Helicoptering? Parents Go With Kids to College

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By Leanne Italie

NEW YORK (AP) -- Lori Osterberg and her husband are lifelong Denver folk, but they got restless and intended to relocate for adventure's sake once their only child left home for college.

Well, long story short, they did that. Sort of.

Rather than following the sun down to Mexico, they followed their daughter to Portland, Oregon, where she is a sophomore. While still taking long weekends and other trips to Canada and California, the couple bought an apartment near campus that all three share.

"We're calling it our gap year. We're here for now, with the possibility of extending throughout her college career," Osterberg said. "We're taking it one year at a time."

Sometimes scoffed at as the ultimate in helicopter parenting, Osterberg and others see only benefits in relocating or buying a second home to be close to their college kids.

Osterberg feels lucky. She and her husband work mainly online rather than grind it out 9-to-5 the old-fashioned way to pay college bills.

For Dianne Sikel in Phoenix, it's all about football for her two boys, ages 18 and 15. She plans to rearrange her schedule as an auctioneer, part-time real estate agent and actress when her oldest starts college next year near Anaheim, California, so she can attend the games of both.

That, she said, means she'll leave Phoenix first thing Saturday mornings during football season for a rental home near the California campus, after she watches her youngest play in Phoenix on Fridays. Her youngest will stay with his father when she's away.

"These are moments that will be gone forever. I refuse to miss them," Sikel said. "I've got to be near my children."

Coldwell Banker, the real estate firm, first noticed parents making such moves in 2008 while compiling its annual College Home Price Comparison Index that ranked average home prices in more than 300 college towns. David Siroty, a company spokesman, said the index has not been done in several years but anecdotally agents continue to see it pop up in home rentals and sales around the country near campuses.

Regina Santore, a Coldwell agent in Knoxville, the East Tennessee home of the University of Tennessee, relocated a couple last summer from a town about 380 miles away on the western side of the state so their freshman could live with them.

"They felt very strongly they did not want their daughter living on campus. They felt like she would have a better study environment if she were with them. She didn't seem to have any problem with it," Santore said.

The father, a computer programmer, and mother, a budding restaurateur, settled on a 1,600-square-foot ranch-style house near campus.

"I can understand it, frankly, these days," said Santore, who has a 4-year-old son.

"But I don't know if he's going to appreciate me following him to college," she laughed.

Santore, originally from a small town in upstate New York, said a neighbor there relocated to New York City recently to live with her daughter during law school.

"She basically made her daughter her priority," she said.

More common in Knoxville, Santore said, are parents buying weekend condos so they don't have to fight for hotel rooms when attending football games at UT's 100,000-plus-seat stadium. The school has about 21,000 undergraduates.

A surprising twist for Roslyn Levy, a Coldwell agent in Gainesville, Florida, was parents making the move there first, followed by their kids transferring later to the nearly 50,000-student University of Florida or Santa Fe College, a feeder.

"So it actually works both ways," she said.

"We do see parents moving here or buying a second house here, either because they have a child in school here or because they went to school here themselves," Levy said. "We see people buying homes that are larger and more expensive than one would expect for a college student because they want to use the home when they come here to visit."

Some, she said, keep the house once the kids move on.

Sheila Baker Gujral in Maplewood, New Jersey, is a Georgetown alum who interviews prospective freshmen for the Washington, D.C., school. She's been volunteering to do that for 10 or 15 years and only last summer ran across such relocations.

"I was talking to this girl and asked how her parents were doing about her leaving," Baker Gujral said. "She said, `They don't mind living on the East Coast or the West Coast, so I'm applying to those places.' I was, like, `Do you mean to tell me they're going to move wherever you go to school' and she said yeah. She didn't look entirely thrilled about it."

Baker Gujral mentioned the encounter at dinner and her teen daughter piped in with a friend whose parents moved with her to New Orleans when she got into Tulane.

Osterberg considers her move additional support for their 19-year-old. "She had her ups and downs freshman year," she said. "She missed her dog. She missed her friends. She missed us."

The parents did set some ground rules when they arrived for sophomore year.

"We told her she had to be in clubs, stuff like that. And she does her thing," Osterberg said "She's considering studying abroad next year."

Will her parents follow?

"It's nice here and everything but at this point we haven't made any decisions about what we'll do from here," Osterberg said.
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