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Sunday, April 11, 2021

For an increasing number of UF students, class registration is becoming a family affair.

Instead of turning to advisers or teachers for help when picking classes, students are reaching out to an old and familiar source - their parents.

Albert Matheny, director of academic advising and associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has noticed a significant increase in the number of parents involved with their students' academics since he started at UF in 1998, he said.

Matheny said he feels as if it might be hindering students from growing on their own.

"Parents should be supporting their students, encouraging their students, working with us to make sure their students are doing the right thing, but not taking responsibility away from the student," he said. "Students are perfectly capable of advocating for themselves."

Matheny said he can remember several instances in which parents would insist on being with their child during advising, demanding to see transcripts and schedules.

"Parents will sometimes call in not understanding why their student can't be a psychology major or something like that," Matheny said. "They'll argue that their student is good in psychology and you can't say, 'As a matter of fact, no they're not.'"

Shannon Wiggins, a UF business major, said her parents try to be too involved with her academics.

"My parents always nag me around registration time trying to tell me what classes to take and stuff like that," she said. "I know they mean well, but I am 20 years old."

Matheny acknowledges parents as a whole are more involved than ever. He even admits to being overly involved with his 21-year-old son.

"Parents have managed their kids' lives much more intensely than previous generations have, and now kids are waiting longer to take on their own lives," Matheny said. "I think that really signals a change in our culture."

This trend isn't just visible at UF - it is happening all over the country.

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An annual study of college students by the National Survey of Student Engagement found that 40 percent of first-year college students have had a parent or guardian intervene to solve a problem in college. About 13 percent of those students said this was a frequent occurrence.

The results showed that students with highly involved parents were happier and more engaged in their learning experience.

"We speculate maybe these students are persisting and taking advantage of a lot of opportunities in college when they might not have done that if their parents weren't prodding," said George Kuh, who directed the survey.

UF has had to adapt its new student programs for the more highly involved parents.

The university offers a Family Preview to go along with the Preview held for the new students getting ready to attend UF.

More parents are also attending advising sessions with their children, and now advisers must be trained to deal with both the parents and the students, Matheny said.

But Matheny is also quick to point out that these highly involved parents are still only in the margin.

UF students such as senior Erin Smith are just fending for themselves.

"The only thing me and Mom have discussed about grades and school is when she got my graduation papers in the mail," she said. "Then she said to me, 'Erin, I'm assuming you're graduating on time or you would tell me, right?'"

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