The customer is always right - even when he's wrong. We've been taught this since we first scooped ice cream or pumped gas and actually got money for it. Customer service and satisfaction are the cornerstone of every successful businesses.

Merchants bend over backwards to serve us. They'll special order items, call us when something comes in they think we'd like, and cheerfully work with us on the items we must return. I also have noticed during those rare times when there was extra money to be spent, the bigger the price tag, the better the service.

So what's up with colleges and universities - especially the private ones? Our children and their parents jump through hoops to be "accepted." We fill out countless forms. The students agonize over essays on questions like what they will contribute to the campus community. Their teachers and counselors help them through the alphabet soup of FAFSA, CSS, SAT, ACT, and so on.

Our kids basically place their hearts and souls into an application form, click a button and send it on its way. Then they wait to hear yea or nay as if they were awaiting an Oscar nomination or an invitation from an elite club. During that waiting period they think of things they could have done wrong or should have done better. They agonize. They wait for the mail to be delivered. They agonize some more.

There's something wrong here. Suddenly, it's as if the colleges are the customers and we are the employees. Private colleges and the more exclusive state universities should take a lesson from the community college system, which will bend over backwards to accommodate its students.

After all, we will be spending anywhere from $20,000 to $120,000 or more for four years of education. that's along the lines of buying a house that you can only live in for four years. I think it's about time the colleges and universities applied to us. After all, whether it's federal grants, low-interest loans, college funds, or work-study - they're going to get that money. So, how about applying to the families for the privilege of educating our children?

Instead of us having to reveal our income, savings and the like - why don't the colleges have to tell us how financially stable they are? And, I have a host of potential essay questions for them. How will you help me pay off my student loans? What will you give me to make me a successful adult? Write about how you have influenced the life of someone similar to me.

Then, after all the colleges have submitted their forms to our students, they can take three months to mull over their options and make up their minds. Wouldn't it be sweet if the offices of admissions had to wait to hear from us?

Right now, this only happens with the most elite athletes and those with perfect SAT scores. They alone get to mull over all the offers and then announce their decisions. However, if we really are the customers here, then it's time that extended to all the students who meet admission requirements.

Doesn't that sound absolutely unwieldy? How can they do it? Think of all the paperwork. Ha! My daughter can tell you it's possible. She's just done it. Surely institutions of higher learning can do it too.

"Home Front" by Terry Murry is published every other Sunday. She can be reached at

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