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I can speak only from my own experience. We weren’t affluent, but my parents were able to pay for my college. I paid for my own pizza and leisure activities. I didn’t feel a sense of entitlement. I worked hard. Each family has to do what works for it. If a family perceives there will be a sense of entitlement and wishes for its children to have some skin in the game, then paying for part of college might be a reasonable approach, even if it’s a very small fraction of the overall cost.
If kids take college seriously, no. It is a silly generalization that wealthy kids don’t do well because everything is handed to them. I say this as the second generation in my family to have college fully paid for. My parents worked hard and I’ve worked hard. We paid for our kids to go to college. I think that the cost now is way over-inflated, but both kids learned a lot, made many friends and contacts, and have brand name degrees.
The brand name issue, however, is a serious one. My wife worked full-time through a state school and probably got a better education than I did at a brand name school.
Also, with the current differential between typically hourly pay and college tuition, what she did then is probably not possible now.
I look at the question a different way; what schools are worth paying for and what diploma credentials are you buying? I say that A grades at a lower cost school are worth more than Bs or Cs anyplace else except maybe Stanford or Yale. Junior Phi Bet may open doors. Not everybody can achieve this, but working for this without distraction of an hourly job is more important than making a point of work.
I have to add a coda based on a discussion I just had with my wife.
In addition to a full schedule of classes that allowed her to graduate early, one of our kids worked unpaid in a university biomedical research lab during the school year and one summer in a lab at a different university. She learned a lot and got paper authorships in two different fields. There is no way she could have done this if she had to work for $ in addition. The point is that embracing privilege can provide true opportunity.
My belief was that paying for my kid’s college education was my parental duty. My daughters both worked a bit during college for spending money, savings, and because they like the opportunity, but not to pay for school. They still learned the value of money, and came out of college debt-free and with savings to give them some financial momentum into the next chapter of their lives.
I’m not affluent but was able to pay 85% of my son’s college costs including housing and food. He borrowed $5k a year as I thought it would help with my cash flow thinking I would pay the balance at the end of his four years. A friend said that he should pay it thinking my son would learn a valuable life lesson. As someone who worked full time during school, I was adamant against my son’s intentions of working part time during school instead to focus on studies and fun.
My son thought it was fair to pay the loan so he lived with us a year and paid it off before starting his independent life. In hindsight, it was a gift to him as he values money. He is living his dream in NYC and flourishing. I can’t say it’s because he paid off this loan but I want to believe it played a role.
There is some research suggesting that part-time work can be good for college students, as it forces them to manage their time and appreciate the value of a dollar. However, there seems to be a tipping point, say beyond 15-20 hours a week, where it can diminish their ability to succeed in their studies, let alone enjoy other parts of life.
A young man of my acquaintance had parents who were well off enough to pay for his college expenses, but they insisted he work at least 30 hours a week at minimum wage jobs (like dishwashing in the dining commons, working at a pizza place, etc.). They also insisted he always take a full load of five classes. (Then they’d complain that he never came home for the weekend to visit!) He was a good but not brilliant student, and he got exhausted, overwhelmed, and discouraged. He ended up flunking out by his junior year. He went to work full-time at a hotel, regrouped and started taking classes part-time at the local junior college so that he could get his GPA up and get readmitted to the university. He finally did and is now finally trying to complete his degree—nine years after he first went off as a freshman. The parents were trying to teach him responsibility and to have a good work ethic, but it was a lot of wear and tear that ultimately made no one happy.
I taught personal finance for two semesters at a small college. The students were typically taking five classes a week, each run as a single three-hour session, so they would be better able to hold down a job. Many were working 40 hours a week. That meant that, between classes and earning money, they were putting in 55 hours, plus commuting time. The unsurprising result: Homework didn’t get done. I even had one kid, who worked nights at a gas station, fall asleep in class. All in all, this didn’t exactly make for an ideal learning environment.
No. We paid for our four children. However they all worked on campus and full time during summers to pay for incidentals, books, etc.
I agree with Quinn, a good balance of work vs. school. The parents in the article took it a but to far with the 30hr requirement. The major is also a factor, as some majors are clearly more difficult then others. Student’s abilities as well.
We, my wife and I, were able to pay for both of our kids to go to college. We paid all of their tuition, books, fees and provided a set amount each semester for them to live on. We made it clear that since we were paying them to go to school that they in fact work for us and that the performance standard was a B or better in every class. We did not pay for substandard performance and the tuition spent on any class where this standard was not reached, they would have to refund. A running tab was kept, and payments were collected from summer jobs and after they graduated until it was paid off.
What they didn’t know was that we had opened a Roth IRA for them and deposited all of these payments into their Roth IRA. A year or so after they had paid off their college debt, we revealed the accounts to them with the hope that they would be the seed to a lifetime habit of saving.
Yes they should
From our first 529 contribution in 1997 through our last tuition payment in 2021, the plan was to give our kids a “hand up” instead of handout. They’ve worked P/T jobs, earned some merit scholarships, and paid roughly 10% of their annual tuition costs (plus the cost of books) for state universities. Funds left over in their 529 accounts post-graduation are now invested more aggressively with an eye toward long-term growth. Should our kids have children of their own, this will provide some seed corn funds for helping the next generation with a “hand-up” on education costs as well.
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.