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The purpose of this research was to explore the interactions between senior-level student affairs administrators and the parents of traditional-age undergraduate students. Student development theory had little to say about a role for the parents of college students, yet senior-level student affairs administrators who participated in this study acknowledged spending more time responding to parental concerns, questions, and complaints than they did five years ago. Semi-structured phone interviews were conducted with 16 senior-level student affairs administrators at mid-size, private, highly residential master’s colleges and universities according to the Carnegie Foundation’s classification (2009).
The researcher addressed the grand tour question: How have the interactions between senior-level student affairs administrators and parents changed policies, services, programs, and activities at highly residential, private, four-year institutions of higher education? In the process of addressing this question, the following were explored: 1) What language do student affairs professionals use to describe the trend of increased parental involvement in the lives of Millennial students? 2) What effect has increased interactions between senior-level student affairs administrators and parents had on institutional policies? 3) What effect has increased interactions between senior-level student affairs administrators and parents had on institutional services, programs, and activities? 4) What future changes to institutional policies, services, programs, or activities are suggested by senior-level student affairs administrators as a result of current parental expectations?
The findings of this research shed light on the interactions between the parents of traditional-age undergraduate students and senior-level student affairs administrators. Six themes were identified: 1) role of parents in the lives of their student; 2) reasons for parental contact with senior-level administrators; 3) types of interactions that administrators have with parents; 4) institutional response to parental involvement; 5) institutional services, programs, and activities for parents; and 6) senior-level administrators’ recommendations for their institutions. The researcher recommends that senior-level student affairs professionals lead institution-wide discussions on a comprehensive approach to partner with parents in order to promote student learning and success.