Making Your Kid Pay for College Is a Very Smart Move

Say What!? 13

college lecture

Who knew the best investment you could make in your kid's future is to not pay for college? That's the conclusion from a new study. Turns out, the more financial assistance a parent gives a child, the lower his GPA. The solution? Let our kids foot the bill. It's counter-intuitive, I know. Especially if you can afford to help pay the way. But this actually makes perfect sense and here's why.

You would think someone who has no financial worries would practically breeze through college. It's stressful to wonder how you are going to pay for tuition each semester, not to mention room, board, and books. But according to the study published in the American Sociological Review, poorer students actually have it easier when it comes to excelling in school. Basically, kids who have their own "skin in the game" work harder than those getting a free ride from their parents.

"The reason it was so shocking, however, is that all the research on parental investments from preschool through [college] assumes you give something to your kids, particularly money, it leads to good things," said study author Laura Hamilton. "This is one case where it not only doesn't have the expected good effect, it has a small negative effect." Another part of the problem is that wealthier kids are able to socialize more -- which can be costly on college campuses. Those pub crawls and girls' nights at clubs aren't cheap. But all that fun can cause your GPA to take a serious dive.

It makes sense to me. You have even more to lose when you are taking out tens of thousands of dollars that you will have to pay back on your own. If you waste the chance to learn something and lay the foundation for a career, you are the only one who suffers in the end. You may also be more grateful for whatever contribution your parents can add because you know how hard it was for them to do that. A student who doesn't see this education as much of a sacrifice doesn't carry the same weight on his shoulders.

I can see why kids who are poorer or struggle financially outperform their rich counterparts. I believe that hunger -- literally and figuratively -- drives kids to work harder. I am not sure if the solution is completely cutting off my kid when it comes to college. I can't imagine doing that. But I think that there has to be a compromise. It's entirely too easy for students to squander those years. I think making them pay a hefty portion is only fair. It teaches a hard lesson early -- you better get all you can out of this because you sure as hell are paying for it.

Do you think kids who have to pay their own way through college work harder?


Image via velkr0/Flickr

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fleur... fleurdelys3110

Success in college has nothing to do with a student's parents paying or not. It has to do with the student's character. Sure, there may be some wealthy parents who have taught their children to be flippant about doing well in school, but there may also be poor parents who never chose to instill that value or who never had the time to do so as well. I think the lesson you should take away from this fail of an article is that correlation does not imply causality.

nonmember avatar Octoberbird

I completely agree with fleurdelys. Okay, first of all, the generalizations in this article are completely stupid. I know many so-called "poor students" whose parents barely make ends meet, and those students have very low GPA. Second, if the student wasn't used to working hard to do well in high school, he/she is not going to succeed in college, no matter who pays for it. Third, good students are those who earned scholarships on their own back in high school, not necessarily those who contribute to it. I work and go to college, but it's for my own benefit. I don't spend my pocket money that I earn on clubs and parties, but not on college tuition either. My parents are by no means rich, but they afford to pay my tuition, and do it. Plus, I have a 4.0 GPA, and am aware that I need to work hard and pass my classes in order not to waste my parents' money, at the very least. Every case has an exception.

nonmember avatar kat

Respectfully disagree. I'm working toward a Computer Science major, which is often a good 40 hours of homework a week in and of itself. My parents are helping me out financially. (I will pay them back when I start working this summer--and yes, I do already have a job in my field lined up, so this will not be an issue.) I struggle as it is with my classwork, so yeah, my GPA's worse than if I had taken a less time-intensive course of study, but, had I done that, I'd probably be supporting myself now. Correlation does not equal causation every time in this case.

tuffy... tuffymama

^The wealthy parents I know teach their kids to be responsible, conservative, morally upright people.

I didn't start college until I was 25, because I had to pay my own way. I have more work and supervisory experience than most people my age. That helped tremendously in my career.

xiolxuo xiolxuo

You chose to have children. You need to help them out. They're already going to be in debt.. splitting it or at least paying part of it is what you should do.

Senia... Seniahmom

I know far too many spoiled kids who didn't have to work in high school and didn't have to pay for college. The majority don't know their head from their ass.

My kids will do what I did - work when they can, search and apply for every scholarship they can, choose good but affordable school even if it means not going away or where everyone is going. They'll be better for it.

P2The... P2TheDoodle

The key here is making sure that you actually inform your children of what you are willing to do, and then helping them to choose a school that best matches what they will then be able to afford.

I got a scholarship that paid for half my schooling, and still ended up with 50,000 in student loans. If my parents had helped me to understand my future income potential versus what the monthly payment would be, I might have chosen differently. (And I did work my butt off at college.)

My husband had his paid for entirely - not as great of a student, I hate to say; so I could believe the higher GPA thing. It's the same for even little things - you buy it, it's suddenly more valuable. 

nonmember avatar Karri

I'm a junior and college and my parents have not paid for anything beyond a few textbooks and other things at the beginning to get me started without having to go into debt, and transportation costs so I can go home for breaks. They did insist on very high academic standards in high school, knowing I would need the good grades to get scholarships if I was going to pay for my college without a lot of student loans. My parents can't afford to pay my college tuition along with all my siblings, but they have gotten us on the right foot to do well. I think that is what matters, a lot more than who is paying for it or the prosperity level of the family, is how much they emphasize the importance of education.

nonmember avatar DR2011

All the wealthy people I know tend to be blatant jerks and not at all driven because they fail to see college as an investment in themselves. Maybe it's just the kids that went to my school...

I do resent making it about conservative/liberal and morally upright or not. I am a liberal, I've worked since I was 11 (I'm 23 now so over half my life) - babysitting then working in a bank then in a hospital ... I paid for school myself. Okay a fair amount is a loan but that was only after I got as much financial aid as I could. It's not without merit to suggest parents make college their child's investment.

Stone... StoneySkid

My parents told me, and continue to remind me, that my college education is my job. I need to work just as hard at getting good grades as I would at my dream job or an internship. Also, my parents have told me that my inheritance is me going to school-getting the education I need so I can succeed in the future. My parents are middle class and they work hard for their money, just like many others.

And I've never been good at school, I'm more of a hands-on person. It's not just money that plays into a factor for students, but how the colleges and universities teach the students. Lecture halls are not always the best answer, hands-on experiences and connections with professors and people in the field in addition to lectures(big and small) are what will help make a successful student, but it is the student himself/herself that has to have to drive to get through school and earn a degree.

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