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Miami reaches out to parents
A new electronic newsletter to parents of all first-year Miami students is designed to assist families in helping their students succeed.
Miami, nationally recognized* as a model university for its high graduation rate, wants to make an already good graduation and retention record even better by involving parents, say university officials.
“An electronic newsletter is an efficient way to ensure that our Miami parents are informed partners in education,” says Susan Mosley Howard, dean of students.
That's becoming increasingly important because a recent national study showed that 92 percent of parents of college-age students intend to visit their students on campus at least six times a year, 70 percent plan to help their student choose a major and 75 percent plan to consult with university administrators.
One of the goals of the new newsletter is to help parents and university officials work together to assist students in developing into responsible, capable adults.
The first issue of the Parent Lantern is a blend of practical information (safety and first-year financial issues, federal privacy requirements regarding grades) and student development issues (how to deal with the predictable but confusing changes in children as they become adults).
There's a parent resource guide with responses to frequently asked questions, reading lists for more information on developmental issues involving college-age students and a list of typical parental questions that would be better left unasked.
One such question is “What's your major?” The newsletter encourages parents to give students time to discover their own academic interests because studies show that excellence is linked to a sense of personal commitment to a chosen field.
A feature of each issue will be a survey in which parents will be asked to respond to questions about their experience with Miami and an “Ask Miami” service that allows parents to submit a question, voice a concern or provide feedback on any topic.
“In a cell phone and e-mail world, parents expect to know what's going on - even from a distance,” says Kris Stewart, who directs Miami's parent efforts. “Students are accustomed to a 'play-by-play' with their parents and many students want to remain close. An initiative like the Parent Lantern helps parents feel connected, while also providing timely and accurate information.”
The reaction to the initial newsletter, sent out in late August to approximately 2,000 families, has been overwhelmingly positive, says Stewart.
Miami's newsletter is part of a national trend, she says, explaining that at least 25 other universities are providing a similar newsletter. Many campuses are experimenting with other strategies designed to enlist parents as partners in promoting student success in and out of the classroom.
*A national report on graduation rates from Education Trust, released in May 2004, cited Miami as a model university. Miami is among schools, according to the report, that “routinely and substantially outperform their peers, successfully graduating far more students than similar universities.” The report noted that while graduation rates are correlated with the quality of their students, a small number of colleges push graduation rates above those of similar institutions.
Date Published: 09/23/2004