FSOS faculty issue report on pandemic’s impact on parents of college students

Two professors.
Marjorie Savage (left) and Jodi Dworkin.

As the majority of U.S. colleges and universities transitioned to remote learning during March 2020 and subsequently spent the summer planning for an uncertain fall semester, a research team in Family Social Science began planning how they could examine what parents of college students were experiencing as they coped with these decisions and transitions.

Jodi Dworkin, professor and extension specialist, and Marjorie Savage, author, FSOS education specialist, and retired director of the U of M’s Parent Program, started designing a study to understand the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the family’s role in their students’ college experiences.

The Department of Family Social Science and Minnesota Extension at the University of Minnesota partnered with the professional organization AHEPPP: Family Engagement in Higher Education (AHEPPP) to recruit and survey parents from across the country to understand the impact that the pandemic has made on the family’s role in their students’ college experience. Read the full report.

Key findings

Right now, students and families are struggling to make decisions about college in an environment of rapid change and uncertainty:

  • Students about to start their first year of college are making hard decisions about whether to attend classes in person or online. The excitement of college is dimmed by announcements that social experiences on campus will be limited and distanced. College and universities are still unable to promise what fall semester will look like.
  • Current students are facing similar choices about attending in person or online. They’re likely to be separated from their friends, and they’re being warned against the activities and parties that highlighted campus life. They’re rethinking majors and career options, and some are considering dropping out of school or transferring to a college closer to home.
  • Parents are trying to measure the cost of college against the value their student will be receiving. Many are unsure how they will pay for college if their income has decreased or if they fear losing their jobs. They’re trying to predict where life will be a few months into the future, when the future is not clear.

“It’s important to recognize that college and university administrators and faculty are doing the best they can to get back on schedule,” says Dworkin. “The best thing families can do is watch for updates and wait for guidance and encourage your student to look for notices from their college and university and respond to any instructions they receive.”

Dworkin and Savage, assisted by FSOS graduate students, have assembled resources and guides for parents at the website, Parenting College Students: when your child goes to college.

Learn more

Dworkin and Savage will co-host a webinar on their report, Covid-19: College Parents Speak Out, Wednesday, October 21, 2-3 p.m., that will delve into challenges young adults are facing in their college experience in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Register here.