Should my child pay for college? This question plagues parents almost from the child’s birth. If so, how much? If not, why not? Rather than avoid this question, we can face it head-on and help our children with life in the process.
Should my child pay for college? Yes, a big part of it!
Give your kids the gift of expecting them to pay a major chunk of their expenses after age 18. Some parents believe in paying for all of their kids’ college. The problem with this is that there’s no “cost” to a young adult who fails or doesn’t put forward their best efforts.
Also, there needs to be a transition between childhood where parents provide almost everything and adulthood where the child becomes an independent adult. College presents that opportunity.
Young adults who bear part of the costs for college are highly motivated to do well. “Man, if I don’t do well on this class, it’s going to cost me a thousand bucks to retake it.” Also, as young adults take on the responsibility of providing for themselves bit by bit, they are far better prepared to become fully independent.
So parents can give their kids that great gift of expecting them to contribute toward college in a major way.
Sit your kids down when they turn about 11 (or now if they’re older!) and talk about their future goals. Then have them develop a cost breakdown for those goals. How much will tuition be? This is often a complete shock to young people. How much will books cost? This is the second shock — books are very expensive. Add in living expenses. Have them list rent, cell phone, food, gas, entertainment, utilities, clothing, travel, school supplies and more. Add in the big items — do they want or need a computer? Once all of that is totaled up, it’s likely to be a daunting surprise to both you and your child. But that’s a great place to start. You then can go through these coming expenses and discuss who will pay for what. Have clear expectations.
It’s good to have this conversation with your spouse many years earlier so that you can begin to save for your part of your child’s education.
Once the costs and expectations are clear, both you and your child can develop a plan. Talk about getting a part-time job when they’re 16 and working through college. Talk about saving the money that comes as gifts from grandparents. And talk about getting good grades. Scholarships are worth fighting for!
Can you help out with college? Sure. But keep it fairly small. Remember the end goal for parenting? Independence. This needs to be approached in steps. As they begin to pay for tuition, rent, and food, they suddenly become aware of budgeting, saving, and penny-pinching. Do not deprive your children of these excellent lessons. You can pay for everything but it is highly likely that you will be handicapping your child or at the very least delaying their life education for many years.
Do kids complain? Do they walk around saying, “Oh Mother and Father Dear. Thank you so much for the wonderful lessons of thrift and savings you are teaching us. We know that this will bless our lives and could save our marriages. We know that we are learning to value everything we have. Thanks again and we feel the love!” Oh, sure. They say that right after they clean their rooms spotlessly and offer to help us with anything we need.
Of COURSE they complain! And we keep saying, “Someday you will thank us.” That’s called good parenting. Keep your eyes on the ball. Education plus responsibility — now that’s a great college education.