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Parents speak: Results from 2012 U of M parent survey

The University of Minnesota takes pride in being a research institution, and we routinely conduct and use research in our daily work. Parents of U of M students are part of that research. Every two years, the Parent Program surveys the parents of our students to explore the relationship of college families and to consider how the University can best work with parents in support of their students. In the survey conducted in 2012, we investigated communication patterns among students and family members and looked for ways we can better serve the families of our students.

 

At a rate of 96 percent, parents said they believed the University includes parents in the campus community.

Parent Satisfaction

One of the goals of the Parent Program is to bring family members into the University community and feel welcome on campus. At a rate of 96 percent, parents said they believed the University includes parents in the campus community. More than 97 percent of respondents also indicated that they were satisfied or very satisfied with our parent communications, and more than 96 percent were satisfied or very satisfied with the programming the University offers for families.

Parent-Student Communication

Technology continues to change family communication patterns. More than a third of parents (35.3 percent) reported that they are in touch with their student one or more times a day. Another 55 percent communicate more than once a week. Parents reported some gender differences in communications: nearly half of female students (45.6 percent) are in touch with parents one or more times a day. By comparison, about a quarter of males (24.5 percent) are contacting their parents daily. Mothers were more likely than fathers to be in touch on a daily basis, and for the first time, texting has become the most common means of communication. More than 85 percent of parents said that they communicate with their student at least occasionally by texting.

The primary reason we work with parents is to help families support their student’s success. Our goals are to provide information to help parents understand the campus resources available to their students, and we want parents to know when to step in and support their student and when to empower their student to solve problems independently.

With all the communication between family members, students are increasingly likely to call home with both the good news and the bad. In times of trouble, parents are often the first to hear about the problems a student is facing. They also are likely to hear the news before the student has had time to consider solutions. In the 2012 Parent Survey, we asked parents what their response would be if they heard about specific issues. Would they encourage the student to find help on campus? Would parents solve the problem themselves? Or would they direct their student to an off-campus or home community resource?

In general, when questions were related to health and safety, academics, time management, study skills, involvement opportunities, or career planning, parents were most likely to refer their student to on-campus resources. If issues were focused on finances, personal relationships, or living situations, parents were more likely to provide assistance themselves. We also found, however, that during the second year of college, there was a significant increase among parents to solve certain issues themselves rather than to refer to on-campus resources. Most notable were health and safety concerns, which may relate to the changes students experience when they move off campus into a house or apartment without the supervision of residence hall staff.

Using the Results

The information we gathered from the 2012 Parent Survey is being incorporated into our work plans for the next few years. Knowing how parents are using technology, for example, suggests that we should explore whether new social media platforms would be useful in delivering messages about campus services and resources. As we see that parents are intervening more during their student’s second year, we are beginning to work with the Second Year Experience program to consider ways to better support family concerns as students prepare to move off campus.