This topic was requested by a reader who wanted to see reasons why a parent might choose not to pay for their child’s post-secondary education. This article intentionally provides only one side of a complex issue; please, do your own thinking and research before deciding whether to pay for your child’s education or not.
You’re being a good parent, right? You’ve started your child’s 529 savings plan already and you’re planning to invest in it continuously until your child heads off to school. You’re prepared for the inevitable cost of your child’s education, and you’re going to do what’s best for your child. Right?
Not necessarily. The fact of the matter is that paying for your child’s education carries with it some lessons that you might not want your child to learn, plus it may actually increase their financial burden over the long run. Let’s take a serious look at the flaws in this new cultural assumption.
College is not a requirement, no matter what university marketing departments want you to think. Many people simply assume that a college degree is the only way to succeed in American life, and thus you must go to college if you wish to get ahead. That statement simply isn’t true. Many entrepreneurs never attend or never finish college, and there is always a high demand for tradespeople such as plumbers and electricians (who can both earn a lot of money – especially considering they can get started very young and are never saddled with financial burdens). If you have a child that has never shown him or herself to be a strong student, instructing that person to go to college immediately after high school may in fact be a severe detriment to their future.
Paying for your own education teaches responsibility. Handling the process of finding your own financial aid resources is an experience that will bring out responsibility and maturity in those who contain it. Individuals who can guide themselves through this process quite quickly learn how important it is to be responsible for your own actions and your own academics.
Paying for your own education gives it value that getting it for free won’t instill. If you pay for it yourself, you are confronted with real bills with real dollar amounts that affect your bottom line. Connecting a person’s education directly to that person’s bottom line makes it very clear very quickly how valuable education is – and how wasting time while at university is a major waste, indeed.
If parents pay for education, it increases their own financial hardships. Even if you plan carefully to pay for your child’s education, that’s still money you could invest in your 401(k) or in a better home instead. Instead, that cash is going out the door to fund an education that may not be as valuable as you’ve been led to believe – and may not even be worthwhile if your child isn’t a dedicated student.
Given these factors, it is quite clear that not automatically paying for your child’s education is a path with some clear merit. Is it the correct path for you? That’s up to you to decide.