If I Could Talk to Parents of College Students, I’d Tell Them ________.

At this point, I shouldn’t be surprised that good things happen when I call on my Twitter hive mind. I asked my followers what one thing they think parents of college students need to know about higher ed, as well as what parents can do to help improve things.

I plan to use some of these comments in an upcoming blog post for PBS NewsHour’s Making Sense series, as well as an essay for an edited collection. Both pieces will address what parents should know about the schools they’re paying–likely with not a little debt–for their children to attend. Think your tuition checks are paying your children’s professors, parents? Think again.

Selections from the hive mind:

Fellow troublemaker Gordon Haber: Parents must insist their kids graduate w/out debt, even if that means a less fancy degree. Parents should lock their kids in the basement rather than let them attend for-profit colleges.

Amy Lynch-Biniek: Ask about labor conditions; insist that working conditions = learning conditions.

Another Amy (Amy Leggette) makes another great point: Discuss the purpose/expectations of : i.e., is it job preparation? An “experience”? Or ___?___.

Nyasha Junior: It is not a job guarantee.

Jeana Jorgensen agrees (and so do I): Double-plus like. Also, parents should know how many classes are taught by adjuncts/impermanent staff.

Jeana and Emily Schmidt are on the same page, apparently (I’m there, too): Ask about how many adjuncts teach at their kids’ colleges/universities, adjunct compensation, & adjunct access to library & office space.

These are of course wonderful, but there’s more to be said. Imagine you’re in a room with all the parents at a particular school. What would you tell them? What do they have every right to know about the school, students, faculty, and financial inequalities? (Better yet: a few of us troublemakers visit campuses around the country: we’ll call it The Tour Of Truth, or some such clever name.)

Think of something else you’d like to make sure college parents know about higher ed? Tweet it to me (and use #FixHigherEd) or leave it below. I’ll use as many as possible in the NewsHour and essay collection pieces (unless you don’t want yours to leave this blog).

We need to get parents’ attention if we have any hope of making real change in higher ed. Once we get their attention, what we say is up to us.

3 thoughts on “If I Could Talk to Parents of College Students, I’d Tell Them ________.

  1. missoularedhead August 6, 2014 — 2:31 am

    Absolutely the ratio of tt to adjuncts, and what percentage of classes are taught by non-TT faculty (including, if there are any) grad students. But as a faculty member and as a parent, I think the most important thing beyond that (which is vitally important) is to remind them over and over and over that the student, not the parents, is responsible for the work. And that this ain’t no 13th grade.

  2. I was just writing about this myself a few weeks ago. As a parent of a rising high school senior, I have found touring colleges with my son a sort of revolting experience. I wasn’t the rebel I’d planned to be on the tours as I found the all-smiles-come-to-our-college/resort atmosphere sickening and oddly oppressive. While I was disappointed in myself for not doing a better job of educating the other parents on the tours with me, I take every opportunity I can to educate all the other parents I know who have kids of similar age about how universities are spending their money. Parents need to know they are getting state-of-the-art stair machines instead of well compensated professors. They need to know they’re getting luxury dorms instead of professors who have office space and health care. They need to know most universities care more for attracting students than they do about educating them. It’s shocking, when you talk to parents, to see the vast majority have never even heard of an adjunct. I believe educating parents is the key to change in higher ed. Look forward to seeing your piece when it comes out!

    1. Many thanks. Prof. Never. I especially want parents to know that their tuition dollars are not going to overpaid, fancy professors who farm out the teaching to their TAs. They need to be leaning on the armies of deanlets & provosts who make *way* too much money for no teaching.

      Excellent comments.

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