Ok.

I kind of gave it away in the title.

In America it is assumed that parents will pay for their child’s college education. It is somehow assumed that parents “owe” this to their children. But do parents really owe their kids this?

You know that my daughter is very academically focused. She works hard, gets good grades and takes school seriously. I don’t mind paying for her undergraduate studies. However, if my daughter was not studious, I don’t know how much money I would be ponying up for her education.

So what does the group say?

Do parents owe their children a college education?

Discuss:

91 thoughts on “Do We Owe Kids College?

  1. No.

    I was the first of anyone to graduate from University. There was no money. I got a small bursary, a couple of thousand dollars scrimped and saved by my mom when she heard I was applying and then got in, and the rest was work (me) and student loans which I paid off in my 30s (and forced me to live with roommates for too long or in tiny apartments and not go on vacation to the Carribean in winter or wear pretty shoes.) 🤷‍♀️

    Student loans are an incredibly horrendous burden to carry into adulthood and I wish this on no one but… I do not automatically attribute the desire to study post-secondary (or get a car, a house, a trip) to be the parents’ obligation.

    Even though it’s the standard assumption.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. In our country parents are supposed to carry the burden of children’s education. Children are supposed to be either engineers or doctors or CAs. Education is expensive. Parents’ expectations from their children inn terms of academics is sky high. However, I personally feel children should be allowed to decide whether they wish to go for higher studies. If they are actually academically inclined. I have seen school dropouts becoming more successful materially and career wise.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. There is no empirical right or wrong answer. I believe that choosing to have a child brings with it the responsibility that you will do your best for that child. But what “your best” means is entirely dependant upon your individual situation. In some homes, it means ensuring that your child eats while you do without, in better off homes it may mean paying for college.

    But there are so many other sub-plots to consider such as whether knowing their parents can easily afford to pay college fees may put some children under pressure to attend, when it’s not what they truly want, or whether college fees should be met by parents when it’s their expectation that a child will become X (doctor/lawyer/scientist).

    So I go back to – do the best you can for your child. That’s it.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. My kids’ father is a college prof and over the years there have been numerous students who were clearly disinterested in their studies and often even said so out loud that their parents insisted they take these courses and were paying for them. It’s tricky for the prof to deal with because theoretically these students are over 18 (most are 20-24) and legal adults. It brings up a whole other set of questions.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. We couldn’t afford to pay for college so we told our son from middle school to get good grades so that he could get a scholarship for college. He did! Full ride! He worked really hard and he did it himself!

    Liked by 5 people

  5. NO! By the time a kid gets into college they are adults. Adults pay their own damn bills. Are parents supposed to buy adult children their first home also…and if parents pay for it, do parents decorate it according to parents taste and set patent rules? Where does it end? When do we let children grow up and be responsible adults?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nothing wrong with helping, but I disagree that it should be an entitlement or expectation from the kid. I did it myself because my parents couldn’t afford it, but when they could contribute a little, it was very much appreciated. Today, some of my peer aged friends are talking about nothing else than how expensive it is for them to save for college for their kids. I’m thinking, did the kids get jobs and put at least part of their income aside? The expectation that the parents automatically pay for everything drives me nuts.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hmm. I’m American and I didn’t grow up with this expectation as a child or as a parent. It’s true universities calculate a students ability to pay based on their parents income so that does create some expectation. My wife and I are multi-cultural (she’s Chinese) and paying for college and even providing the first home for the child is expected (at least in the area my wife is from). I personally paid my way through college, but I agreed to pay for my kids college because I luckily have the means. But I’m only paying undergraduate. Any graduate studies will need to be covered by themselves. My wife and I are on the same page on this (and no way are we providing first homes – not that could after spending all our savings on their college, haha).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As far as graduate school, my daughter got very generous merit scholarships to three top flight universities. We told her if she went to one of those schools we would help with law school. She chose the more expensive college option so she is well aware that law school is on her

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Neither is my kids got any financial support merit or otherwise for undergrad. My daughter is lucky in that she got a full ride for her PhD program though, so she’ll graduate with no debt at all. My son plans in law school which he will need to pay for if he goes through with it.

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  7. Is it still expected? I wonder if there has been a silent change in perception, especially in the middle classes. I say that because I think college is very “class based” in our society. The assumption is that the rich will pay, the poor have long been assumed to not even encourage higher ed. If the desire is there I think both kids and parents have taken on the responsibility to educate themselves on options more than ever. I would never have assumed we would pay for 3 full college tuition’s. I rarely saw that assumption from anyone during the time my kids were planning, although that was in the early 2000’s. We were lower to middle- middle class then. It was possible to help a bit, but that was all. Even if we could have paid for every aspect, and you know it’s not just tuition- we wouldn’t have and the kids grew up knowing that. We didn’t stress a connection to GPA, academic choices, social choices, clubs/activities. They understood that there was money in the background, but that money was not earmarked for them. I suppose it was that we carried through the concept that we started early on: each family member contributes in the best way they can but we will all have to work in various ways to achieve what we want, parents included.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Some colleges require two financial aid forms, the basic Fafsa and the css profile. The css profile asks for income info of step parents. My daughter knew someone who had a wealthy step parent who had no intention of helping with college(which is 100% their right) and the kid got screwed with aid because the assumption was the step parent would pay…it’s a screwed up and flawed system

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for the memories of the Fafsa…ugh. I totally agree the system sucks and needs major changes. Sadly higher ed is about benefits to the college that far outweigh the education factor. My higher ed views have changed significantly over the years.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. My daughter was telling me that only 35% of Americans have college degrees. The lowness of that number amazes me when you think of how many kids start college. How much wasted money is there on loans which have been forgiven because there’s some misshaped feeling that we should all have college degrees

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I don’t think we owe it to them necessarily, but I do think we owe it to students to support them. I work at a university and there are so many parents who actually hinder their (adult) children’s progress by not filling out paperwork (primarily the FAFSA in the US) . Until someone is 24, they NEED their parents tax info or they can’t get financial aid and that is such a problem.

    So, I wouldn’t say that they need to pay, but if someone wants to go to college, I don’t think they should be held back.

    But, not everyone needs to go to college and that’s the flip side of this. I think there’s an expectation in many families that children MUST go to college. My nephew is a smart kid, but he’s quite kinetic and he doesn’t do well in a classroom setting. I think he’d do well to learn a trade or something, but whenever I mention it to his mother, she’s insistent that he go to college. College might not set him up for success, but he’s going to be pressured into it.

    It’s all very complicated and I’m glad I don’t have children. Ha!

    Liked by 3 people

      1. At least one of my kids is not going to attend University (or at least not straight out of high school). They have to find their own way… my mom has set aside some money for them to pay for school if they desire it, but if they don’t want to use it for school they have to wait until age 25 to access the cash. It’s one way of encouraging post-secondary education without pressuring them to do it because it’s expected (just like a kid could expect the parents to pay for his schooling without consideration whether it should be an automatic expectation).

        Liked by 1 person

      2. We have to stop companies from requiring undergraduate degrees for entry level jobs. Most jobs don’t require college

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    1. I will echo this comment. I work in higher ed and see students struggling due to lack of cooperation from parents. I wish the financial aid system treated the students as independent adults not linked to their parent’s finances. I also see more and more students who have zero interest in higher ed, but are here because someone is paying. Neither situation is ideal.

      I stayed in higher ed for a multitude of reasons, but one of the biggest reasons was the tuition benefit. I am still paying off my own student loans. However, my daughter was able to graduate debt free.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re spot on….you have parents who give little support, and then you have the parents that push their own agenda. Neither is an ideal scenario

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  9. Footing the whole college bill isn’t the parents responsibility. If the child is really interested in college there needs to be discussions in middle scool about how this is going to be paid for. The burden shouldn’t be on the parents. There is a lady at work who works every hour of overtime so her and her husband can so she can put her daughter through college because they paid for the first daughter. I think she’s crazy.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. No, parents don’t owe their children a college education, BUT it is nice when they can give their children the money for one. It is a head start in life. Student loans are a decade-long financial burden, but whatcha gonna do?

    Liked by 2 people

  11. We started college savings accounts when our kids were born. We asked the grandparents not to buy toys and clothes but to donate to the college fund instead. My daughter was offered swim scholarships around the country and chose one that had a very generous offer. She still has her college account post graduation. My son on the other hand was in the College of Creative Studies at UCSB where he was allowed to drop classes the day before finals, which he did repeatedly. We still had to pay the tuition. When he started his fifth year, my husband said enough is enough. Amazing when our son had to pay, he graduated within one quarter.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. In our case a definite no. Two of our kids wanted nothing to do with college. I told them right from the start that we were not going to pay for them if they weren’t going to actually focus on it. The third one was focused and had a plan from 5th grade so we did assist as much as we could. Crossing fingers they eliminate some of the student loan debt. The portion we had to borrow was forgiven because of my husband’s disability thank God.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. My mom was not able to help me at all with college. I did it all alone with grants and scholarships. I didn’t assume it was her responsibility. We were able to pay for college for our kids, but they also both started working at 16 as well. The only reason they had the expectation was that they knew we had a college fund for them

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Your readers have already done a wonderful job of responding to your post. Finances and each child is so different -so many variables. Hiking up a mountain you don’t help equally those in your group – you go to where the need is greatest and you give according to what you can.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. I once read a fascinating comparison of the average undergraduate experience in Europe vs in the US. I don’t remember every difference (there were a LOT :)), but the overall sense I got was that European universities are focused on … studying. To the exclusion of fraternities and sororities, the highlight on sports, etc. Tuition is reasonable there, too, the comparison stated. If the true goal is to study, I see it as a lofty goal that should be supported (and tuition should reflect that). If the underlying desire is to party for a few years …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My daughter is a studier, not a partier. But yeah…I know people whose kids don’t even go to class. I don’t understand that. And don’t get me started on sports and schools…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The role that sports plays is ridiculous. As most are not going to be professional athletes, let’s concentrate on the studying. My daughter has a basketball player in one of her classes (basketball and soccer are high profile at her university) she said the teacher calls on the athlete every single class and expects well thought out answers

        Liked by 1 person

    1. My thing is though, if a kid isn’t going to study, or doesn’t really want to be in college, the parent is better served in trying to help the kid figure out a path

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  16. Excellent question – I think “owe” is not the word – if you can do it, it’s a gift, but the kids have an obligation to work at their studies. If you can’t do it – then it’s always good to show them other ways to get a college education – there are many!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Too many variables at stake. Impossible to answer for everyone. My parents felt it was their “job to provide all the tools required for us to become successful.” That included reliable transportation and an education. We were not allowed to work during high school or college because our “job was to make straight A’s.” That being said, my parents had the means to pay for college, yet my sisters and I all ended up with part-time jobs for some extra spending money.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have no problem with parents giving kids the tools. We’ve completely done that with my daughter, but only because she works really hard at her studies. If she was a slacker, I don’t think my answer would be the same

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  18. We were able to help our kids with their undergraduate studies (3 have graduated), but they know graduate school is on them. I have one kid that went the vocational route and decided to work for a while. He might attend a vocational college down the road. We have money set aside to help with that if he chooses. I don’t think it should be an obligation if the money isn’t available, ultimately I believe our education is our responsibility. Great topic, C

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t know how much handing them stuff teaches them about the value of an education.I think it’s sort of the first adult lesson they should learn

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      1. I agree about learning the value of an education but I also know a young person will choose in favor of money over struggling through undergraduate degree especially when they’re paying for it. It takes a really mature person to make that decision right.

        Liked by 1 person

  19. Nope, not at all. If there are resources for sending a child or children through college and they are responsible, etc, fine, yet in my humble opinion, the worst thing we can do is contribute to a norm of youth expecting parents to pay.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I firmly feel that our country owes its children a college education. Not necessarily a free-ride, but certainly within a reasonably achievable sum. No student debts upon graduation. Why? Because by educating our youths, the entire country elevates its standard of living and productivity. Our priorities are all screwed up. And I don’t even have children.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I will disagree with you here. I think a lot of kids don’t value learning,and they value it less when they don’t need to work for it. Look at how many high schoolers can’t do basic math or write? We give them that and they don’t care. Now, if a kid want to dedicate their life to being a teacher or nurse or doctor, and contractually obligate themselves to spend at least twenty years at the job, then I’m ok with paying their education. I would rather kids apprentice for two years post high school and then if they LOVE a job, the company pays for college or trade school

      Liked by 2 people

      1. As I said, not a free ride, but affordable. And I certainly didn’t indicate that every child should go to college. I don’t think that judging whether they’re making the “right” career choice should be a consideration. The apprenticeship idea is good, though.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. If I thought kids were capable of the Jeffersonian ideal of renaissance person, and were truly open to educating themselves in all aspects, I would be all for it. However, I live across the street from an NYU dorm, around the block from SVA and Baruch, and I can guarantee you that the majority of these kids are in it for the fun. To accrue that much debt for fun, without having a vocation spells trouble

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      3. I agree. Some kids should not be putting their parents into debt. In The Netherlands, we spoke with some college students about their education. They do not have to pay tuition. The government tests their aptitude and then puts them on one of three tracks: trade school, regular degree, advanced professional degree. But I think they are taught to value education from an early age. Our society’s attitude toward education (e.g. how little we pay teachers and voting down increases in funding) is picked up in subtle ways by the children. Why should they value what the adults don’t? Changing that attitude is a key part of improving outcomes.

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  21. I definitely don’t think it is owed to the child by the parent. If a child wants to go to university/college it is their choice, and it is their choice what they want to study. In Australia, we pay off our university debt once we start earning a certain amount of money, so no one has to pay it straight away and it is your responsibility later on, after you finish your degree. Once you become an adult you should stop relying on parents to pay for something so expensive. Just my opinion, but great post idea!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. No, I don’t think it’s owed. We had no money, so I went straight to work fresh out of high school. I didn’t want the same for my kids, so I paid for both of them (undergrad). Anything over that, they were responsible for themselves. It’s worked out well.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. I don’t think we “owe” our children an education beyond high school. If a child chooses to go to college and expects help, that’s an issue (in my opinion). Of course, if I had the means to do it, I most certainly would. But I would not do well with my child expecting it. Thankfully my oldest son got his free education from the military. My daughter pursued a degree on her own and now has not only student loans, but she’s working in an entirely different field. So it seemed like a waste and I would have been upset had I provided the funds.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. No, we don’t owe it to our kids. If we have the means to help out, fine. If we can afford to, fine. But if it causes a hardship, no.
    I read recently from a popular financial advisor that it doesn’t make good financial sense for parents to pay for their kids’ educations. She actually advised against it in favor of scholarships, loans, etc. It was said that as much money as reasonably possible should be put towards retirement and that too many adults are not prepared for the expenses involved with growing older. She said our children will thank us later if we are able to take care of ourselves when we get older so the burden doesn’t fall to them. I agree with this.

    Liked by 2 people

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