For years, research has shown college students who are engaged on campus are more likely to stay enrolled and graduate. But now, new data compiled by UNLV Family Network shows students with engaged family members are also more likely to persist and achieve success.
“When we researched outcomes for the students whose family members participated in UNLV Family Network programs, we saw that students were retained at a rate 6% higher than that of the general population,” said Heather Rappaport, director of development for the Division of Student Affairs. Rappaport manages the Family Network in addition to her development responsibilities.
UNLV has had a number of family engagement efforts over the last 20 years. The current iteration started in 2017. Ten thousand family members receive a monthly newsletter and 2,900 are members of a Facebook group.
In addition to regular communication offering campus resources and information about campus events, the Family Network hosts in-person events, including a Fall brunch around midterms and a group Football game night.
“We use the title ‘UNLV Family Network’ to intentionally acknowledge the support system that students may have,” Rappaport said. “We see parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, and other individuals who support students.”
The Family Network provides space for family members ask questions, troubleshoot issues with their student, and get support from families of upper division students.
“It’s an approach that encourages family members to be supportive spectators and let their students take the lead,” Rappaport said. “We provide nudges such as ‘ask your student if they’ve made an advising appointment.”
With this new data, Rappaport says preliminary evidence supports that the Family Network has an impact and could be a retention pathway to explore. She cautions that more longitudinal research is needed.
“We are always looking at how we can improve outcomes for our students,” Rappaport said. “This is a positive sign, and we will continue to evaluate programs in this arena.”