back?”
In the current economy, even student loan money has become harder to find. That’s why there is no better time for colleges to greatly expand their efforts to identify more sources of student aid money in the form of grants and scholarships. There is no reason why colleges can’t assemble a list of the sources that current and former students have previously uncovered and then expand that list through their own efforts. It’s time!
Help Students Discover Their Direction – Parents want their children’s hopes and dreams to come true. However, while some students are already clear about their direction in life, many are still trying to find a path to follow. Since few students can afford to stay in college for five or six years while they explore the possibilities, colleges must help them.
Although undecided students may not know exactly what they want, an effective counselor can help to narrow the field of choice. That’s because students do know the things they’ve liked and disliked in the past. They also know where they’ve been the most successful and least successful. Students know if they like science and math or prefer english and history. They know if they are shy and reserved or fun loving and outgoing. They know if they are good at sports or prefer intellectual pursuits. They know if they prefer to lead or a follow. They know if they have exceptional communication skills or not. The best counselors can help sift through the clutter a bring clarity to confusion. For many students, great counselors seem to perform miracles.
Importantly, counselors also know that few answers reveal themselves to students who are standing still. Only when undecided students are moving, experiencing, learning and growing can they discover their unique path to future success. Therefore, early on, counselors must help the undecided students to get out there and begin to participate in campus, work and community activities. When students become involved, they give themselves the opportunity to discover the things that motivate them, the things that uncover previously unknown interests, possibilities and capabilities.
Parents want colleges to take more interest in their undecided children. Students like this need help in figuring things out. Only competent, caring and dedicated counselors can do that well. However, when undecided students turn into decided students, they can perform at the highest levels. Colleges need to help with that transition.
Provide An Outstanding Education – Parents want their children to receive the highest quality education possible. That requires exceptional instructors. When college instructors make their classes interesting, students rarely hesitate to participate, challenge a statement or ask a question. Learning becomes fun. Instructors like this not only heighten the interest of their students, they inspire them. Parents know that the quality of an instructor’s classroom performance can directly affect the performance of students.
Importantly, because of the instructor’s reputation for developing exceptional talent, the most respected employers stay in close contact with the college and visit the campus for recruitment purposes. Additionally, these instructors are able to attract leaders from the outside community to serve as mentors, networking contacts, guest speakers and sources of part-time and full-time employment opportunities.
Help Students Develop And Follow A Plan – We all know that most students will be more successful when they follow a well thought out and detailed plan that leads to their goal. However, few students are both knowledgeable and disciplined enough to develop a plan on their own. That’s why parents would like someone at the college to guide their children through the process of creating and following a comprehensive plan that is likely to lead to a great job.
Each plan should maximize the student’s career success skills, boost their self-confidence, develop their communication and leadership skills and present opportunities to meet respected and influential people through participation in campus, work and community activities. With the proper guidance, students will end up with a step-by-step, semester-by-semester plan that will almost guarantee success.
Teach Students How To Land A Good Job – More than anything else, parents want their children to graduate from college with a good paying job, so they can afford to live independently, pay their student loans and handle their own expenses. With that in mind, parents want colleges to do everything possible to prepare students for a comprehensive, senior year job search.
A great plan, along with thorough and focused preparation, is the best way to ensure job hunting success. Preparation includes academic success, research of potential employers, job hunting web sites, employment agencies and newspapers, developing a list of accomplishments that will be presented in the resume and during interviews, creating an informational network, identifying questions to ask and answer, taking practice interviews, crafting an exceptional resume and sales letter, building a relationship with references and much more.
Few students will land a great job by waiting until their senior year to get started. It takes more time than that. Colleges that don’t make a concerted effort to help students develop a job hunting plan and then guide them through the steps required for job hunting preparation are putting their students at a disadvantage, instead of giving them a competitive edge.
Provide A College-Wide Network – Parents want college leaders to call upon every possible resource, in order to provide students with the networking opportunities that will lead to information, contacts and job opportunities.
The best college networks actively include every corner of the campus community. They consist of all parents, current students, alumni, professors, administrators, local employers and community leaders. Unfortunately, few colleges aggressively strive to maximize these critical networking contacts.
Parents want their college investment to pay off for their children. That means a great job and an independent life. They don’t want to see their bright, enthusiastic, well educated graduates end up in low paying jobs that hold little promise for the future. Unfortunately, far too many college students are unprepared for their senior year job search and are forced to accept jobs that are not related to their fields of interest and don’t pay very well. They end up frustrated and disappointed. That’s not the dream that parents have for their children.
Knowledgeable parents expect colleges to do much more than simply provide students with an education and then wish them well, as they try to enter the job market. And why shouldn’t parents and students expect more than a couple of handouts at the beginning of the senior year, a list of resources posted on the career services web site, an unremarkable one page resume, an obligatory half hour meeting with a career services counselor and visiting employers who are only looking for candidates in other fields? Everyone knows that it takes much more than that to land a good job.
Now that college parents and students are beginning to expect more for their money, they are using factors such as those described above to evaluate colleges, before they make their final selections. Since some colleges perform these important functions better than others, parents and students have started to ask this question of college leaders, “Does your college deserve a passing grade?”