Can Parents Ameliorate the College Completion Crisis?

By Catherine Groux
Posted August 30, 2012 06:00 PM

A new app helps parents foster collegiate success in their children.
A new app helps parents foster collegiate success in their children.
Today, only 56% of students who enroll at four-year colleges earn a bachelor's degree within six years, the College Board reports. Among those who enroll at two-year schools, 28% complete an associate's degree within three years. For first-generation and minority students, these figures are even lower. As the nation struggles to compete with other countries when it comes to higher education, college completion is holding it back from meeting its goals.

While policymakers and individual schools are striving to improve college completion rates, a team of education professionals in Washington, D.C. is doing its part with a new app called csMentor, Inside Higher Ed reports. The paid, commercial version of the recently launched app strives to improve communication between parents and students with the hope that this relationship will encourage students to push through college.

Using this subscriber service, students receive "Mentoring Interactive Programs," (MIPs) through the internet or a mobile device. These MIPs involve a short video message containing tips and tricks from a mentor, as well as a check-in with a short series of questions.

Once students answer these questions, the application uses their responses to create a weekly report that is sent to both degree seekers and their parents. Although students' actual responses are kept private from their parents, the reports can show adults if their children are facing social or academic problems, giving them the chance to intervene before the issue escalates.

This fall, the team will test the app's effectiveness through a pilot program with support from The College Success Foundation - District of Columbia (CSF - DC) and funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, according to a press release. During the pilot, 250 students in Washington, D.C. will receive MIPs and weekly reports, the results of which will only be shared with them and CSF mentoring staff for the purpose of the study.

"Making the leap from high school to a successful first year of college is a particular challenge for the underserved students we work with," said Herbert R. Tillery, the executive director of CSF - DC. "We are excited to test a new technology-based tool that allows us to consistently monitor our students' academic and social adjustment to campus. That data will help us pinpoint students who may be struggling and allow us to intervene at an early stage."

While CsMentor believes their service can help parents enhance the college conversations they have with their children, some feel students simply need to learn to succeed on their own. Marjorie Savage, parent program director at the University of Minnesota, told Inside Higher Ed that parents perhaps should not be so involved in the early stages of their children's problems.

"It feels to me like it's going further than what a typical college student should need," she said. "For parents to be monitoring that closely is going beyond what's desirable."

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