Academic journal article Community College Review

Using Survey and Focus Group Research to Learn about Parents' Roles in the Community College Choice Process

Academic journal article Community College Review

Using Survey and Focus Group Research to Learn about Parents' Roles in the Community College Choice Process

Article excerpt


Background and Purpose

Colleges and universities continually seek new approaches to recruiting students and creating new linkages with parents, who generally play an important role in their students' choices to attend a particular school and to persist at that institution. Researchers are investigating the role parents play in their children's choices of four-year schools (see literature review), but little is known about the role parents play in these decisions for community college students. Consequently, colleges lack key insights that could help them to improve the ways in which they communicate to parents of potential and current students. Moreover, parents are themselves potential community college students. They are also community residents whose taxes support institutions and may be employers who send employees to community colleges and hire community college students and graduates. Thus, even if their children ultimately decide against attending the community college, communications with parents can influence enrollments and financial support at the community college.

The literature about college choice is remarkably silent about the role of parents in the college choice process for community college students. It is also silent about the role parents see for themselves as their students enroll in and attend college. The purpose of this study was to learn more about whether parents are involved and do see a role for themselves as their children choose the community college and spend a semester or more at the institution.

Limitation of the Study

This research was conducted at a single institution located in an affluent suburban area with a highly educated population and high schools that promote college attendance for all students. Being in proximity to more than 24 four-year colleges and universities, many of which have fairly liberal or open enrollment policies, enables students to have a wide choice of colleges even while remaining at home.


Research shows that parents of four-year college students often play important roles throughout the college choice process, both in terms of setting expectations for their children and taking the more proactive approach of discussing college plans and saving for college expenses (Cabrera & La Nasa, 2000a; Cabrera & La Nasa 2000b; Choy, Horn, Nunez, & Chen, 2000; Cabrera & La Nasa, 2001; Conklin & Dailey, 1981; Flint, 1992; Keller & McKewon, 1984; Hossler, 1999; Stage & Hossler, 1989). Schneider and Stevenson (1999) suggest that parents have high educational expectations for their children, yet many do not see it as their responsibility to help their adolescents formulate realistic plans for the future. Students misalign their academic preparation and ambitions as a result.

Recent studies (Bodfish, 2000; Cabrera & La Nasa, 2001; Hurtado, Kurotsuchi Inkelas, Briggs, & Rhee, 1997; McDonough, 1997) suggest the college choice process may differ among racial, ethnic, and income groups. Bateman and Kennedy (1999) found some differences in college predispositions of children from single- and two-parent families. Parents were important for both groups of students, but mothers were of primary importance for students from single-parent families. Hossler (1999) and Hossler, Braxton, and Coopersmith (1989) suggest the parental role in college choice is greater during the earlier years of high school than later (i.e. when the disposition to attend college is formed). Kinzie, Cummings, Jacob, Hayek, Hannon, and Hossler (2000) suggest parents' roles in the choice process vary with students' decision-making styles. Many studies show that parents' level of education is associated with students' college choice process, including preparation for college (Nunez & Horn, 2000; Bodfish, 2000). Some studies indirectly explore the parental role in the college choice process by examining their views about or behaviors in financing education (Miller, 1997; Stringer, Cunningham, O'Brien, & Merisotis, 1998). …

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