Why Parent’s Shouldn’t Pay For Their Kids’ College Education

Should parents pay for college? Should the kid be responsible for college costs 100%?

This article is going share thoughts from parents and readers (tons of reader comments) on paying for college. You’ll be left with a ton of new information once you finish reading this article. You’re going to have a strong opinion in one direction.

My situation was fairly unique when it came to paying for college. Living in a big city, I had many options for education after high school. I had many choices for what to do next. I was also very lucky.

What did I do for college?

I decided to stay at home, work full-time, attend a attend a community college first, save up, invest my money, and take some time to figure things out.

While I did receive some financial assistance from my parents (free rent/place to eat), I had to cover most of the costs of college on my own. I’m not complaining and I surely don’t regret it.

However, I do believe that parents shouldn’t be responsible for paying for college 100%.

Should parents pay for college? Why Not — For Parents:

You can take loans for college but not for retirement.

Despite the benefits of a 529 plan, this is money you could be contributing to your Roth IRA or other retirement investment vehicle.

As selfish as it may sound, do you really want to delay your retirement by 5 years to help pay for college? Think of the opportunity cost.

With the phenomenon of compound interest on your side, you can do wonders for your retirement accounts.

It will promote the kids to work harder academically.

If you know that the cost of college is your responsibility, you’re more likely to work your butt off in high school to boost your grades.

Higher grades result in more academic scholarship opportunities. Lower grades mean you pay more for college.

If your kid takes school seriously, you know that they’ll do whatever it takes to get the grades that save them the most money. Then they won’t have to worry about college costs.

It promotes responsibility.

Instead of turning 24 and realizing that it’s time to get “responsible” your kid will realize this at 18.

There’s far too many stories of people in their mid-20s that still live at home and act like a teenager.

You want your child to understand the value of actually working hard for something and what it feels like to pay the bills at an early age.

Do you really want to deal with a spoiled 28 year old that has it too good at home to ever leave?

As a student I was motivated to start an online business because I wanted to have money for the future and to be debt-free. I also purchased my first condo at 19. If I can do it, anyone can. Trust me.

Should parents pay for college? Why Not — For College Students:

Creates a false sense of security.

News flash: Once you’re done college and in the real world, you’re completely on your own.

Nobody will ever hand you 20 grand a year (or any other astronomical number) a year, for 4 years straight. It’s just not going to happen.

Being able to watch old episodes of Seinfeld and Saved By The Bell 7 hours straight, won’t be an option once you got to pay rent.

Instills a sense of laziness.

Adversity creates opportunity.

Sure there’s the fractional chance that your kid could become a drug dealer or stripper if you don’t pay for their college, but then you have bigger problems.

Having more free time doesn’t exactly equate to more study time.

Free time just means more loitering, more doing nothing, more watching Netflix, and more drinking. That’s just the reality.

I know that college is a good chance to get out, meet people, and party.

Who’s stopping you from doing this on your days off or after work?

And believe me, there’s nothing like going out for drinks or traveling the world after knowing that you worked for it.

Say what you want about the actual process of working, but a job is an excellent opportunity to meet new people and get more social. By working you’ll have the chance to meet other college students in the same boat and you’ve got the potential of networking with older folks.

I’ve gone on plenty of trips and nights out on the town with friends that I’ve met through work. Plus, even if you don’t hit if off with any of your co-workers, at least you can complain about having to work together.

At the end of the day, I’m a firm believer of working hard and partying harder.

Parents should NOT have to stress about paying for their kid’s college tuition if they can’t. This doesn’t mean that parents shouldn’t help out. It just means that parents shouldn’t feel obligated to go into debt or delay retirement to help out their kids.

Help From Twitter: Why should parents NOT pay for their kid’s college education?

@MoneyMateKate: You never fully value something that’s given to you for free. I never cut class b/c I worked for every penny of tuition.

@ErizaBiz: So the kid can learn financial education at a young age.

@ExtremeJacob: The same reason they shouldn’t pay for travel soccer.

Should parents pay for college? What do you guys think? Would you ask your kids to work? Would you do your best to help them out? As a student, did your parents help you out?

(Post originally published on 09/3/2010)

Over the last few years this conversation has gone in many interesting directions. Would love to have you add your thoughts.

48 thoughts on “Why Parent’s Shouldn’t Pay For Their Kids’ College Education”

  1. I think a lot depends on how the parents have prepared the kid for life away from home, especially in the financial realm. My parents paid my first year, I paid all of them after than, and I’m STILL paying for them 22 years later. I was in no way educated about personal finance or budgets or loans or credit reports, or anything at all — and it screwed up my financial life for 15 years. No i didn’t go to an expensive private school, I went to a state school and later got my MBA at another state school. I worked my tail off while in school, but still wound up tens of thousands of dollars in debt and without a job that would pay me enough.

    The fact is, my parents weren’t schooled in personal finance either. I don’t blame them for failing to teach me something that they never learned themselves. They’re in the mid 60’s and looking at a life where they will never retire because they simply can’t afford it.

    My job situation has changed for the better now and I’ve paid off over $120,000 in debt so far but I still have a little ways to go. I have well funded 529’s for my kids though my two oldest have 4.0 gpa’s in a private school. We’re planning and hoping on scholarships because I don’t want my kids paying for school 20 years later like their old man. I don’t think it will create a sense of laziness, especially since my oldest (age 16) just got her first job with no prodding from mom or dad!

    So my answer is … it depends.

    1. Yes it’s a very subjective argument with no “one size fits all” answer. In your case, thankfully your kids have worked hard for excellence in academics. As a result their odds of receiving academic scholarships have definitely increased.
      On the other hand, what if a student aims for average grades and has no clue what they want to study? This then opens up the whole argument: is college even necessary for all young people?

      1. I certainly don’t disagree. We’ve labeled “college” as a panacea for all job ailments and while it certainly does make a difference, we need to quantify that difference and compare it to what college costs.

        There are all sorts of alternatives to a traditional college. virtually EVERY college (even the accredited ones) offer online courses of study, some don’t even require that you set foot on a campus. How much could a young person save by using one of these less expensive alternatives, working while studying, living at home, and graduating with the same degree as their peers? THAT’S the question of the day.

        When you can attend (as I did) a university that will work with students like this, my experience (I have two online degrees but they say nothing about that on my transcript OR my diploma), they’re usually much cheaper that a traditional grounded college.

        But if you crave the beer and pizza, the 8am classes, the greek parties, the “on your own” lifestyle (translation: very little money), then by all means go for it, but make sure you understand everything going in. And understand that mom and dad may not BE ABLE to pay for it.

        1. You brought up some viable alternatives Ron. There’s just one problem. At 17 years old in grade 12, we’re not informed of these opportunities. I don’t like throwing excuses out, but when I was filling out my application forms I wasn’t aware of my many options. I wish I knew about online college courses. I wish I looked more into skilled trades and entrepreneurial ventures. Without the benefit of hindsight it’s difficult to make the correct decisions at such a young age. Some young people have the benefit of educated and informed parents. I, along with many of friends/readers, come from immigrant parents that simply weren’t able to help us make informed decisions.

          As per the beer and pizza. I don’t want to judge and I really can’t because I enjoy both. However, I do feel that you can enjoy both while living at home through your college years.

          You can save LOTS of money by attending a Community College and living at home. I’m living proof of this. While I’ve never experienced the “freedom” that comes along with moving away from college, I’ve been fortunate enough to use my savings to travel and enjoy myself.

          Will you support your kids if they want to move away for college?

          1. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed them too, still do! Will I support my kids if they move away? Maybe, to a degree. I think it depends really. There are no hard and fast rules, but so far my kids are demonstrating what their mother and I have drilled into their heads since they were in the womb: Be responsible for yourself, get out there and work! I may not HAVE to support them when all is said and done.

            My son, at age 7, was shoveling snow for the neighbors, working in their yards, helping them clean out their garages, etc, and HE initiated the contact. Both of my daughters have worked as babysitters since they were 12 (there’s GOOD money in babysitting), and my oldest, who just turned 16, has a job at Chick-fil-A and has purchased her own car.

            As far as the lack of knowledge for young people, I understand completely. I was in the same boat, but it was 25 years ago when I was preparing for college. No Internet. If you wanted to know something, you had to go look it up in the physical card catalog at the library, or find a guidance counselor that had any information you could use. Fast forward to today, and I think 18 year olds are in a much better position to get the information they need, I just don’t think they know what to do with it when they get it.

            College has an allure. It means freedom to many young people, freedom from parental authority, freedom from getting up earlier than 9am, freedom from a rigid schedule, freedom from going to class, freedom to associate with whomever you want, freedom to determine what you want to study. It may have been a long time ago, but I still remember it! That freedom is hard to achieve if you’re still living at home, working at Chick-fil-A, and taking online courses.

            1. It’s good to hear that you’re proactive parent, Ron. I’m totally with you. I don’t want to come off as judgmental in my posts, but I too have been working ever since I was a little kid. I started delivering papers in the 3rd grade. By the end of grade 9, I would have at least 3 summer jobs (soccer ref, lawn care, grocery store) and I started investing in stocks at 15. The best part is that I never missed out on anything. I always had anything that I wanted (mp3 player to new baseball cap) and I always stayed in touch with friends.

              The problem is that not everyone is raised the same way. I don’t want top start making excuses for people, but it’s true. Many parents take a passive stance. Some because they are busy with their career. Others because they have other interests to keep up with. I’m sure your kids can tell you all about some of their classmates that are in completely polarized situations.

              As per the college decision: You are right. The information is out there. The problem is that at 17, who researches this stuff? Actually I still hadn’t even turned 17 when I had to fill out my college applications (late birthday). I was fortunate enough to find a program that I enjoy and have been studying it since 2005. Many of my friends went to expensive schools because their parents pushed them to. A few have graduated and gone on to bigger things. Many didn’t last more than a year because it simply wasn’t for them.

  2. I think that parents should save for retirement first and foremost. If they have that squared away and want to help, then I suggest they only help…no full ride for much the same reasons you mentioned above.

    You can take a look on my site to see my full pov and a couple of comments that were posted as well. Most of the people I hear from seem to want to at least help a little.

    I appreciated that my parents paid for my first year and and an additional $8000 over the last 3 years. I covered the rest and housing with scholarships and part-time jobs. My husband’s parents paid his whole way. That combo allowed us to start out our lives with no debt.

    1. I’m really glad to hear that! Starting your working lives in the positive column is definitely something to be proud of.

      How different do you think your financial situation would be if your parents never helped out?

      1. I can honestly say I have no idea where we’d be if we didn’t get help.

        I would have needed $16,000 and my husband would have needed at least $30,000 – maybe…if it was his money, maybe he would have worked part-time as much as me..I was working 50 hour weeks by my last semester in 3 different part-time jobs at about $5.50 an hour and he only worked during the summers. But for argument’s sake, let’s say we would have needed the same amounts that our parents helped with.

        That’s $46,000 that we would have wanted to pay back before buying our home.

        I’d say that we would have been about 3 years behind where we are now. We would just now be buying our home instead of being able to in 2007. We’d probably have to add 3-5 years to our early retirement goal too.

        Let’s just say I truly appreciate my parents and in-laws.

        1. Why could you not let them struggle a bit an learn to manage money and work hard to get ahead an pay for there college or university while helping them out a bit? I would like to very much pay for there education after they figure out what they want to do, and go and get it. When they’re done and have a job, why could you not help them out? Don’t student loans not require you to pay until you are completed your education?

          Could the parent not be saving the whole time with the intent to pay off or pay a large portion, without telling there child what the the intent or final result be if and when they complete there education?

          Is it wrong to watch your child struggle and learn to pay his own way? Wouldn’t it make a hell of a graduating gift if you could help them out at the end? Them thinking the whole time they are going to have to pay the majority only to find out they got rewarded at the end with none or very little debt.

  3. I come down somewhere in the middle. I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing to help your kids with paying their tuition, but I don’t think you should pay it all. I think that, as you argue, that paying for your own schooling makes you appreciate it more, promotes responsibility, gets you used to the “there is no free ride” mentality in life. Also, as you I think it’s important for the parents to pay for their own retirement first, and then pay for the child’s education. As you say, you can get a school loan, but it’s hard to get a “retirement loan”.

    Also as was mentioned, I don’t think college is for everyone. There are a lot of people that shouldn’t necessarily be going to college but are pushed into it because it’s expected of them. Many would be fine going to a trade school, or working straight out of high school.

  4. When I refer to paying for college I’m talking about parents that blindly cover all of the costs without doing much research (we all know someone like this). Of course you should strive to help your kids in some way, shape or form. There’s nothing wrong with paying for books or a part of the cost, as long as the student understands the value of working for money and paying for expenses. I live at home so I don’t know how it feels to pay for rent. I do know how crappy it is to have to figure out a way to get a textbook that costs $200.

    And yes– college is not for everyone. Entrepreneurs or people with trade skills should not be forced to attend college to please their parents or to live up to expectations set by society.

  5. We paid for our 2 children’s education. They had rules in high school and in college. 3.5 grade point, no car, must stay on campus and a minimum of 15 hours of classes taken. If they did not abide by the rules they were on their own as far as college was concerned. They are now and actually always have been good, wonderful, conciderate and now in their 40’s. Would do it again. Both are professionals.

  6. You make a sound argument. Like most things we don’t know the cost of, college can be quite a lark when you don’t know it is costing you about $100 a day and you don’t even attend all year long. I especially like your argument that you make good contacts working your way through school. Let me also add good work HABITS. You can tell when you are working with someone in their first job. Work-study, co-op, good old-fashioned part-timing will work out a lot of your professional kinks when they can do the least damage to your career.

    1. Good word habits. Yes that is definitely a benefit of working in college. You can get a 4.0 GPA but if you don’t have any work experience/are simply not good at the process of working, then good luck to you in the real world.

      I’m guessing you worked through college Caroline?

  7. MD, I have a new found respect for you, working and going to community college first before going to a bigger University!

    That is most honorable. It is good you did not burden your parents, and I wish you the best of luck after college!

  8. I am paying for my children’s college education (undergraduate) for these reasons.

    I went to a public university for undergrad and private for masters. My wife did the same and we both had a large combined student loan that took us 20 years to payoff. During that 20 years, that student loan(s) was the biggest albatross around our necks It limited us on the house we could afford to purchase, it limited us in the jobs we took (we had make sure we made enough to pay it off and justify the education we got).

    Additionally, I think you have to view it as “paying it forward” which is really a mindset. I pay for my kids so they won’t have to struggle to pay for their kids.

    In a country riddled with debtors and limited financial aid for non-need based students, why would you espouse telling your children that they are on their own.

    I couldn’t disagree more.

    1. You bring up a fair argument Kevin. It seems like you’re in a position where you can financially help out your kids. What about those parents that would have to delay their retirement to help their kids out?

  9. Yeah, I think my parents were too loose with us.

    My dad had to kill himself to get through school, never did finish and had to work his bottom off everyday to get ahead. I think he wanted us to enjoy a few years of study, travel, internships, etc. before we had to join the rat race. My two brothers and I are doing well. We each got to do great internships, travel with different groups, and live up a great variety of experiences that aided us in our next step in life. All on our parents dime.

    But I probably should of worked at least for my spending money. But my dad really wanted us to live free for a few years before having to head into the rat race.

  10. I found this post from CashMoneyLife’s Carnival post..

    I wanted to add to the discussion here because as a recent college graduate I felt like it was a big burden on me that my parents did not pay for my tuition.

    I always had to worry about student loans, work study, and paying off my loans so that interest doesn’t accrue. This took a lot of time away from my academic life because I had to work 15- 20 hours a week to come up with money that other students were receiving from their parents.

    All my friends whose parents did decide to pay for their tuition had better grades and more time to devote to studying. I felt like I could not focus on what I needed to focus on the most.

    I do agree that parents should not stress over paying for their kids tuition, but they should lend a helping hand to ease some stress. College is not an easy environment especially if you take it seriously. After high school, its a new system, new people, and that itself takes time getting used to. Help is always useful during the transition.

    1. It’s true Kevin, parents should try their best to help out in same manner. I just don’t agree in the concept of a “free ride.” I feel that if your parents provide you with a place to sleep and eat, that it will alleviate much of the stress of college. Unfortunately, many college students decide to move out of town, and sometimes, out of state. This is when parental help gets tricky. If parents have the money, they could help out with rent, books, or food. If the parents don’t have the money, then what can you do?

      Let me share you this story. We have extended relatives that decide to pay for ALL of the costs when their son went away to college. This includes; tuition, rent, books, eating, etc. In theory it gave the son more flexibility and more time to study. In reality, he developed lazy habits. He’s about to get his education debt free, but the parents are certainly not debt free. Now in their 50s they must worry with paying off debt. This means they can’t take extra vacation time, they can’t travel, they pretty much have very little breathing space in their monthly budget.

      It all really depends on the situation that the family is in. There is definitely no “one-size-fits-all” advice when it comes to paying for a college education.

  11. I’ve been discussing the benefits of a 529 with my wife for some time and we still haven’t come to any sort of formal agreement on what to do about our children.

    On one hand, my parents did not help either of us with college. I’ve worked since I was 15 and managed to squeeze jobs in around my classes to pay for my books and tuition while attending in two states. I feel proud of that fact; I feel like I achieved something. But I think part of the reason it worked out well for me is that I knew from the onset that my parent’s couldn’t afford to help me. I knew I had to either do it on my own or not do it at all.

    Putting myself in my child’s shoes, if I knew my parents were “stashing money” away for themselves instead of helping me get an education, I might be a little more sour about the situation. And I know a lot of spoiled rotten kids would feel the same way.

    In the end, it seems to me almost like the best thing to do would be to invest in ourselves, and keep any sort of investments under wraps from children/family; but even that brings a lot of mixed feelings from both of us. It seems awful sneaky, when it really needn’t be.

  12. I originally planned on joing army or going to work out of high school so I was content with having a B plus average most years. At end of grade 12 I decided that education was very important to me so I took a victory lap to improve marks and get accepted to a University I wanted to go to. I am going to University of Toronto next year but living at home because I decided residence woould be a waste of money (U of T $6000 a year, w/res $15000) I live 20 minutes awayfrom thge campus by transit, or 30 minute bike ride. I oroiginally believed that my parents were not going to pay for my education because I never talked with them about it so since 15 I have been storing away money. This year my parents told me they have can contribute about $12000 to my education and that they are trying to save more so that I will not have to pay. I want to pay for all of it but they insisted that they would try to pay for school fees (grad schooltextbooks, and residence, they said Id be on my own), I plan on moving out 3rd year. There is nothing wrong ith living at home during University. As for working in University, work keeps you discplined but it also can be demanding and tire you. As long as you realise that univesity is importaqnt because it wazs ytour choice, you should be fine. If your parents want to pay allow them to at least help. Believe it or not parents feel pride in helkping their children, Offer to at least cover some of their costs but if they have saved for your education and that was their plan let them help and follow the plan. Pay them back when your older if you feel guilty. I assume accepting or borrowing parents money is better than from a bank. Even if you live at home until 21 or 2 you won’t becom4 spoiled or lazy, but you will be in a better financial situation once you leave home and will not come crawling back home when its time for the debts to be paid becaue the debts will be minimal. I am also aware that schools in the U.S cost substantially more than in Canada. In Canada University for a B.A is between 4 and 7 grand a year, for tuition, and if you live oin res, add between 6-12 grand a year, as oppose to U.S.A where University is between 18 and 30 grand without residence fees

  13. My investment in my daughters’ college educations began well before high school but especially during their high school years. I invest my time, my commitment, my knowledge, and my parental authority. I encourag extra-curricular activity and community service volunteering (many scholarships weigh heavily on the volunteer hours and activities). I expect good grades because I know they are capable of making good grades. I expect both to work part- time and pay for their luxuries. One daughter just graduated from high school. Her hard work, studying, and determination have paid off. She will start her college career with 12 hours of college credit through classes she took in high school. She will attend a private school where for 4 years her tuition, room, and board will be paid for by merit scholarships and grants. The rest (gas/insurance for her car, salon visits, eating out, etc…) she will earn by working on campus part-time. Odds are she will graduate debt-free.
    Her younger sister is just beginning high school. She has her college goal in mind already. She’s already involved in extra-curricular activities and volunteers regularly in community service projects. She will start working part-time this fall.
    Will I help my daughters pay for college? I already have by giving them the tools to succeed before they graduate from high school. Will I make sure they don’t starve, always have gas money to come home and visit, and health insurance while they are attending college? Of course!
    Do I feel like parents should pay for a child’s entire college education? No. Entitlement thinking breeds dependency.
    That’s my 5 cents (inflation you know)

    1. I think it is great your girls have been so productive and lucky. My daughter worked her rear off in high school. She started working when she was 14 to pay for her own clothes, spending money, etc. She played varsity sports, was the president of FBLA, volunteered and was involved in other school activities. She graduated with a 3.94 while taking hard classes (honors, AP). She got $1000 from the school she is attending and $200 from her high school. That goes no where even close to covering her $17,000 state school costs. I don’t get it. She applied for over $300,000 in scholarships and got nothing. She is working part time coaching while in school now and has taken out the loans, we help with what we can.

      My husband does not believe in helping them much, I think we should help more. It’s not like they are lazy (we have two children in college). They are both working and getting good grades. My son lives at home and has been able to pretty much make it 3 years with out any debt. My daughter lives in the dorm because her college was 2 hours away…..I am thinking she will not be able to stay in school after this semester. It kills me to know we have worked so hard to get where we are at, raise our kids right and I am looking at her dropping out because of money issues. She is so motivated to get good grades, and wants to go to physical therapy school after she gets her bachelors. I hope what we are facing does not put out the flame she has inside.

      Bottom line, I think parents should help their children if they can and IF their kids are going because they want to be there. I believe teaching your kids to work hard in school won’t necessarily pay off. It seems like being poor does?

  14. A person is a legal adult by the age of 18. Furthermore, even children under 18 can get abortions and birth control and legally the treating physicians not only don’t have to tell the parents, but in most cases are prohibited by law from doing so.

    So why do parents have to pay for college?

    The answer is because it is a government scam to destroy the middle class. There is no reason for the costs of education right now. But the poor have many need-based scholarships available to them so it doesn’t matter to the parents, they won’t pay anything anyway. The rich could care less, it’s a drop in the bucket for them.

    For the middle class however, it is indeed a big deal. For an honest, tax paying, middle class income family college is absolutely crippling. So if you are a decent child, you’ll go to a state school and try to earn that money yourself, even if you can’t afford the full tuition and get help from parents, at least the costs are somewhat reasonable, especially if you’re commuting to a local state school. However, of course, these schools might not be the best ones you can get into, as in general the top schools are expensive privates, and the school name matters more than actually learning anything.

    What should happen is anyone that turns 18, regardless of their living arrangement, becomes independent and can take the loans in their name. For graduate students, this is how the system is set up, so they can take loans in their names without causing problems for parents.

    The reason why this isn’t done, is because the student loan cartel knows that, especially now, a college education for most people does not allow them a decent job in most cases, or in the current economic climate, any job. So rather than put themselves on the hook, as its’ supposed to be in a capitalist market, they want to socialize the losses and put it onto the taxpayer and the parents.

    A lot of things are political. Higher education and student loan lending are two of the most powerful lobbying groups and interests in the country. They are strangling the economy but since they both have such powerful media campaigns and political lobbyists/contributors, they are exempt from a lot of normal rules.

    I truly wish for things to be fixed. But for now, I suggest students go to lower ranked state schools or take full scholarships where possible at private schools, rather than take on loan debt. I think it’s an unfair burden on parents no matter what the case, but at least if the student goes to an IVY and maybe pays the parents back, that would be somewhat fair. I doubt most children ever pay their parents back, and in fact, in the US, children generally stick their parents into nursing homes rather than care for them too. Our society has a lot of problems right now that need to be fixed, and student loan lending is one area where it can start.

  15. My father refused to disclose his personal information for FAFSA forms. So, while I could have easily qualified for financial aid, I couldn’t get it because:

    1) Under the rules I couldn’t get independent status
    2) I was blocked from getting financial aid

    It was incredibly hard to pay for college coming out of high school. I think for parents that are not planning to contribute at all, they should at least allow kids to try and make it happen on their own. With my own children, I am saving enough to send them through a state university, but if they decide on a private college, they will have to find the difference through loans, grants, and scholarships. This way, they will have a good options for their undergrad, but still have to work for anything they desire beyond the option. If they do go on to post-grad, I would help them.

  16. Hey MD –
    I just want to share my side of the story.

    I was raised from a different country by my grandparents. My single mom eventually brought me to N.America when I turned 18; she has the same belief like you – kids should pay for their own education and support themselves when they turn 18.

    Though I did not agree with her thinking, I did not have a choice. I applied for student load and had worked part time while attending engineering at uni. Eventually, I lost steam due to time commitments at school and part time job…I had to drop out of school.

    Since I dropped out, I had to pay back my student loan (it took me a few years). At this time, I was already living on my own. The trauma of failing again had made me take the longer route – I went to tech school and now pursuing a degree (on top of working full time and supporting a young family). Yes, I am still 1 semester away from getting an undergraduate (taking it part time). By the time I reach my dream of completing uni, I will be in my mid 30s.

    While I did not expect my mother to pay for my education, what I wanted was acknowledgment that paying for my own education and supporting myself (including paying for rent) is a very tall order for a 1st gen immigrant. Looking back, it is amazing how a simple thinking about education can financially set back a person SIGNIFICANTLY. By no means I have deviated from my goal of getting post-secondary education but the circumstances and forces that are out of my hand seem to rob me of this dream.

    To close my point, I do not agree with you. I think parents should help with their kids education to the best they can. Whether they pay for 4 years, 1 year or just provide moral support, IT WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE. With proper parenting, kids will appreciate the value of money and the meaning of love.

    So to the folks out there who has read this up to this point, please consider what I just said because your kid could experience the same fate like me because of your thinking.

    Lastly, in the corporate world, how many successful executives out there got help from their parents to get them through post-secondary vs none?


  17. Actually teaching responsibility started with the boys when they were young. They had to pick up their toys before nap time. They were reminded once. If they did not do it then when they were taking their nap, I did it and put the toys in the basement. When they asked for their toys I said I guess mom and dad had given them toys they were not old enough for yet. If they were old enough for those toys then they would have taken care of them. I made them think about it. Was mom and dad wrong and gave us toys too young or was I bad. The responsiblity thing started with the boys very young. Even before they were one years old. As soon as they could walk they were taught they toys went into the toybox before nap time. Even in Jr high or high school when they did something they were not suppose to do they would call me at work from school to tell me about it. The boys did not get in trouble for doing wrong they would get in trouble for not telling us about it and then making a decision about how to make the wrong right. I told them every one makes wrong decisions in their life but you know when it was wrong and you do everything to make it right. Even in high school I never told them they could not go to a party. They made a decision and when they could not drive I took them. They always had a dime in their pocket to call if they needed to come home. Several times they would call if drugs or alcohol was used at the party. It was their decision to go or to participate not mine. Every privledge has a responsibility. In high school they had to have a 3.5 also but also had 4 point or close to it. If their grades were good then they could play football, basketball, tennis and golf which they both loved. Both boys are grown and responsible men. One is a doctor and one is a guitar player and is part owner of a recording business where they also write music. I don’t know how parents do when they both have to work full time.

  18. Hello all,
    I am about to make the big jump from a community college to a private school but I have reached that terrible fork in the road to a B.A., financing it. I have worked full time at a dental office and attended night classes to get through my A.A. My mother lost her job, as did my father, and both are struggling financially. My boyfriend and I actually moved in to their basement and pay $500.00/month and so they can keep their house. Due to my mother’s large incentive (she worked for this insurance company for 33 years) their taxes reflect an income that is about $60,000 less a year and since I am under 24 (22) and not married I must include my parents on my fafsa. I am only being offered a $2500 loan for night classes, which does not even cover 1/6 th of the cost of tuition, and am fully aware that there is no way for me to afford to pay the out of pocket cost for tuition. Working full-time and taking night classes has had a toll on me. If it was an extremely bad day at work/surgery went late or if I couldn’t afford the gas (its a 25 min commute), I skipped class. I have managed to keep a 3.4 g.p.a but I am scared about how well I will perform when I start at a university as opposed to a community college. How can I ask my parents to help when they are not able to help themselves? Where can I turn to get help or should I just forget about going after a B.A. and be satisified with my A.A.? I realize that this post is a little off topic but any ideas or suggestions would be much appreciated!

  19. Free rides easily defeat motivation. That’s for just about anything in life.
    My husband can attest to that, he started messing around in college and actually felt guilty about wasting his parent’s money and asked them to stop paying. It worked; he finished with his masters and a bit of debt which we paid off during our first year of marriage.

    We are very middle class, never a lot of money. I chose to work part time while my children were young therefore money wasn’t plentiful. Now that I work full time our income is too high for her to receive aid-we’re starting to save more heavily for retirement. Only 2,500.00 was saved for college. She is commuting to a nearby state university daily and lives at home and works 20 hours a week, more during the summer. We pay all of her expenses, car, cellphone, room and board, books, any school fees (not tuition) insurance, a monthly allowance for gas and food during the school year but she pays for personal expenses (fun,, etc) and most importantly, her tuition . This makes it easy, other than some personal money, she only has to concentrate on tuition. This is incentive for her to apply for scholarships, which she has, and has received some, and it keeps things simple. She easily earns a good portion of her tuition by working. The rest, scholarships have taken care of. We are fortunate to live near enough to a state university so she can live at home. Even though she needs a car to commute, it’s a great savings compared to living away from home.

    She’s just finishing her sophomore year, on the Provost (high honors) Dean’s list…again, and a great kid. My son will start college in a year, we plan on doing the same with him, he is fine with that. That means another car unfortunately, but it’s still a savings.

    The plan is for both of the kids not to be saddled with debt after school, or very little. If they both do a good job, work hard, and have debt….mom and dad may help relieve them of some or most of it. I’m just keeping that a secret for now,.

  20. I will refuse to pay my kids’ college bills because I will still be paying my own college loans. I don’t believe college is the one size fits all band-aid. My husband makes 50,000 a year as a handyman. He has no school debt! Meanwhile, I’m struggling to find a job as a teacher that pays 40,000 a year and I have $115,000 in student loans. So, is college really the right financial choice? I’d have to say not for everyone. If I had known that then, I would have at least taken a year after high school to figure my life out. Attending college “undecided” is a colossal mistake. Only people who have a chosen career know whether or not they need to attend college.
    I’d also like to add that my first year of college, I screwed up, but when I started footing the bill, I shaped up. I’m proud of the fact that I didn’t make my mom pay for my college because she doesn’t even have enough money to retire. I’d be angry if my children were selfish enough to dip into my retirement fund for their college.
    College is a career decision made by adults who should be responsible for the costs and not just the benefits.
    I can get married, have an abortion, vote, go to war, and smoke cigarettes at 18. Why shouldn’t I be responsible for both the benefits and costs of my career decision to attend college?

  21. I have a question to all you guys/girls who have paid/are paying for college on your own. What majors were you? I’m an engineering major and I would have a mental breakdown if I had to work my way through school. Of course, maybe I’m just not that smart. My tuition/books are covered through loans/scholarships, but I get help from my dad for living expenses(I live at home). The only work I do is research which doesn’t pay that much.

    I’ve known a few engineering students who tried to work their way through school, but ended up withdrawing or having to change majors because it was too much. Were any hardcore science majors/engineers able to tough it out?

  22. I could not disagree with this article more. 30 years ago, you could “work your way through college” without incurring debt, but those days are over. Tuition has gone up exponentially and salaries have stagnated. Parents DO have an obligation to help their children get launched into adulthood. If you care more about retiring 5 years earlier than sparing your children 20 years of slavery to Sallie Mae, then you shouldn’t have had kids. It isn’t your children’s fault that you didn’t plan better. I just can’t believe how selfish some parents are. My son got straight A’s all through high school and received a lot of scholarship money. He does work study as well, but it was still necessary for me to get a second job so that he can graduate without owing anything, and I am happy to do it. I would do anything for my child. That’s called LOVE.

    1. Karen,
      So how would you handle 2 boys who care little about their education in H.S., one was told he needed to take a second year of a foriegn language to recieve the Arkansas academic challange scholarship of $1,000, he said he didn’t care about that money cause there was no way he was taking another year of any other language! They both have been on and off of academic probation because of GPA’s less than 2.0, and the frequently register for 12 hours and drop to 9 to keep from failing more classes (driving up the cost). Part of their problem is that they still don’t have to pay for this until they are out of school. It’s not real money to some kids until they are forced to pay it themselves. They’ve been offered a bedroom, food in the fridge, and a choice of 4 colleges within 25 miles. They find that un-acceptable, it takes away the college experience! Both have about $50k in student loans! Making them be responsible for their own poor decisions. That’s called love too.

      1. Ron, it sounds like your situation is different from mine. My son spent many hours during his senior year applying for scholarships. He took the ACT several times so he could get his score up and qualify form merit-based scholarships. He got into Cornell, and with our mediocre family income, our expected family contribution was fairly reasonable, although I still had to take a second job to prevent him taking out student loans. If my son had had a 2.0 GPA and no work ethic, I definitely would have suggested that he live at home and attend state U.

  23. Karen- kudos to you for thinking of your son’s future and helping him finish his education. I am on the other end of your example. I started with a 2 year diploma and paid my way to finish a degree (I’m almost 35 and just a few days away from completing my last course). It did not help that I’m an immigrant and English is not my first language. As a result, it took me 18 years to get to where I am now.

  24. I think kids should pay for their own college bills, My husband and I raised 3 children and paid for all 3 of them to start college. They all 3 flunked out the first or second year. It was a big waste! We paid out alot of $ which we should have used toward our retirement. Only one child finished many years later in her 30’s with a BS degree, which she did on her own with her fiancee. She thought we should pay for her school, but she flunked many classes before she finally buckled down and finished with their $. I also think kids should get a job from 15-16 years on and save at least 25% toward for school after high school. It isn’t a parents responcibility to pay for their education after high school. Only to be taught $ doesn’t grow on trees and you have to earn what you get in life for material things.

  25. My parents paid for my college all 4 years because they didn’t want me to be in the same position as them (still paying off loans 20+ yrs later). Even when my dad lost his job and I had to get a loan, they are paying my loan back (7,000 for 2 semesters is not bad). However, they checked my grades and my bank statements, and I had to get a job after my first year. I don’t know where I would be if my parent didn’t pay for school because almost a year later and I just got my first full time job. I’ve been working a job that does nothing with my degree (which is a BS in conservation biology). I believe that the should parents pay for college depends on the family and it’s not a “one size fits all” like someone mentions earlier.

    Please excuse any misspelled words as I am on my phone

  26. I agree parents shouldn’t pay for all of college but help if they can and let the student take out their own loans. My husband cosigned a ridiculous amount of loans for my oldest after he flunked half of his first year. I asked him not too. Now he says my son doesn’t make enough money the pay HIS own student loans. I told my husband to go get a 2nd job! My son didn’t even use any of his summer earnings toward school and my husband took out loans for personal expenses, travel expenses and books! My son never even came home and I should get the travel expenses since I drove up there! This is so illogical. He didn’t even use the 529 set aside for college! This was all on advice he got from Michigan College Funding! Mr. Rick Leidel and Bob Hoger. Avoid College Funding companies at all costs. They have cost me tons of money and jeopardized my retirement and my home be recomending equity loans! My husband even took out loans for my sons summer rent that my son could have paid with his summer job! My idea was to start out at community college and then move on or for my son took take out his own loans in his own name and if I choose to pay on them I will. Now I don’t know when I will be able to get my husbands name off these loans. We even took out life insurance in case my son dies till they’re out of his name!

  27. Since I was one of 7 children, I knew there was no way my parents could afford to finance a full college education for any of us. I worked from the time I was 10 to save money for college and was able to afford to pay nearly all the costs of living as well as tuition for my undergrad degree. I even earned a partial and a full scholarship for years 3 and 4 respectively. However, my mother demanded I come home at every school break and holiday, resulting in over $3000 in travel costs that my parents paid for. Fast forward 5 years later as I was preparing to enter grad school with again, tuition all saved up, when my mother, out of the blue, demanded I pay her back for any and all financial assistance she and my dad had provided for the first degree. I argued to no avail, and finally sent of a check for $3500, feeling bullied and extorted. Needless to say it destroyed any semblance of a relationship I had with her. My advice, if you bring a kid into the world, their education and associated costs are YOUR responsiblity. If you want a care-free retirement, DON’T HAVE CHILDREN!

  28. I see a lot of comments from parents with children that failed classes. Yes that happens in college. You don’t pass every class the first year yet that doesn’t mean you won’t.

    I was fully financially supported and it helped me so much. I graduated with a comp sci degree. I see a lot of people think their children should get into Harvard or Cornell. Well some of us are just not that smart, at least not in the way we ‘should’ be. I am a very smart person but it took me a little while to figure out how to study which is something most children do not know how to do. They think they are dumb or can’t pass. It is simply because no one has taught them how to study.

    I think it is a parent’s duty to support their child’s education. If your child is going to waste that money (on purpose, not because they are struggling) then you have not raised them correctly. So many children grow up wrong. They have so many problems because they are left to fend for themselves and never taught any morals. They see their parents behave irresponsibly and somehow when they are all grown people expect them to be perfect.

    I know many smart, very intelligent adults that make good money because their parents supported them financially and they were able to come out of college with good, useful degrees.

    I may come off like an ass but I see so many selfish comments. One lady said she would feel her children are selfish if they dipped into her retirement fund? (Well there are loans college kids can take out) Why did you have them then? It is selfish to just pop out kids for your own selfish desires and then throw them out in the cold at the age of 18. At 18 I didn’t know anything. That doesn’t mean you don’t teach kids independence but making them collect debt when you can avoid it is selfish.

  29. I believe you should pay for your kids education only if you can afford it and they know their options. One of my kids decided he did not want to go to college and went to a trade school. He is doing great in life and has never been unemployed.

  30. My parents split my education costs in half – they paid half, and I took out loans for the other half, so I’m still paying. However, they didn’t have they retirement taken care of and now my mom has actually moved in with me. If I could do it again, I would have went to community college for a few years first to save up money, then maybe go to a cheaper school and pay for it all myself.

    But I agree with many of the comments above – as long as parents have their retirement squared away, then go on and help!

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