Should Mom and Dad Pay for College?

Sasha Brown-Worsham
24

College tuition costs are skyrocketing again, and for those of us with children still in diapers, the news is sobering, indeed.

According to Newser:

Thanks to punishing state budget cuts, the average four-year public school tuition leaped 7.9% to $7,605, according to the College Board, while private nonprofit colleges raised their average asking price 4.5%, to $27,293.

By the time my kids are in college, how much will it be? I can't even think about it. It's enough to make most parents want to cry. But some parents don't think that paying for college is a parent's responsibility. Writer Meagan Francis goes on to say in Babble that she doesn't plan to kick her children to the curb at 18, but that paying for school isn't in her job description.

I've sacrificed my body, free time, career advancement, and much of my cash for them. I rejoice over their successes. I grieve their struggles. I want nothing more than for them to grow up into happy, successful people. But I have my limits.

It's a good argument, but one I vehemently disagree with. And this is why the college tuition news scares me so much.

A child who graduates from college saddled with loans -- the way 7.7 million students did last year -- is a child who starts his or her life behind. It's awfully hard to build a career and a family and a life when $500 a month goes toward a degree you earned a decade ago.

Obviously there are some parents who simply cannot afford to pay $40,000 a year for four years to send their children to college. And for those parents, there are loans and options to explore, but it's the parents who should take the loans, not the child.

College is becoming almost as required as a high school degree was 30 years ago. Now it seems that having a college degree is almost standard and that higher degrees are the way to set yourself apart. How could I expect my child to take out $160K in loans then another $120K if he wanted to, say, go to law school? It seems unconscionable to expect that of a young person.

There are options. Some parents choose to contribute half and then have the child contribute the other half. Other families divide it differently -- "You pay for books, we'll cover the rest." -- but to make an 18-year-old entirely responsible for a degree that is almost necessary nowadays to guarantee a high-paying job seems unfair. If we can't afford to pay for 100 percent of our child's school, then I at least expect to pay a portion, if not more.

That said, I wouldn't appreciate forking over $40K a year for a child who wasn't performing well. Children should be taught personal responsibility and shouldn't take their time in college for granted. Parents who cut off funding from their partying D-average college student can't be faulted for such a decision, but the rest of us ought to pony up the dough.

Do you plan to pay for your child's college education?

 

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