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It’s important kids pay some of their college costs. It’s an invaluable learning opportunity at a young age. It can reap tremendous benefits via developing good financial habits early in life.
A word of warning though–it’s a bad idea to strive to maximize working hours at a minimum wage job at the expense of studying. I fell into this trap a little bit in college. I viewed working at Publix as a game as I tried to do as many hours as possible. Looking back, I would have been better served being more involved in college (be that studying or having a better social life). Although I was sure to acquire internships during my final 2 years of undergrad.
The state of CA paid for most of my undergrad, and I paid most of the rest. My parents paid $2700. I swore I wouldn’t pay for my kids undergrad because I saw those kids as lazy and entitled. Plus, I was jealous. Then I met my wife who’s parents paid all of her’s, except sorority, and she is the hardest-working person I know. For our kids, we paid everything (except sorority/frat costs) as long as they kept a 3.0 GPA, graduated in 4 years, and studied something other than liberal arts. All 4 were very successful in college.
That’s not going to be our approach, but I’m a firm believer that people can do whatever they want with their money. I didn’t have wealthy parents so I have no firsthand experience.
We have four kids and, with the help of regular saving in custodial accounts and then 529 accounts when they became available, put them all through college so that they graduated with no debt. They’ve appreciated that, especially once they got out in the world and encountered more and more friends and acquaintances still burdened by student loans.
That said, we were pretty strict with them as far as budgets while they were in school, and encouraged them to work during summers and sometimes during the school year to add additional funds.
Three of our kids attended the University of Texas and paid in state tuition, When they graduated, they had some college money left over, as UT is both a fine school and a real bargain for residents. Our fourth child attended USC, which is also a great school but private and expensive. When he graduated, there was very little left over!
I think any way parents can get their kids to weigh money trade-offs or appreciate that there is no free ride is worth it. It doesn’t mean to burden or guilt their child (my father’s mantra was that as long as I was preparing for life, he would help), but the student needs to be aware that money is not an endless supply. Even setting a monthly budget for the student and making them stick with it helps give a real-world financial education while in the ivory tower. When I went to college, my father got copies of my checks (remember those things?) and when I came home reviewed them with me. He also asked me what was this place called Domino’s that I was writing so many checks to (he jokingly asked if, by the name, it was a strip club!).
I love the phrase “as long as I was preparing for life, he would help”. I’ve never seen it put that way – it’s simple and powerful all at once.