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Education Lab is a project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

Topic: Annals of a college parent

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February 10, 2015 at 5:00 AM

Annals of a college parent: Keeping tabs on your kid

Back in December, I wrote about how my husband and I were fretting over the likelihood that our son, a freshman at Western Washington University, was going to end up taking more than four years to graduate. That’s the norm these days at many public universities.

As parents of college students, we’re not privy to any of the progress reports, grades, even class schedules that we used to get when our kids were younger. How do we strike a proper balance that keeps us from becoming helicopter parents, yet doesn’t give our son too much free rein — an approach that can be costly to us if he makes an academic mistake?

Kelly Shea / The Seattle Times

Kelly Shea / The Seattle Times

Recently, I received an excellent set of tips from reader Marlo Del Mundo, a Bellevue parent whose son is in his fourth year at the University of Washington in mechanical engineering. Like us, the Del Mundos are paying for most of their son’s college education. They’ve struck some sensible deals with him.

Since they’re footing the bill, they require their son to give them access to his schedule and grades. They sit down with him every quarter to go over his course path, and they also require him to do the same with an academic adviser.

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December 10, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Annals of a college parent: Graduating in four years is a challenge at WWU

We love a lot about Western Washington University, where my son enrolled this fall. But I’ve had one nagging worry about sending him to Bellingham — that it’s going to take him more than four years to graduate.

Our 18-year-old is finishing his first quarter as a freshman. A recent report by Complete College America underscores my worry: At most public universities, only 19 percent of full-time students earn a bachelor’s degree in four years.

Kelly Shea / The Seattle Times

Kelly Shea / The Seattle Times

Taking another quarter, or another year, to graduate would mean another big chunk out of our checkbook.  Complete College America estimates that an extra year at a four-year university costs parents and children $68,153 — the combined cost of attendance and lost wages. (They have a recipe for helping more kids graduate on-time; you can read their report here.)

Washington’s four-year public colleges do better than that, but in a pattern that reflects a national trend, graduation rates appear to have slumped for students who went to school during the recession. Only 35 percent of Western students who went directly from high school to WWU in fall 2009 had graduated by fall 2013. (The previous year’s class did better — 48 percent graduated in four years, and 65 percent graduated in five years.)

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Comments | More in News | Topics: Annals of a college parent, higher education, Western Washington University

November 10, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Annals of a college parent: Yes, son, higher ed is not high school

From time to time throughout his high school career, my son would announce that he didn’t want to go to college.

He didn’t love high school. He didn’t particularly see the point of what he was learning. He didn’t want to spend the next four years in classrooms.

Of course, these episodes always seemed to happen just before a grueling AP U.S. History exam or an assignment in another least-loved subject, while he was also juggling the demands of practice for two different soccer teams. As higher education reporter for The Seattle Times, I could make a persuasive argument in favor of college perhaps more effectively than most. 

My husband and I both loved our college years, and we told him how much different college would be — more intellectually engaging, and in a way we couldn’t even explain, because he had never experienced it before. And anyway, it wasn’t up for negotiation. Going to college was an expectation that we had for him from birth.

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September 19, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Sticker relief: First thoughts of a new public college parent

“Here’s the bill for Western,” I told my husband this summer, waving a piece of paper in the air. “Tuition and fees are going to be $8,965.”

“Per quarter?” he asked.

“No! We’re in the state school system now. That’s for a whole year.”

I’ve been covering higher education in Washington since 2011, and I’ve also experienced college as a parent through the filter of my daughter, who’s been at an out-of-state private college for the past three years. But this fall, my son becomes a freshman at Western Washington University, and for the first time I’m the parent of a student in the system I’ve been writing about.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: Annals of a college parent, higher ed, Western Washington University