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Do parents have an obligation to pay part or all of their children’s college costs?

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Newsboy
Newsboy
9 days ago

Our family subscribes to the idea that college / vocational training costs beyond HS should be considered as a “hand up” – not a hand-out. A parental “safety net”, if you will, but not a hammock to lay in for 4 years while our child attends State U. Things that come free we tend to take for granted and place little emotional importance in during the tough times that are bound to occur during one’s post-HS education journey.

Each of our kids had a contract of sorts with my wife and I. It was reviewed each year during HS. We agreed to a 70/30 plan if they attended a quality state-subsidized public university or community college, with any merit or scholarship money they earned being used to offset their 30% cost obligation. The would work summer jobs during HS and while in college to pay the rest. The same approach was used for private colleges, but it was a 60/40 split. The private school tuition being generally higher would mean that our child would need take on some college loan debt.

My older son went the state school route, while his younger sister went to a private college (indeed – she is graduating this very day). Her private college tuition was greatly reduced by her negotiating some added scholarship money after a stellar first year on campus. She graduates debt free (like her brother at State U) as a result of her hard work and her ability to negotiate. I’m confident that this would not have been the result had we indicated early on that we’d be willing pay her full cost of college. Necessity is the mother of invention!

Admittedly, I’m not sure our approach was the best one – but the early results for both kids seem favorable.

Last edited 9 days ago by Newsboy
Tony Schmitt
Tony Schmitt
2 months ago

This is an interesting question with many facets. It is not solely a parents’ obligation to pay for their children’s higher education. Parents need to make sure that they are taking care of saving for their retirement first before sacrificing for their children’s college education. I have a friend who is working into his 70s because of that. Higher education is somewhat overrated. First, it could be done in less time than 4 years. Second, easy loans have permitted the schools to jack up their costs ridiculously. Third, many parents give their children carte blanche on what school they want to go to. A 17 or 18 year old is incapable of making a $300,000 decision. They need guidance like they do at every stage of life. I am helping my daughter in law work through her college debt and she is not making enough money on her own to do it. Let that sink in. Unless you’re making investment banker money, you need to educate your child and set boundaries. This is one of the most teachable moments as your child becomes an adult.

Terry the Flyboy
Terry the Flyboy
2 months ago

Absolutely. I made the decision to bring my kids into the world. At that moment I unknowingly made the decision to aid and abet their success in every way I could, be that a college education, a trade school, or other developmental arena to advance their career plan.
That said, my assistance – financial or otherwise – is dependent on their responsibility and willingness to work toward their goal. If their grades suffer or they show clear signs of floundering in school, I seriously reconsider the nature and amount of my support. We would have to have that “serious talk.”
The key to making them responsible, contributing citizens is our partnership. This has proven true for both my adult kids, now very successful in their chosen fields of endeavor. I understand life is not always this simple, but the partnership approach has worked in our family for several decades.

Lehman Brown
Lehman Brown
2 months ago

I don’t think it’s an obligation. I think parents have to be self-sufficient first. If they are, if children have proved to be a candidate for college, I’d say a 2-year state college is a Worthey cause for parents help in financing.

Ginger Williams
Ginger Williams
10 months ago

Parents have an obligation to help their children become self-supporting adults. That may include helping seek a part-time job as a teenager to develop responsibility, encouraging them to assess their aptitudes and preferences honestly so they can decide what career preparation is appropriate, filling out financial aid forms, or helping pay for college. Some well-paid trades are not best learned in college. Parents should try to set aside funds to help their children get started in self-supporting adult life, but college may not be the best path for a child. Parents should not jeopardize their own financial security to fully fund college, because that results in financial stress for their children later.

Richard Gore
Richard Gore
10 months ago

I would say so. I can’t imagine anyone reading these pages not having the financial wherewithal to do so and in today’s world college is essential for almost everyone.

Will
Will
2 months ago
Reply to  Richard Gore

I disagree on both points. As to the latter, I have found many jobs that are rewarding, pay enough, and “require” a college degree. I was a Paramedic until I retired; very rewarding job. It gave me a pension (non-COLA, dammit) and a great education in healthcare that I use as I get older. Before that, I was a carpenter. No pension, moderate income, but a great education in home-building—which I used to build our home on my off-days as a Paramedic. Then I became an RN. That required nursing school (grrrr) but not a BS. It was more rewarding financially but less so personally.
Many self-employed people have no degree. Ask them if they would do it differently.

Tony Schmitt
Tony Schmitt
2 months ago
Reply to  Will

Will – Totally agree with you. College education is not at all essential to every job. Over the last 40 years, it’s become a filter to hire or not hire. As a country, we have done a poor job of preparing people for the jobs that need to be filled. My plumber is retiring and he says that no one is apprenticing for these jobs. That is happening in many areas like that. Next time, you get a clog, try calling an investment banker to clear it.

R Quinn
R Quinn
10 months ago

No doubt there is a wide range of opinion on this. I’ve heard people say once the kids graduate from high school they are done, kids are on their own.

Based on my experience growing up with never a mention of college and later getting a degree at night after nine years while we raised four children, I do see it as part of the parents responsibility to the extent financially possible which also means not at the expense of their own retirement security.

However, that doesn’t mean a blank check to any school for however long it takes. And I also think parents should be actively involved in the application for aid process which is complicated and probably beyond the skills of most 18 year olds.

Newsboy
Newsboy
9 days ago
Reply to  R Quinn

Same here, Dick – 9 years of part-time community college / night school – self-funded while raising a family and running a business. My parents had 12 children, so funding education for all of us beyond HS was handled with ad hoc “supplements” from them when one of us would would came up a bit short on cost for books, etc (and they provided free room, board and laundry service if we went to a local college).

Not sure I embraced their approach at the time, but it did make me more resilient and self-determined. Added bonus: the culture of attending night school was different – most of my classmates WANTED to be there and had a mission to get it done. The “cohort effect” of being surrounded by motivated adult learners was a great influence in keeping me moving forward to eventually completing my degree.

Last edited 9 days ago by Newsboy

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