CA College Tries New Retention Tactic: Students’ Parents Study Free

Suzanne Potter | California News Service
Holy Names University in Oakland is inviting parents of enrolled students to join them by taking up to two free classes. Photo Credit: Holy Names University

OAKLAND, Calif. – A small, private Catholic college in California is trying to keep students in school by letting their moms and dads also enroll – for free.

In Oakland, Holy Names University’s new “Parent Promise” program, launched Jan. 12, lets parents enroll in two free classes each and waives the fees, which is a savings of about $3,500 per adult.

Sheila Smith McKoy, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Holy Names, said the idea was a big hit right away.

“And the very next day, we had our first parents interested in coming to take part in it,” she said. “Our first students will start in the summer, and we’ve had several apply since then.”

Courses still are online for now, but may go back to the classroom in person this fall. She said the administrators hope students will be less likely to drop out if their parents also are invested in the campus life. The majority of Holy Names students also will be the first in their families to earn a college degree.

Parents who enroll will have access to financial-aid advisors. Participation could lower the amount families pay for tuition and fees, since the household would include more than one student. Smith McKoy said she hopes parents who may not have finished college themselves will be inspired to use the Parent Promise program to revive their dreams and graduate.

“And now,” she said, “they’ll have an opportunity to not only see how it feels to be back in school, but also to finish their degrees.”

The U.S. Department of Education College Scorecard estimated the cost to attend Holy Names for the average undergraduate student, with financial aid and living expenses, comes to slightly more than $23,000 per year.

Support for this reporting was provided by Lumina Foundation.