Updated on 11.05.07

Should I Eliminate Financial Support For My Child After High School?

Trent Hamm

This week, The Simple Dollar attempts to address challenging questions in personal finance by looking at both sides of the story and figuring out some of the factors you need to look at to make a decision.

For many parents, it’s a given that they’ll save for their child’s college education, and they consider it almost negligent that you wouldn’t help your child with college and perhaps with their life afterward. On the other hand, other parents believe strongly in the philosophy of complete independence after high school, allowing their children to forge their own path with minimal or no support.

Which is right? Let’s look at both sides in a bit more detail.

The Argument For Support

College is a major financial burden for anyone. With incredibly high tuition costs, most students that get a post-secondary education will incur some level of debt – I know that my wife and I have, even after our scholarship support.

A parent’s responsibility is to help their child develop into a functional adult, and part of that responsibility is ensuring that they get a strong education. Sixty years ago, that might have been just getting them into high school, but today’s world is much different and for most students, college is a part of their education cycle.

Furthermore, it’s much more difficult to simply walk out of school and right into a job that you’re going to have your whole life. The average person today has eight jobs before they turn thirty two. That’s not stable, no matter how you cut it, and without a solid and consistent income, it’s incredibly hard to get a foothold.

The idea of cutting off your child at eighteen is completely outdated in the modern world. That philosophy does not reflect today’s challenges and leaves your child hung out to dry in a highly competitive world where no one is going to provide that great job right out of school that the parents of these young people might have had.

The Argument Against Support

In today’s world, independent and intelligent young people are the lifeblood of society. Resourcefulness and leadership skills are what makes a person a success in life, and holding your child’s hand all the way along does not build those skills – in fact, it stunts them.

If you have raised your child with the ability to solve problems and think for him/herself, then the challenge of figuring out how to pay for college (if that’s the choice he or she makes) and how to make a success for him or herself in life is one that your child can tackle on his or her own. The greatest tools you can give a child are the ability to reason and solve problems – and financial support just gives an easy solution to life’s challenges.

Furthermore, planning for that support requires that you take away resources that can help them develop today. Instead of socking money into that 529, you could send your child to an enriching summer camp, provide them spending money while they explore their interests in high school, and perhaps even pay for their tuition at a private school. This will give them the foundation to springboard to their dreams, not holding their hand until they approach thirty.

Giving your child a crutch through the early stages of adulthood does not teach them how to walk without that crutch. If you truly want your child to be able to stand up and walk on his or her own two feet after high school, then the time to invest in the child is well before then. Don’t wait around and invest in a college education – give your child the background and tools to succeed as early as you can.

My Take

I have 529 plans for both my daughter and my son that I fund every month. I fully intend for them to go to college, and I don’t want them to be burdened with the level of student loans that I’ve had to face. While I do feel that facing college without someone paying my tuition (just scholarships and student loans) taught me a lot, I don’t necessarily think that the burden was a good deal, overall.

However, if a great opportunity for their growth came along, I’d gladly stop funding the 529 and instead pay for that opportunity if I couldn’t pay for it out of pocket. I would far rather capitalize on a great opportunity in their high school years than contribute $500 or $1,000 to their college fund.

What’s your take?

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  1. Danika says:

    Personally, I’m glad that my parents did not pay for my private college education. It forced me to decide if it was something I really wanted to do, or if I was just doing it for them. In classes where I got less than stellar grades, I did not have to answer to them, but to myself, and questions why I paid so much money for a class I did not care about. This process taught me to find my true passions, and I followed that path to a job I truly enjoy.

    At the same time, my parents did contribute in other ways. They would send me 50-100 dollars a month to buy grocieres, and they would buy me a tank of gas anytime I went home to visit.

    Now, 4 years after graduation, I am still sitting on more than 30K of student loan debt. But, if I had to do it again, I would not want them to pay for it, but I may have gone to a cheaper school.

  2. mgroves says:

    I agree with Danika. Having to pay for my own schooling, I appreciate classes and I have more incentive to do well.

    That being said, my parents provided me with room & board through school as well as a lot of other things (gas, insurance, etc), so long as I was going to school and doing well.

    I don’t think it’s a *bad* thing to pay for college, but I do think if you’re going to save, make sure that if the child doesn’t want to go to college, that money can be used elsewhere.

  3. Ashley says:

    I’ve been paying for most of mine alone and sometimes it’s hard to focus on school stuff when you have mounds of debt piling up and no one will give you scholarships either.

    But I still don’t think parents should pay the whole way to college. If they can afford to help out in some way – maybe books or room and board that would be good. I think there is something to be learned just from the whole process of paying for school yourself.

  4. Chef says:

    I didn’t have to pay for any of my college and in fact received the leftovers from my college fund upon graduation (There was still money left in it because of an almost full ride). During my freshmen year, I didn’t really apply myself, possibly in part because I didn’t have any of my own money at stake. However, I feel that I have a significant advantage over peers to graduate without any debts and to capitalize on the time value of money by saving from age 22.

  5. Rachel says:

    This is something we are dealing with. We have two adult children. Both went to community college for a couple of years, then son got married and just had a set of twins. That is in addition to a two year old. He is 26 and has already filed bankruptcy. His job does not pay all that well, but he keeps saying he will move up in the company. I don’t see any evidence of that happening. They live in a small home that my mother owns, and I recently found out from my dil that they pay no rent. I know that my mother does not own the house outright, so she is paying the mortgage on it. I also know that she pays their water, cable and a cell phone bill each month. I don’t mind buying some diapers for my grandchildren, and since I shop the sales and stock up on food with coupons I use, I give them whatever I have extra of. But I am not going to pay their bills! I am almost to the point of being sick over this situation. I hate to see a situation where people care no more about others than to take and take. I keep asking myself what I could have done differently with this child. But I don’t know. Our daughter is a little free with her money but is a very hard worker. Our 14 year old is very frugal, and did not even want new school shoes and clothes this year! They were all raised the same. What happened?

  6. leslie says:

    My husband and I are having this debate right now. He mostly paid for his own schooling and came out with debt. My parents paid for my school and I came out debt free. And, believe me, when I got my first rather low paying job out of college I was very thankful that I was debt free. My husband acts like school debt is no big deal but I don’t think he has a full picture of how debt can affect ones choices after college. For one, he had a considerably higher paying job than most recent college grads (admittedly because he chose his major wisely but it was also something he loves). And, a couple of years after graduating, he received a moderate inheritance that paid off his debt in full so he did not have years of debt hanging over his head like others did.

    We have 529’s for both our kids that my parents generously donated to when the kids were born. We put money in when we can but put a higher priority on saving for retirement (and we can’t do both right now). At the least we will have a siginificant amount of money to help them out with college though.

    I would like to take my parents approach to funding my college with my kids. I was told from a very early age that my parents would pay for me to go to any PUBLIC school in the country for 4 YEARS. If I wanted to go to a private school then the difference was up to me to figure out and if it took me longer than 4 years then the same rule applied. I ended up going to a public university 800 miles from home and finishing in 4 years despite changing majors and considering changing again in my senior year. I knew what a good deal I had and I was going to make decisions that allowed me to work that good deal.

    It was also always made clear to me that once I was out of college I was on my own financially. Now, the reality is that my parents did not cut me off entirely on graduation day but that was because I never expected them to fund me. I knew that whatever help I got was not guaranteed and that if I started expecting it then it would most likely disappear. I was on my own two feet entirely within a few months and have never had to ask my parents for financial help since.

    I don’t think it comes down to if your parents (or grandparents, or rich uncle etc.) pay for college that creates independence. There are all sorts of other issues that go along with that. I think it is possible to help keep your kids out of what could be crushing debt without creating dependence and expectations. My parents made it work with my sister and I.

  7. Kat says:

    My family is split. I can tell you exactly how much money I have borrowed from my parents since going to college. $1730. $30 my freshman year for a plot, $200 for a deposit on my first apartment and $1500 for my quarterly taxes. All of which has been paid back. My parents did pay for my medical stuff up until I graduated.
    My sister on the other hand has had her car paid for, her insurance, her cellphone, her plane tickets, her books, her clothes, part of her rent and some food the entire time she has been in school.
    They have paid nothing towards our actual schooling. They did help us find some local scholarships.
    The difference in how we handle money is amazing. She buys whatever she wants whenever because she knows my parents will cover her or just pay for anything. I weigh my purchases and don’t spend much on extra things. I am also the freer one because I have no one, but myself to answer to.

  8. Fecundity says:

    Interesting arguments on both sides.
    My parents helped fund my education, leaving me with a very small student loan. My husband’s parents couldn’t afford to help, and consequently his loan is a whopper.
    I think my own stance is a middle road. I know I appreciated my education more after I started paying for it myself, and I learned a lot about controlling my finances as a result. But not helping at all due to priniples, poverty or a lack of foresight leaves your child with a tremendous burden that can cripple them financially for years. I’d advocate helping them, but not paying for everything.
    Maybe, as Ashley said above, paying for room and board only is a good idea, or, if they want to go to a private school, cover what a public one would cost and let them determine if it’s worth the difference to them to attend the pricier school.
    Once my child is born I have every intention of opening an education fund for them, but I doubt I’ll pay for their whole way.

  9. Laura says:

    As a college student, it’s always infuriating to see how many people squander their education. I think part of the problem is that it’s hard to see the value if you’re receiving it completely free.

    I have been lucky enough to have my tuition, room, and board for an out-of-state public school paid for by my parents. But since the time I started babysitting I was taught to save my own money for college, especially for things like books, supplies, and a car that M&D don’t cover. I also earned a merit scholarship that paid the difference between the in-state schools my parents saved for and the out-of-state college of my dreams.

    I think this system worked well for me. I’m going to be graduating in the spring with no debt (yay!), but I’ve always had an appreciation for what my education cost, especially since some of it came out of my own pocket.

  10. Jen says:

    There’s definitely something to be said for both approaches. I was lucky enough to win a full 4-year scholarship, so I got the best of both worlds. Because the money wasn’t coming from my parents I felt free to take the major I wanted (theatre/acting) without worrying about wasting their hard-earned cash on a degree that, from a financial standpoint, is a horrible investment. At the same time, I am exceedingly grateful that I was able to graduate from college completely debt-free. Thanks to that and a reliable day job (for a few more years, at least), I have been able to start off on firm financial ground, which will make turning pro (hopefully, someday) much easier. Had I not been given this opportunity, I think the best situation for me would have been to pay for my own tuition, books and fees with room and board paid for by my parents only while I was in school.

    Now that I’ve graduated, however, I absolutely would not ask for help from my family unless some sort of disaster should occur (tornado, fire, cancer, etc.).

  11. Writers Coin says:

    I had everything paid for, including grad school. Even spending money. Since I was 17 and was completely ignorant of everything, I’m glad my parents nudged me in the right direction and encouraged me to go to college. I came out with no debt and was allowed the time and freedom to explore my interests without thinking solely about the bottom line.

  12. lana says:

    I am forever thankful that my parents paid for my education. I went to a very expensive private college that I would never have been to afford on my own; taking out $120,000 of loans would have been irresponsible based on my “calling.” Had I chosen to go a state university and pay my own way I would have certainly made the most of it, but I could never have gotten the same experience that I had at my college–very small class size, quality interactions with professors, and the contributions from peers that I think tend to lack at public universities where so many students simply don’t care about their education and don’t make meaningful contributions in class. My parents provided me with a most incredible gift by funding my education.

    I think if you have raised your children well, taught them early how to budget and live frugally they will turn out well whether you fund their education or not. I have had no problem supporting myself after college, never expected handouts from my parents after I left home, have never been in credit card debt, and did not live at home after graduating. I always worked (close to full time) through school, which enabled me to graduate with money saved for my future. The college I went to has played a huge role in my life–my development and self discovery while there, amazing job opportunities (the “name brand” aspect and my achievements while at the school definitely contributed to the job I work at now), and the incredible alumni networking I can do now for the rest of my life are huge benefits. I don’t think every parent needs to foot the entire bill for an education, but I have a true advantage over many of my peers now and I am on sound financial footing because I didn’t go into massive debt to finance my schooling; the return on the investment for a potentially happier and more comfortable life is so worth it for your children.

  13. guinness416 says:

    I think you’re on track with the completely outdated comment. University in N.America costs a helluva lot more than it did ten, twenty, thirty years ago and is ever rising. And you’re right, a degree does not guarantee good employment. Saying “we’re not supporting litle Johnny through college” is fine, but you have to be honest that little Johnny may end up starting out life with crippling loans, or may take far longer than optimal to finish that degree. I honestly have trouble with 40- and 50-somethings saying “I did it myself, pull your socks up” because the implications were very different in their day. I know people whose college loans are dictating their choices throughout their twenties and beyond, which to me is quite sad. And ultimately I can never get away from the fact that we’re talking about teenagers here – sure, they may be the smartest kids in the world, but it’s really really tough at that age to understand how you’re decisions will affect you down the line.

    And as ever with personal finance, nothing has to be black and white. One could provide room and board, but leave fees to the kid, or vice versa, or fund a percentage of tuition however small, or a million other options.

    (Full disclosure – I was expected to support myself after high school, and did, but there are no university fees in my native country).

  14. Dawn says:

    I was a landlord for 25 years to college students and I learned a lot. In my experience the kids that were not being totally subsidized by their parents had a much better attitude. The kids that had mom and dad paying their way blew money on pizza, beer, cigarettes, etc. and were always late on their rent. And they didn’t seem to have respect for much of anything. The kids who had some support, but were working to earn their way too, seemed to appreciate their parents help and have more respect in general. I’m generalizing a bit … but, it was that way the majority of the time with our college-age tenants.

  15. Drew says:

    My parents paid entirely for the first 3 years of my college education, except for spending money. After 3 years I decided to go to a different school and pursue a completely different degree. When I did this, I lost all my funding, and it took me an additional 3 years to finish. Having to pay for my own schooling is the best thing that ever happened to me.

    As far as my kids are concerned, when they get to college age I plan on offering them a certain amount towards their tuition (not the full amount) for 4 years. As long as we are still living where we do now, there is no reason for them to pay to move out unless they want to, as there are several very good universities within a very short commuting distance of our home. I plan on charging them some form of rent, but I want it to be affordable as well. Basically, somewhere in between my two experiences.

  16. Sheila says:

    I paid for my own school, luckily through scholarships mainly and working part-time.
    When my daughter is old enough for college, we plan on telling her how much we will spend per year for 4 years of college. Then she can decide which schools she is interested in and if she wants to pay in part to go to a school of her choosing.
    We do intend to pay for her medical insurance, car insurance and room and board for 4 years as long as she’s on campus. If she wants to live off-campus, she’ll have to pay.

  17. Rick says:

    My first two years of college were paid by my parents to obtain a AAS degree at a State University College. I paid with savings,loans and by working for my Bachelors degree. I have no problems with parents helping their children with college, as long as they fund their respective retirement plans first. Your children can always get loans to pay for college, but you can’t obtain loans for retirement.

  18. I’m more grateful than I can say that my parents funded my undergraduate education. I’ve been able to make a bunch of good financial moves after graduation primarily because I don’t have money tied up in debt repayment.

    To them (and to me, too), a good undergraduate education is a necessity, primarily for its own sake. A graduate degree is a career choice and an investment. Therefore, they consider themselves entirely responsible for my undergraduate education (up to and including spending money), and they consider me entirely responsible for my graduate education. I agree.

    As soon as I’m seriously considering having children, I plan to begin saving for their college educations. Just as my parents considered themselves responsible for my education, I consider myself responsible for my children’s, and at this rate, who knows how much it will cost?

  19. pessimist says:

    I’m curious, what kinds of activities would you consider spending $1000/year/child in high school? sports? music? art classes?

    Maybe I’m biased but the chances of a child ‘suceeding’ in these arenas is, statistically speaking, very low indeed. I was broke the entire time i was in college and $4000 would have bought me an unbelievable amount of peace of mind, not to mention better grades.

    I am all for hard work and sacrifices in the pursuit of one’s own education, but I wish I had had the time for more socializing and personal development. After college, you never get those kinds of opportunities again. Wasting those seminal years in minimum wage drudgery, has a very real personal and professional cost.

  20. Hannah says:

    I see parental support as a continuum–it doesn’t have to be an all or none proposition.

    I would describe my undergradutate experience as a partnership. My parents paid what the liberal college’s financial aid office defined as the “family contribution” part and paid for room & board. My part of the partnership was that I worked hard in high school (4.0 GPA & a bunch of activities) so that I earned an academic scholarship, a music scholarship, and a debate scholarship. The remainder between the “family contribution” and my scholarships then was my responsibility to get loans for and I’m paying those loans off.

    Graduate school was another story–I earned a fellowship that paid for tuition and provided a stipend, and mostly my parents support was limited to helping me get cross-country to visit them from time to time.

    When I’ve talked to my parents about it, they saw helping with my undergraduate education as part of giving me an advantage that would later pay off in terms of me being a successful adult. But I also learned the importance of hard work because those scholarships were contingent on my continuing to do well in college. And the loan part of the equation means that I was even more invested in the process of my education.

  21. sandycheeks says:

    I’d like to offer 4 years at an in-state public school for each of my kids.

    IMO, that and a solid education about finances learned at home should set them up nicely.

  22. ClickerTrainer says:

    @guinness, don’t forget the average income “way back then” was less too. My parents were upper middle class and made 35K. My tuition was 2500/year.

    The big difference I see is that parents today must also save for retirement instead of relying on getting a pension.

    I like the statistic that, taking average income into account, gas actually costs LESS now than it did 30 years ago. We have it pretty good today.

    [disclaimer for those interested: went to state school, worked/got scholarships, MS in 6 yrs, 14K debt, paid it off in 10 yrs, yadda yadda. Got a nice thank you from the US Gov’t for paying off my debt early. :) ]

  23. Jessica says:

    I’m one of those who paid my own way, through loans and multiple part time jobs. Overall it was a learning experience, but a little help probably would have made it much easier. For instance, most professors are not very understanding if you miss a class due to getting stuck at work (replacement a no-show, for example) since they believe school should come first. It would have been nice if school could have come first, but in reality, rent, tuition and food had to come first, with studying coming second.

  24. MB says:

    My parents paid tuition (at a state school), but I was required to work (part-time in a bank – which I just loved!) for my own spending money, gas,car insurance, entertainment, etc. I’m grateful I had no student loans, and I’m also glad I worked all through college.

    For my two children, we are funding 529s that should pay 50% of tuition/room/board at a state university. We also figure we’ll pay 25% as they go along. The remaining quarter percent has to come from scholarships, loans, working, etc. — or they could choose to live at home rent free and the 75% we’re funding will go further. We will also contribute the same total amount if they choose private school, but they’ll have to make up more of the difference. In the summers, they’ll have to work and save for their spending money for the year … and we’ll of course, provide some “treats” — pizza money … books … dorm room decor … computers. My husband and I are confident that this will strike the right balance between helping them and raising them to be somewhat independent and money-savvy.

  25. Sally says:

    I have $50,000 in college debt, so, no, my parents didn’t give me money. My mom did co-sign some loans and took out a few PLUS loans on my behalf. I’m the one paying them back, though, and I’m grateful that I can afford it.

    I think you need to discuss financial support with your children. Talk about the cost and education differences between private, public, community, and trade schools. Talk about what you can afford, or if you can’t afford it or are unwilling to pay, give your reasons why. Be honest. Don’t just start having these discussions during their senior year of high school, either. Also, don’t be a jerk. A friend of my had to choose between a full scholarship to one school and a smaller scholarship to another school, with an assurance from her parents that they were going to pay the difference. After she accepted to the school with the smaller scholarship, her parents told her, “Surprise! We were never going to pay! We just wanted you to make the decision free of financial bias!” So, now she’s stuck with massive loans. When I hear about people like that, I want to find them and beat them with the common sense stick. What the heck were they thinking? And, fair warning, if you don’t help pay for your kid’s education but you lead a very lavish lifestyle – new cars, vacation home, yearly cruises, etc, there’s a good chance they’re not going to like you very much.

    Sheila- “We do intend to pay for her medical insurance, car insurance and room and board for 4 years as long as she’s on campus. If she wants to live off-campus, she’ll have to pay.” This stuck out to me. In my experience, living off campus can be much less expensive than living on campus. If I had lived on campus for all four years, I would have been forced to follow a cafeteria meal plan that cost between $8-10 a meal. I saved big on food expenses by moving off-campus and preparing my own food. Rice and bean dip/burrito filling, anyone? Vegan chili? Healthy, but inexpensive stuff that’s quick to prepare in huge batches and can be frozen for later – that’s what I survived on in college. There usually just aren’t the resources to cook like that in the dorms. Also, I found I was more responsible and developed more life skills when I was living off-campus than when I was living in the dorms. So I’m just wondering what your reasoning is here.

  26. MegB says:

    This is a very tough issue, especially when you and your spouse have different experiences. My parents paid for my undergraduate degree, and for that I was (and am) extremely grateful. However, they always said that if we pursued a graduate degree, we would be on our own. So, I paid for law school myself (well, with student loans). My parents helped out with some incidental expenses here and there, but I basically took care of the rest. I now have $50k to pay off.

    My husband’s parents paid for his undergraduate and MBA. I think he sometimes resents the amount of student loan debt that I’m carrying around because of its impact on our overall net worth, although he does understand that it has a positive impact on my lifetime earning potential. (Keep in mind that he didn’t come into the picture until well after I had graduated from law school and started working. :-)) I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, and the payments are very reasonable, so it doesn’t bother me as much.

    I also think that having to pay for school made me appreciate it a little more. I worked hard in college and made good grades, but I never really saw where the money went. But when I paid for it myself, I was very aware of exactly where my money was going. I will fund my children’s undergraduate education, but will make them pay for all or part of any post-graduate education that they may choose to pursue.

  27. Jean says:

    In our family the deal was parents paid the tuition and we worked for our books and spending money and extras.

    I went to a community college, which was cheap, and before I transferred to Penn State, I applied for and got a student loan, because I thought I was supposed to. Daddy was proud of my initiative, but I wasn’t supposed to get a loan…

    Well — six weeks into my new term at main campus, my father suffered a heart attack and died. My “free ride” was over.

    But I was 21, and under the old rules of Social Security. I, as a full time college student, could collect children’s benefits under his number, until I was 22.

    SO essentially, my Dad did pay for my education, but I still came out with 5K in loans (1983 — not bad).

    My husband (then boyfriend) also needed help for school, but he went the RA way — he became a Resident Assistant in the dorms, which I believe paid for room and board and partial credit on tuition. Since he worked at a higher paying job than normal in the summer, he didn’t need to work a second job (being an RA wasn’t easy!) during the year.

    When we married we had a grand total of 7,500 dollars in school loans.

    My oldest sister had a hard time in school, and dropped out, and then went back when she got her head on straight… but I don’t think that’s a matter of her not appreciating her education, I think it’s a matter of every one felt the path to college was you get out of high school and you go to college. And it isn’t the right way for every one.

    We were somewhat sheltered as kids, so even at 18, both my sister and I weren’t ready to go to college. Even though there is 8 years difference between us. So while my parents forced Sue to go to college, where she flunked out and was perfectly miserable — they saw the same things in me and didn’t make me go to college right out of school.

    The year I worked really was a year of tremendous personal growth, helped me put my head on straight as I watched some good friends make some horrible mistakes that made incredible negative impacts on their lives.

    So I say fund for your kids educations, but make them responsible for something…

  28. sara says:

    My parents paid for tuition and room/board, by depositing money into our joint bank account. This way i learned about budgeting and paying bills on time, which was very valuable. I worked over the summer and part time during the year to save for books/supplies and spending money. This way, I could devote time and energy to studying and getting an education . It is SO nice to start marriage without massive debt, so that we can save for a house, and get established financially. We still have my husband’s student loan to tackle.

    an interesting result: hubby’s parents cut him off after high school, so he got a high paying job while in college, and spent the excess that he earned on toys. I was supported all the way through, and became hyper-budget focused, since i knew i’d get just enough to cover expenses. We’ll definitely pay for our kid’s college, on the condition of financial responsibility.

  29. CBus says:

    How about secretly saving for your child(ren)’s education and have them apply for scholarships and get student loans. Let the gravity of their decisions really sink in and how they will affect their lives. Let those 4+ years of college / interest work for you and pay their way as a graduation gift.

  30. Jen says:

    Well, the financial aid forms you fill out for college still consider your parents income, so no matter how you feel, the college your child is attending may feel you should contribute.

    And the fact that you had to pay for you education to appreciate it is BS. Everybody contributed to my fancy private college education: me, my parents, the federal government, the state I lived in, several scholarship sources, and the college itself. I had $19,000 in loans and my parents had $2500 in loans. And I did well, graduated on time, with a degree and a minor while working in a lab on campus making OK money. I was even active in service opportunities. I went to grad school (paid for by my prof’s research grant), got a masters degree, got a job, got married, and paid off the loans in 4yrs.

    My parents didn’t attend college, and it was important to them that we did. So if having your kids complete college is important, step up, if it’s not, don’t.

    I realize that it’s important to a lot of people to say that they did it all on their own, that they wouldn’t have done as well with help. But for the most part, it’s not true. Your success or failure is much more dependent on you maturity level and suitability to chosen major and school than who is exactly footing the bill.

    Seriously, is this a mid-west thing, because I have lived on both coasts, and no one I have ever known would consider not contributing to their child’s education. It would be unheard of.

  31. Stephanie says:

    My mom quite simply couldn’t afford to help me or my sisters through college, with one exception. If we stayed local, she allowed us to continue living at home rent-free. At college age we were treated more as roommates than children in some ways – no rules about when to be home, and just as before had to help around the house.

    I hope to be able to help my children more. I have no intention of paying for the whole thing, though. Like many others I think paying for one’s own college education at least in part makes it easier to appreciate it.

  32. Dana says:

    I also think a middle-of-the-road approach is worth considering.

    My parents put a limit on what they would contribute to my education, which made me really think about where I wanted to go and what major I wanted.

    They also took out a loan every semester, and paid it off as soon as I showed satisfactory grades. If I had done poorly, the loan would have become my responsibility.

    I contributed a minimal amount with summer jobs, but my major contribution was buckling down and graduating in three years, thus saving 25%.

  33. Jasmine says:

    I am still paying off student loan debt, and it is manageable and was worth the money. I plan on paying for my childrens college education fully (the goal) OR subsidizing the cost (backup plan).

    It’s difficult to graduate and make a small wage and be saddled with student loan debt. I see how it could make people less conscious of the value of money and education to have everything paid for, but I have many friends who had college paid for entirely by their parents and they all appreciate it and handle money okay.

  34. I will do a modified version of what my parents did: they paid for my tuition, room and board only at any one of about 12 schools worldwide that are associated with their church. (The church association is what I will be taking out of the equation–and I’ll probably replace it with a time, age, or GPA limit as I see one of my brothers abusing these things). Their deal enabled me to graduate debt free from a pretty good school, while still learning the reality of financial responsibility for every other aspect of my life. Books, car, cell phone, gas, clothes, food outside of the cafeteria, trips for spring break–all of this I paid for on my own. My graduation present was the first month’s rent and security deposit on my first apartment, and I haven’t taken money from them since. I think this was an excellent combination of support and freedom.

    I don’t have a preference as my parents did that my children attend a religious institution, and I see that my brother is taking advantage of their one-caveat-only offer by staying in school and switching majors indefinitely so he doesn’t have to face the real world. I wouldn’t necessarily have a four years or until you’re 22 rule, since it took me longer than four years to graduate, but I think five years is more than generous. I think some stipulations on how the money is used is important unless you have truly unlimited funds to spend on college (as my roommate’s father apparently has–one SEMESTER of her graduate school is more than $18,000 and her father paid all her undergrad costs as well) but I also think it’s important to not use the money as a weapon (to force the kid to take on a major or something they wouldn’t otherwise choose).

    Of course, I’m saying all of this from the point of view of an unmarried, childless twenty-something…who knows how I’ll feel when the money is being set aside for a real live child?

  35. Mrs. Micah says:

    I had lots of scholarships and a small trust from my grandfather. My parents made up the difference (so long as I kept up the grades). They also gave me a small allowance so that I didn’t have to work too much in order to meet basic needs (so I could keep up the grades). Of course, if I wanted more than that, I had to earn it.

    I didn’t have a job my freshman year, which was good. After that, though, I worked 2 small jobs for the rest of college. Now I’m (college) debt free, but I also understand money management and such (it doesn’t take debt to learn that). I think the choice was good on their part. :)

    An argument for why not supporting your child financially can hurt their money management skills–Mr. Micah’s college debt seems so large to him that he’d rather not think about it at all. It’s too huge. He did a good job spending it wisely, but repaying it will be a bear.

  36. SJean says:

    There was a stark difference between friends who paid thier own way and those whose parents provided a lot of support. On study abroad, my friends were constantly calling their parents and asking “Can I go on a trip to Malaysia next month? Please?!” I just called my parents to say “Guess what, I’m going to Malaysia next month!”

    Not that I would have minded more help, and if my parents had piles of money sitting away and didn’t offer at least some support I would have thought it was unkind. I think 100% support is too much in any case, but partial support seems appropriate if the parents can afford it. Especially because if your parents have money, you aren’t eligible for the some financial aid.

    One idea I’ve had was (that I wish my parents were wealthy enough to afford) to “match” each dollar the student was able to pay out of pocket towards tuition. Then later, match payback to student loans as a reward for being responsible.

  37. MVP says:

    I think it depends on the parents’ financial situation. If the parents are well-off, there’s no reason they can’t give their child a hand up, as long as they evaluate where the money’s going and if the child is being responsible. On the other hand, my husband and I live on a modest income, and we have goals for ourselves after the children are up and out. We’re very dedicated and devoted to raising our children right, with me being a stay-at-home mom (which is WHY it’s such a modest income). Therefore, we don’t feel we’re cheating them by letting them find their own way in the world once they’re adults. Sure, we might open college savings accounts, but we won’t subsidize Ivy League educations or 5-year-long parties. If they want that, they’ll have to earn scholarships, work or get loans (we’ll heartily discourage the loans).

    Neither of our parents had lots of money, and we both attended less expensive state schools, exiting with less than $10K each in debt, which we’ve already paid off. There’s a tremendous sense of pride in that.

    Also, as we all know, many people really aren’t prepared at age 18 to pick a career. I wasn’t, but I did, and now I wish I’d made a more mature decision. If a young adult is spending their parents’ money, they’re less likely to be serious about choosing a major in college based on logic. If it’s their own money, or they’re working through college, they’re likely to think much harder about what they’re choosing to do with their life.

  38. AKF says:

    I graduated high school with almost a 4.0 (3.94 or something close to that). I got into a bunch of schools — some more expensive than others, but my parents both refused to help me pay as well as to fill out the financial aid forms, so I couldn’t get any government help. (They are basically middle-class.) And somehow I couldn’t find any scholarships to help me. I ended up not going to college because I didn’t want to go into debt and really didn’t understand my options.

    I’ve been lucky and have my own successful business now (I’m 35) and no debt; my husband’s family is extremely generous and open about money, whereas mine is closed and not communicative. I have taken classes throughout the years at junior / community colleges to learn specific things.

    So my advice to all parents is at the very least HELP your children with exploring options and support, even if you can’t support them financially. And also educating them on money early on so they understand how to use it wisely and make smart decisions. Even other kinds of support go a long way.

  39. SJean says:

    Also… A midwest thing? Can all people on the coasts automatically afford to contribute to education? I think it’s more of a wealth/class thing. I wonder if there REALLY are families (anywhere) that “choose” not to contribute, even though it would be comfortable and easy for them to do so.

  40. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    “Your success or failure is much more dependent on you maturity level and suitability to chosen major and school than who is exactly footing the bill.

    Seriously, is this a mid-west thing, because I have lived on both coasts, and no one I have ever known would consider not contributing to their child’s education. It would be unheard of.”

    Hmm… I think you’re saying here that Midwest parents assume that their children are more mature than coastal parents do. Or else I’m reading too much into it.

  41. plonkee says:

    Lots of people here seem to be saying that they paid their own way except that their parents paid for some of it. To me, that reads as both they and their parents contributed – I think that’s the way it should be, but let’s not be ashamed of that. If your parents help, it’s a good thing.

  42. marie says:

    As a present college student, I am happy to know that I have money put away for school. When I was born, my parents started a savings account which they contributed to every year. Also, when I got my first job in high school, 3/4 of what I made went into that account. All that added up to enough money for four years at university or college, if I was careful to only use the money for tuition,books, and living costs. So I could say that my parents paid about half my education. I have also received some scholarships along the way, and every summer job goes to pay school. I believe that if my parents had not put any money in the bank, I could have made it. But knowing the money is there is an enormous security.

  43. DivaJean says:

    I am one of those 40 somethings that paid my own way. Completely. My parents had nothing to give me. My senior year was spent writing essays and making appearances to anyone ready to dole out scholarships. I learned about public speaking to explain why I felt such a drive towards nursing. Out of the 3 year program I attended, I had enough scholarship funding to pay for half. I worked the entire time- and by the time my bills for school started rolling in, I had enough to pay for it myself. I graduated completely debt free.

    This being said, I also realize times have changed and costs are skyrocketing for college. My children are all adopted thru New York State’s foster to adopt program. The state seems to feel a need to give a monthly stipend when children have “timed out” of the foster system and are available for adoption. We knew we would adopt our lovely children no matter what and that no stipend would be required. We save this money for their college or for other big life choices they would make in lieu of college. And that’s it. That’s all we can afford. It should be a big enough chunk by the time they are ready for college, but it won’t likely pay for everything.

    We are a family of 6 living on my $35,000 take home. Our biggest concern will be retirement and security as seniors. My youngest is 5 months old and I am 41. Doing the math, he will just be getting out of college when it will be time for me to retire. My life partner doesn’t work now- but would likely be able to re-enter the job market in 10-15 years. Her social security (should that still exist) will be significantly lowered from not working– and she wouldn’t have access to my social security should I croak first.

  44. Sense says:

    yup, I was responsible for most college-related costs: tuition, books, and spending money. Mom and Dad gave me a $500 car to drive the 2 hours home once in a while, and paid for health and car insurance. I worked three jobs during the summers and one during the school year. I got scholarships to cover over half my already small instate tuition to a pristigious near ivy-league school (although I didn’t apply for them–for some reason they were just GIVEN to me, and I found out on graduation day that I was selected for these awards!!!–that was the last time I’ve ever been given free money for no extra work), and took out small loans to cover the difference. My mom and dad promised to pay them back, but they fell on hard times in the 4 years I was in college and couldn’t. So I was supposed to be debt-free on graduation day, but wasn’t. I didn’t appreciate college very much–I wasn’t ready for it at all–but I don’t know what else I was ready for at that point. certainly not working full-time at a minimum wage job, and certainly not staying in my hometown with all the crackheads and girls popping out babies ’cause they had nothing better to do. I definitely didn’t have the means to do any traveling, and I don’t think I would qualify for anything other than a retail job, which I would have HATED. So college was really the best choice for me, even though I didn’t appreciate it at the time. I eventually figured out what I wanted to do, three years in, and busted my butt to graduate on time.

  45. Sarah says:

    we won’t subsidize Ivy League educations or 5-year-long parties. If they want that, they’ll have to earn scholarships, work or get loans (we’ll heartily discourage the loans).

    MVP, then what you are saying is that your children will not be attending the most prestigious institutions. I don’t think you have any realistic sense of how much these institutions cost nowadays. They can offer significant scholarship support (but they won’t be replacing the parental contribution that you refuse to give with their own money, unless you are low enough income at a handful of schools), but there will be enough left over that your child cannot cover the costs with part-time and summer work and your child will have a very hard time securing private loans for the whole amount without a parental cosigner. Not to mention that for entry into many of the most demanding careers these days there is a huge expectation that you will spend your summers doing low-paid or unpaid internships or other projects. Oh, and did I leave out the part where spending huge amounts of time at work tends to cut into your ability to get good grades? These are the realities. I think many people posting here have never actually sat down and worked out how much these schools cost. If you genuinely can’t afford it, then you can’t afford it–that’s understandable. But otherwise you need to get that if you refuse to pay for a top school, that’s generally tantamount to making it impossible for your child to go there, no matter how virtuous she may be.

    My parents covered what was left after my scholarships at one such school for tuition, room and board, and supplies. I earned my own pocket money through a series of on-campus jobs. Somehow the fact that my parents invested in my education didn’t make me into a lazy bastard who spent mindlessly and didn’t appreciate her education (or their sacrifice). I have to wonder what kind of upbringing parents are giving their kids if they’re afraid that providing those kids with a proven economic opportunity and the time to devote themselves fully to taking advantage of it (we’ll leave out such trivial concerns as education for education’s sake, which some people might consider important) will suddenly cause them to go to wrack and ruin.

  46. Susy says:

    My parents said they’d give me $2000 per year towards college, I had to pay the rest. They did however pay for my gas & insurance while I was in school. I had to work and pay for most of my schooling and for spending money. Through hard work, frugality, and a few scholarships, I graduated after 4 years with no student loans. My husband graduated with $10,000 (because of bad spending habits while in college).

    I think it should be a team effort. I’m sure kids would be less likely to party & flunk out if they were working hard in the summers to help pay for school!!

  47. 60 in 3 - Fitness and Health says:

    My parents encouraged me to pay my own way through college, which I did through loans, scholarships and work, but they also made sure I knew they were there for help if I really needed them. It taught me to be independent but it was also good to know that I’m not all alone in the world. They would also pay for a few miscellaneous items that I might have overlooked or considered too expensive (like travel expenses to come back home and visit).

    I think a balanced approach like this works best. You can’t just cut someone off after taking care of their every need. It’s better to slowly and gradually get them used to the fact that they’re an adult and should support themselves.


  48. db says:

    “Seriously, is this a mid-west thing, because I have lived on both coasts, and no one I have ever known would consider not contributing to their child’s education. It would be unheard of.”

    I’m not sure if this is a mid-west thing. I think this is a modern culture thing, and it always strikes me as an incredibly cruel discussion whenever it pops up.

    Here is my problem with it — when your child turns 18, do you stop loving the child and assume they are ready to hit the cold, hard world?

    If you say, “Nope, at 18 they are on their own!” IMHO you are really saying that whether they go to college or not, you think your job as a parent is done because exactly 18 years have ticked by since the birthing event. If they want food or shelter, too bad, they are 18. They are “adults”.

    In times past, this wouldn’t have occured. It was NORMAL to live at home until you married, and sometimes even then you lived at home. Even if you didn’t still live at home, there was generally more support between extended family.

    Somehow, today, we have gotten so hooked on independence that we think every adult needs to be totally self-sufficent. And worse, we believe ourselves when we think that at 18, miraculously the child becomes a full-fledged adult capable of this self-sufficient autonomy. It’s a lie.

    If parents cannot afford college, there is nothing wrong with that in itself. However, part of the parenting obligation is to help the child enter adulthood successfully. I think that right there answers the question — the parent IS obligated to help their child get a start at life. If they can’t do it monetarily by contributing to education costs, they certainly are not relieved of their responsibility to the child to help them somehow at that critical point in their life.

    Here’s my question — if a parent is going to kick their child out at 18 and wish them the best, why did they become a parent in the first place?

  49. rachel says:

    My parents saved enough money for me to attend a public university. During my freshman year of high school, they told me that whatever money was left over after school I could have. This was a major motivator. I received a full scholarship and and graduated from school in just over 4 years. True to their word, my parents transferred just over $10,000 to my savings account. My Mom showed me the bank book that she started when I was a child. Some weeks she put in $2. I knew how hard my parents worked to save money for me. My husband and I used the money to make a downpayment on our home in 2000. In 2006, we paid it off in full. Thanks MOM & DAD.

  50. Holly says:

    I went to a semi-expensive private school, largely paid for by a scholarship and grants from the feds. My non college educated parents told me up front that though they were supportive and would be very proud of me for getting a college education, they could not afford to pay for it, so if I went there, I’d be on my own paying for what the scholarship did not cover. My dad works for the local university, doing maintenence, and I could have gone there with a significant discount on instate tuition. But instead I chose a small school out of state. Like Danika, I would probably have gone to a cheaper school if I had to do it all over again, but I’m glad that my parents didn’t pay for it.

    I wouldn’t completely subsidize my child’s education. I might give them some money, sort of a home grown “scholarship”, and would expect to see decent grades should I give them anything. This is because at this private school there were plenty of people there whose parents were paying for it–and they largely partied while those of us on scholarship, who were all required to maintain a certain GPA, studied. I’m proud that I put myself through college. Yes my student loans are a burden, but they are my burden, and I feel better putting a burden upon myself rather than on my parents. I never considered it their “duty” to give me a higher education or take care of me at all once I reached an adult age, which is unusual now it seems…because many if not most of my friends do not have that attitude.

  51. JM says:

    I think the answer to this question depends on many things. There is geography – a 19 yr old in the midwest has a realistic prospect of financial independence while a 19 yr old on the coasts will probably need substantial help from parents to attend college. There is the parents’ situation since for some families, financially assisting grown children is not an option. It also boils down to the kid – some need the kick in the pants that real life delivers, and some need seed money to realize ambitions.

    That being said, I think parents should think carefully before signing a second mortgage. Sacrificing to send a child to Harvard or Yale may be worth it. But jeopardizing retirement to send a kid to a middle tier private school is most likely not worth it – send the kid to State U. instead.

  52. Adam Lehman says:

    my parent let me know – ever since i was in eighth grade – that i would be paying for college entirely on my own. Sure they help with the occasional gas money, groceries, etc. But I became nearly independent when i came to college.

    This motivated me to get scholarships, save money, and take ownership of my education.

    Your sons and daughters are capable of handling responsibility, let them grow…

  53. Chris S says:

    I had help, but I did have to share in the cost. My parents paid for my living expenses but I had to pay for school. I went to a state school here in California, so tuition was low. That seems like a fair compromise to me, and allowed me to keep some of that extra cash from my part-time job to help me buy a condo once I got working full time.

  54. KoryO says:

    My parents paid for virtually everything when I went to college. My dad even paid, twice, for me to go to the old Soviet Union (I was a Russian major). Yeah, I had fun. My part-time job money went to…well….can’t remember now…I think shopping and the occasional pizza. Maybe gas during my last semester (Dad paid for a junker I still remember fondly).

    But to read all this “those kids who had their educations paid for didn’t appreciate it” stuff in the comments, especially from people my age (gasp, 40!! eek!!) just sounds like sour grapes to me. Neither of them had the opportunity to go to college when they were younger. I appreciated what my parents did for me then, and I especially do now when my friends tell me about these huge student loans they’ve got to repay.

    It’s all well and good to say to a kid that paying off a student loan builds character, but no way would I want my boy to build character by dealing with a variable rate private student loan that cannot be wiped out even by bankruptcy, maybe not even death the way some of those loans are written. Tuition seemed overpriced when I went to school, but it’s unbelievably outrageous right now. I want him to be able to save $ for his retirement right out of the gate like I was lucky enough to do.

    I started a 529 for him as soon as he got his social security number, and a little “up yours” fund that I chip in $5 for every holiday that will be his when he turns 18. That way, if he ever ends up at a job working for a boss from hell, he’s got an escape plan (worked for enough tyrants myself, but I guess some of the commenters here think that “builds character” to be trapped in that situation?) I stay at home with him now, but when I go back to work, a big chunk of that will go to his, and any future siblings’, education. Hopefully it will cover instate tuition/room and board wherever we end up. If he wants to go somewhere else, well, we’ll pay what we can.

    And then….we’ll start saving for our future grandchildren. ;)

  55. john says:

    “if a great opportunity for their growth came along, I’d gladly stop funding the 529 and instead pay for that opportunity”

    That’s why I never started a 529, I just put the money aside in a separate brokerage account in our name. Should the kids go to school, we’ll help them out with that money. Should they want to start a business instead, we may help with that money. Should they want to just be bums, we can use the money ourselves.

    Isn’t there a penalty if you use the 529 money for something other than school?

  56. Cat says:

    In Australia our students loans are interest-free loans provided by the government (HECS or HELP). Once you hit a certain income bracket they are automatically deducted from your pay along with tax.

    I like the way my parents worked it. My first year in uni they paid for my accomodation (I lived in residential college) but I paid for it the second year. I lived at home my third year but paid board and I’ve now moved out in my fourth year and I pay my own rent and housekeeping bills. While I’m a full-time student they’ll pay any upfront education bills such as field trip levies (I was a geography major) and textbooks and stationary. They also pay all my medical bills including doctor, dentist, optometrist, podiatrist, physio and a few emergency room trips. I’m still on the family health insurance while I study full-time. They loaned me a car and I only had to pay for petrol in exchange for helping drive my siblings around.

    I paid everything else – phone, extra food that I wanted, public transport, going out, travel, etc, etc, etc.

    I htink they hit the perfect combination between building independence, learning financial responsibility and not leaving me with crippling amounts of expenses (particulary medical ones).

  57. Tordr says:

    I am living in a country where higher education is paid by the state (costs $100 per year) and you also get cheap loans and some scholarships to cover living expenses while you study. So we can show what happens to large populations when they get a funded education.

    5-10 years ago when I studied they where giving loans out with few strings attached, while most students where good and finishing on time, there where those that used many years to finish a degree. Lately the government have restricted things and it sees to get people more motivated. If you fail your courses some of your scholarship is turned into loan. You will not get any funding or loan if you are more than 1 year late. The money is paid out each month instead of a lump sum in the start of the semester.

    I finished after 5 years with $35K (current exchange rate) in student loans. None of my friends have gotten much financial help from their parents, except from an occasional paid trip home. But I think things are changing as the amount given out by the state does not keep up with living expenses and children are getting seed money to get into the housing marked.

  58. Fortunate says:

    A young friend gets virtually no support from his parent. He paid for everything in high school except for basic room, board, and medicine. He worked very hard and I was very proud of him when he went off to college this year. He works two jobs and goes to school full time. He has loans and grants, pays for his own food, and trips home. Two weeks ago he folded under the pressure and the the Army’s signing bonus started looking really good to him. He goes of to basic training in January.

    Not that the military is a bad choice (I hail from a strongly pro-military familiy), but it is a bad choice if chosen for the wrong reasons. I don’t have a close relationship with this young man’s mother and have never understood why she choses not to help her son. But if you have the means to help your child and your child wants to go to college for the right reasons, please help them out wherever you can. It’s asking a lot for an 18 year old to grow up in an instant and suddenly be completely financially independent. And this while spending 20-30 weeks on a “job” (school) that doesn’t pay.

    My parents choose to take out some loans in my name and others in theirs. Plus, they put me on a strict allowance. As a result, I learned to budget and appreciate the value of a dollar. But, at the same time, while some of my classmates were off working at the mall I was free to take free or low-paying internships that ended up looking really good on my resume when it was time for that first job search. Almost 20 years later and I am still thankful to them for doing that because I can see how crucial those early experiences were at setting the course for my career.

  59. sct says:

    it comes down to the individual.

    Intelligent people should be educated to their full potential, people who do not show intelligence should not waste their time and the time of educators and the other students, unintelligent folks should pick crops and do other manual labors

  60. Dawn says:

    I had scholarships, but the rest of my undergrad was paid by my parents. My first year, they basically covered everything, including a spending allowance. My second year, they paid tuition, room and meal plan at the cafeteria. My third year, they paid just tuition and on-campus dorm. I think it was good because it slowly weaned me off onto my own, but my basic needs were taken care of so that I could concentrate on school. My last year, I went abroad on a full scholarship plus spending stipend, and I worked. So, my parents didn’t have to do much that year. After graduating, I worked two jobs and lived in cheap rent. I think I learned most of my money management from my parents and their system of slowly giving me responsibility.

    My husband had no help, has racked up tons of school debt, and still cannot manage money. He regularly ends up with huge credit card debt. In fact, thinking of my friends, I know no one who “paid their own way” who is better at managing money that those of us whose tuition was paid. In my experience the opposite is true, probably because people whose parents were savers passed that value on to their children.

  61. Keri says:

    I agree with the “combo” method. My grandparents set up a nice college fun for both me and my brother, which had enough to pay for 4 or 5 years of public college and books and other expenses. This worked out well for my brother because he knew exactly what he wanted to do, plus he started a business in college and made pretty good money. I don’t think he graduated with much at ALL in the way of college loans. Now I, on the other hand, had no idea what I wanted to do. But I was told I had to go to college so I did. I changed majors 4 times, and after 5 years I quit. 5 years after that, and as a single parent, I went back to school. My mom helped me this time by paying my rent, and I took out student loans and grants to pay for the rest. So I’ve finally got a degree, and about $25,000 in student loans.

    So what will I do with my son? I think it’s important to help, but he should also be paying for some himself. And if he wants to wait a year before starting school, I’ll totally support that. I squandered my resources by being too young to see the big picture about what I wanted to do with my future – and THAT was the biggest problem. Not whether I had it paid for or had to take student loans.

  62. guinness416 says:

    KoryO your “up yours fund” is a hilarious and fantastic concept. I like your whole post, great stuff.

  63. wealthy_1 says:

    Judging by the number of comments you’ve received, this is a very hot topic. I agree that as parents our job is to raise our children to be functional adults. I began telling my children that at an early age. My spouse and I naturally assumed that they would attend and complete 4 years of college and earn a bachelors degree. Especially since both of us did. We told our first child she could go anywhere she wanted. We went into debt for her only to have her quit, come home and work as a waitress/bartender. Our second is motivated by sports, not education. It shows on his progress reports and report cards. He’s definitely capable of doing much better. But because he doesn’t put the effort in now while he’s still in high school, I’m not sure I want to invest in his college education. Will I put him out on the street at 18? Absolutely not. But if he decides to stay home and work or go to community college, he will have to work and pay rent. I believe there is a lesson for him in that. Ultimately, I hope they both come to realize the value of higher education and set their sights on earning their degrees. If they do, I’ll decide at that time whether I will lend financial support to them.

  64. Katy says:

    EVERYONE NEEDS HEALTH INSURANCE. Illness and hospitalizationa are the largest reason for BANKRUPTCY.

    If you get sick, your’re screwed for life without it.

  65. Peter says:

    My thought on whether to support my children after high school is to give them an opportunity to get ahead, provided they are actually seeking to get ahead and not just mooching off of me.

    With that I’ve promised my kids tuition, fees, and books at the local community college and two years at a local state university they can commute to (three in our area) so they have the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree with minimal debt. Similarly, if they chose another type of education beyond high school (e.g. culinary, trade, etc.) I’ll put the same amount of money towards that as I would towards college. If they want anything else beyond that amount of money they need to find a way to pay for it, be it scholarship, work, loans, whatever.

    If they don’t go to any type of education beyond high school, I just got a nice boost to my own retirement or Doctorate. After all, it is my money, not their “inheritance” or “get started money”, as some kids I went to high school with tried to claim when they wanted to “find themselves”.

    However, I’m willing to let them stay at home for a couple of years at minimal rent to grow some savings with the goal of moving out around the same time they’d be graduating from college anyway (since I’m essentially allowing them to remain at home while going to college).

    In both cases they have a chance to get ahead before leaving on their own, which is a definite expectation. At some point, they need to leave.
    Even if they come back on occasion due to hardship, the goal is always to get them to leave. That way, I can move in with them when I’m older, not the other way around :-)

  66. Jane says:

    My parents paid for 95% +/- of my top tier private school education. (my school makes the top 25 universities in U.S. News every year) They paid for the tutition, room and board and travel to/from school and let me use one of their cars to go to work when I was home for the summer. I paid for my books, (not an insignificant charge now) and any of my spending money. I worked during the summer and had a work study job during the school year except for the summer before any my Junior Year since I spent that time as a Student at the University of Costa Rica. I didn’t take a dime for spending money from my parents that year either. Because they paid for college I was able to same money from my sophmore year to fund all of my Junior Year spending money/books without working.

    I notice that a lot of those who paid their own way said that those who did not “slacked off.” That’s not what I saw at a top tier school, when you only accept 20% of the people that apply, you don’t get slackers becasue Mom and Dad are paying their way.

    If I ever have kids someday I will pay for their college minus books and spending money. However, if they were to truely slack I’d pull the money since they obviously don’t fell college is worth their time.

  67. MVP says:

    “MVP, then what you are saying is that your children will not be attending the most prestigious institutions [Ivy League]…If you refuse to pay for a top school, that’s generally tantamount to making it impossible for your child to go there, no matter how virtuous she may be.”

    Yep, Sarah, you got it. Sorry if my husband and I won’t be able to afford to send our kids to Ivy League schools. But does that mean we shouldn’t have children?! C’mon, get real. We aren’t “refusing” to fund an expensive education- we simply won’t be able to afford it! There’s absolutely nothing wrong with attending a public university or community college. If our kids have loftier aspirations and have the talent, intelligence and enthusiasm to go after them, more power to them. We simply won’t be able to fund it. Sorry. As I said in my previous comment, I see nothing wrong with well-off parents helping their kids through school. However, not all parents are wealthy. Get over it. You mention the scholarships and opportunities private schools offer to students. What if that school is 2,500 miles from the student’s home? Who pays for him/her to travel home for summers and holidays?
    On the contrary, I don’t think YOU have the “realistic sense of how much these institutions cost nowadays.” I have faith that our children will be able to get a quality education, if that’s what they desire, and make a good life despite their parents not being supremely wealthy and subsidizing their every desire. The excuses you offer for why young people can’t make it without their parents’ money are utterly ridiculous. First, MILLIONS of people work in college and still manage to do well in school. Second, LOTS of people, including myself in the past, work unpaid and low-paying internships before landing a full-time position, and also work a second job to make ends meet. My point is, as a parent, THE MOST important thing is to guide your child to figure out what’s important to him/her in life, and then teach them to work to acheive it.

  68. Jeff says:

    My parents paid for my education, and thank God for it. I grew up in a state where the public school system is pathetic, so my parents paid for me to attend an expensive private school for middle and high school. I worked hard, won scholarships throughout high school, and got great grades. They then stepped up and paid the “family contribution” for an expensive Ivy League education, while I took out a meager $20k in loans. (I think that today, that’s doing pretty well.)

    The fact that they paid for school did NOT make me take it for granted. All that was required was that my dad sat down with me each year and related the amount of money that was being spent on what he and my mother were giving up. It’s pretty sobering to hear that, even though your mother’s car desperately needs to be replaced, they’re spending the money to buy an entire new car, cash up front, on a year of your school. You don’t take it for granted then.

    But, had they not paid, I would never have gotten as much out of college as I did. I graduated summa cum laude from an Ivy League University, and have graduate school completely paid for, including a stipend that pays for EVERYTHING for the next six years. I’m great at managing my money (I save ~20% of my post-tax income), and my parents don’t pay for anything any more. But, their support during college made all the difference. I had time to focus on my studies. I had time to experience the cultural opportunities available to me in New York City. I had time to work in a lab, time to be a teaching assistant for a class, time to take classes outside of my major, and time to socialize. ALL of those things enrich my life now.

    I don’t think the outcome has anything to do with whether or not your parents foot the bill in the end. It has to do with how much time they’ve spent teaching you to manage money as a child. Show them a bad example — point out someone that is having trouble managing their money and how much grief it’s causing them. Just make sure your kids understand the terms of the money you’re giving them. Make sure they realize how much it costs you, and I can’t imagine your child in their right mind accepting money to waste when they know how much you’re sacrificing to give it to them.

  69. Tyler says:

    My parents did not pay any of my schooling (My mom gives me $100 a year for books). I finished my undergraduate degree (electrical engineering) without any debt. I worked the whole time and have gotten great grades. I just signed up for my first student loan about a month ago (I’m halfway through graduate school) and I’m expecting a salary of $70,000-$75,000 when I graduate. A ton of sacrifice and a lot of hard work can work wonders.

    I never expected my parents to pay for my schooling and I don’t expect to pay much for my children’s. In fact in the area of the country that I live in, It’s unusual for parents to pay much of their child’s college education. Maybe this is because there are a lot of large families?

  70. Katie says:

    I went to high school with a friend who had a family and financial situation that was very similar to mine; our parents worked hard, and they could comfortably support a family of five with some luxuries.

    He knew in high school that his parents were ‘cutting him off’ after graduation, I, on the other hand, knew my parents had a nice 529 nest made for me, which would cover most of my private education tuition. The rest of my tuition I had to was covered by scholarships (my dad made sure I ACTIVELY sought these out) and a small loan (out of college I owe $11,000, which I will pay off at 4% interest for a couple decades—which, I think is very manageable). At 23, I am at my second job, both at respectable companies, but never earning more than $32k a year. I know what I can afford, and I don’t feel trapped, and I know I am one lucky (and much loved) girl, and I really admire my parents’ financial wisdom 23 years ago.

    My friend on the other hand, went to a nice state school, and he never really excelled in his classes although he is very birght, because he had to work full-time during college. Now, he can’t find a job that fits him, and he is ALWAYS complaining about his debt (and when talking about finances, it’s clear he doesn’t have a plan to manage them since he’s always just paying off debt and not saving anything). On top of that, he is estranged from his parents, who are very nice and decent people. I guess what I am trying to say is that I worry that there are deeper and more significant consequences to not financially supporting a child through college. My friend feels unsupported from them in so many other ways, which I don’t think his parents would have ever wanted him to feel, ever.

  71. Bridget says:

    I am VERY against the idea of supporting a child past the age of 18.

    My mother (a young widow) made it very clear to my brothers and I that she could not afford to support us once we were old enough to support ourselves. We had to find a way to finance our own educations and, if we chose to continue living at home after high school graduation, we would be required to pay a share of the household bills. None of us chose to live at home; one brother and I got our own apartments while my other brother earned scholarships that paid for his college. After two years of living on my own, I started college at a community college and transferred to a university night program.

    Unlike many of my friends growing up, I recieved no financial assistance after the age of 18 from anyone, and I am THANKFUL for it. It was a tough reality check to learn, for example, how little a minimum wage job would buy, or figuring out that it was cheaper to walk to work or take public transportation as opposed to owning a car. However, I learned quickly. I graduated from college with no loan debt and a high GPA (you will work harder to pass classes if you know that YOU will have to pay to repeat them). Because I worked full-time while going to school, I had more job experience than other graduates my age and usually got the jobs I interviewed for. I learned to save and still bypass credit cards unless it’s an emergency. It’s unthinkable to me to pay full price for anything, and I’ve gotten into the habit of eating out rarely (I can cook excellent meals with cheap ingredients), using coupons, shopping on eBay or at consignment stores and repairing/reusing possessions instead of buying new. Unlike most Americans, I live far below my means, have no debt and have a nest egg saved.

    Had my mother continued to support me past the age of 18, I would have been like a lot of others I know: swimming in debt, living on credit cards and unable to be resourceful. I have a small child, and he already knows that his success in life will be determined by how hard he works and learns and NOT what hand-outs I give him.

  72. Kathryn says:

    It has been our intent for years, and we’ve told our DDs as much, that they are on their own after HS graduation. The kicker? We put them through 13 years of an excellent private school. My eldest, now a senior in HS, has friends getting full ride scholarships to private universities. I expect she will not do nearly so well as her friends, not having excellent grades and having been less than diligent about applying for scholarships, but she still intends to go on to a local branch of a state school. She may choose to live with my XH, or with me, but a job will be required and she will have to come up with her own transportation, even if it’s a bike and the bus. They may be hard lessons early on, but I’m confident they’ll make her a stronger adult.

  73. bears says:

    I tried to get through most of the comments but had to give up after a while, so forgive me if this reiterates many of the points. I think the effectiveness of financial support depends on what you think your child will do with it.

    The comments people make about students slacking off through their education if they are not paying for it is likely true to a certain extent but definitely cuts too widely across the board. I know an equal amount of poor students who were paying for their own education, and those that were relying on parental support. If you’re not a dedicated student, you will remain a slacker whether you’re living off student loans or not. If you trust your child to do the best with what you provide them with, then it wouldn’t necessarily be a detriment to give them a boost.

    I’m speaking as a recent graduate of my first degree who is now back at school for a professional degree. My parents gave me an huge amount of financial support: tuition, living expenses, practical expenses (winter coats, gas etc.) and more during University. I used my summer job savings to pay for expenses like shopping, movies, and dinners out.

    I definitely feel/felt incredibly advantaged, and I knew I had a relatively unique and ‘easy’ setup. So I worked hard. Not maddeningly diligently, but pulled in very respectable grades because there was no reason not to. My parents didn’t put pressure on me, but the mere fact that they were willing to invest financially in me was a huge motivating factor. They subscribe to the idea that I will eventually inherit this money when I am older. I need it more when I’m 18 than I do when I am 45.

    Their financial support meant I could get involved in a lot of school organizations and cultivate some unique and not-necessarily-profitable interests. If anything, I remember my University experience from the learning experiences and relationships I formed during my extra-curriculars rather than just the academics.

    At the same time, I must admit that I am not as resourceful as some people who may have had to scramble for advantages. I definitely could have built up more work experience and stuffed my days a bit more. It would be helpful to encourage your children to gain more work skills while at the same time giving them the financial foundation to help them do so.

    All in all, it’s on a case by case basis.

  74. cookie says:

    Very interesting discussion. I believe that parents should contribute the bulk of the cost of at least 4 years of postsecondary education, since a degree is now a necessity for even low-level jobs, and tuition keeps increasing far beyond the rate of inflation. At the same time, young adults need opportunities to learn how to handle their personal finances. As others have mentioned, it can be helpful to ask the children to contribute something to their own expenses.

    Not all kids whose parents pay for their educations are spoiled, lazy trust-fund babies. My parents planned since the day I was born for me to attend higher education. They made it clear to me that at age 17-18 I was still a child and had to follow their rules, which meant continuing my education. I knew that if I flunked out, I would be cut off from their support. There was also a tacit agreement that I would not darken their doorstep after I graduated. Accordingly, unlike many of my cohort who ended up moving back home in their mid-twenties, I have lived in poverty on my own and never asked my parents for anything after completing my bachelor’s.

  75. steve says:

    This was our solution and it is working out well for our two sons.

    Both went to expensive schools and graduated within 4 years. They borrowed all they could through federal (non-private) loans and worked work-study or had athletic scholarships. We took out PLUS loans to finance the remainder. All of these loans originated more than 3 years ago and have great rates. The total of our family school loans is now about $666 per month.

    My wife and I reimburse our sons for their loan payments and of course we pay the PLUS loan payment. BUT, our sons each pay us $100 per month in re-reimbursement. So, in fact, we pay $466 per month and they each pay $100 per month.

    They are both working, but have not found clear career paths yet. However, they are not burdened by huge loans and can set out early in life with some saving plans. And because we pay all of the loans, we know that their school loans are being paid and their credit scores are rising.

    They also know that their reimbursements back to us are negotiable; we may decrease the amount if they go back to school for advanced training, and we probably will ask them to raise their payments once they get better jobs or we see that they are not seeking future career plans.
    Even if their school loans are paid off entirely, we will ask them to continue their reimbursements to us for the PLUS loan.

    Another good point about this plan, is that we are treating our two sons equally and neither can complain of preferential treatment.

  76. ChrisD says:

    Tip. Come and study in Europe. Even paying expensive foreigner fees will be cheaper than studying in the US.
    The entire UK got free education until 1997. We still worked hard.

    I understand if a parent can’t afford to help their kids through university, but I know two examples where parents really took it too far.
    1) A friend got free education but had to pay living costs. Their parents contributed some but they had to work in the summer (in awful minimum wage jobs) and a bit during their degree to afford to live. The parents then expected rent! Continuing to give free accommodation while a child is in full time education is not going to ruin their character.

    2) My parents took my sister out to celebrate graduation in a big group with her friends and those friend’s parents. One set of parents paid their bill and left early. They did not pay their child’s dinner (or if they had it would have been at the expense of any other graduation present).

  77. T.J.Wollmershauser says:

    I needed to know was about child support. My Grandson gratuated in 2010.. He plans to attend the Jr. collage. I had talked to his Father about child support. He informed me he was finished, and there would me no more support. We live in Missouri and everything I find says child support should continue till the age of 21. I can see this is going to become a big battle. Could you please tell me where to go, to find the answers I need?

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