Should parents pay for their kids’ tuition?

The PF blogosphere is made up of all different types of people. I mean, we’re all total nerds, but we all have semi-unique backgrounds and experiences.

In regards to college, there are bloggers whose parents paid for their entire tuition and others whose parents just helped cover costs.

And then others, like myself, whose parents did not pay any of our tuition.

To get this out of the way first, I don’t believe parents should be obligated to pay for or even help with tuition. Would it be nice? Sure. But the majority of people enter college at the age of 18. This is adulthood. Therefore, your parents are no longer legally obligated to cover any of your expenses. More than that, I don’t think they are morally obligated.

While my parents didn’t pay for my tuition*, I didn’t take this to mean they loved me less or cared less about my future.

I am not mad at them for my student loan debt because it’s really not their problem.

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They chose not to contribute, maybe because of financial strains or maybe because of other priorities, but either way, I hold no resentment. I am glad to have this indebted experience. It brought me to where I am today.

Because of my personal experience, I often think about whether or not I will help my children out with tuition. I could either go the “I didn’t get help, they don’t need it” route, or the “I don’t want my kids to deal with crippling debt” route. I’ll probably end up somewhere in the middle.

I like the idea of helping my children out with tuition, provided they are excelling in school. I am also of the opinion every single undergrad student should work at least 20 hours a week**. College should not be a postponement of adulthood.

In my ideal situation, I suppose I would pay for any classes in which my children received an A or a B and expect them to cover entertainment and living expenses on their own. What I want to know is what YOU plan on doing with your kids.

Here’s what I’m wondering:

#1. Was your tuition completely or partially paid for by your parents?

#2. How much would you be willing to contribute to your children’s college education?

#3. Did your own experience of paying or not paying for your own tuition affect your decision to pay or not pay for your kids’ tuition?

I am very curious to see whether people are following in their parents’ footsteps or doing the opposite. Comment below!

*Credit where credit is due. My father gifted me 4 years of textbooks as my high school graduation gift and my mom paid for my cell phone and car insurance until the age of 19.

**With two exceptions — students who are on music or athletic scholarships, assuming they have practice during the hours they would be working.

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Comments

  1. My parents paid for my tuition and accommodation (of my undergrad), and then I was responsible for any spending money. I was also then responsible for paying my own way for my masters programme – so I had student loans. I think I would do the same thing for my children (send them to Germany to study so it’s free!) ;) or send them to my university.

  2. 1. My tution was 100% paid for, but I did go to a state school that also happened to be Top 3 in country for my major so that made the choice easy. I worked about 10 hours a week and that was hard enough considering the amount of homework a full course loud entailed.

    2. We are going to pay the tution for a state school and if you want to go somewhere that costs more that is on them. Of course ROTC and the service academies are always an option and if my kid goes the service academy route I would be pretty proud since they are all great schools.

    3. Like most parents I want my kids to have it better than me, so not saddling them with debt is one way to make that happen. I know starting off my career debt free helped a lot and made the decision to take on debt for an MBA harder, but it also made it possible for me to make that decision.

  3. #1. Was your tuition completely or partially paid for by your parents?
    I paid for all three degrees on my own. It was hard, but it was well worth it. I have no more student loan debt after paying it all off last summer :)

    #2. How much would you be willing to contribute to your children’s college education?
    I don’t think contributing to my children’s college education will be my top priority. I did just fine without help, so I don’t think it’s impossible. However, if our retirement fund is on track and we have money to save for their college, I don’t see why not.

    #3. Did your own experience of paying or not paying for your own tuition affect your decision to pay or not pay for your kids’ tuition?
    Yes. Since I did just fine, I think that I can teach my future kids to do something similar.

    • Totally agree that saving for retirement should always trump helping with education. After all, there are no scholarships or student loans for retirement! Also, who wants to saddle their kids with the pressure to take care of them in old age because they didn’t prioritize retirement?

  4. #1. My tuition was either partially or completely paid by my parents, depending on how you look at it. I worked my tail off in high school to get a top scholarship at my college, which covered 50% of tuition, and my parents paid the other 50%.

    #2. I’m not planning to have children, but I started a 529 account for my nephew, and I plan to pay for as much of his school as I am able to afford (because my brother’s economic situation will not likely enable him to help much).

    #3. Yes, absolutely — I was able to focus on academics 100% and only had to work part-time doing things that would help my resume and grad school applications — and I know that for me personally, I got a much better education as a result.

  5. FlyingPigs says:

    #1: My parents paid for all my tuition fees and living expenses but only for 1st and 4thyear of my college. Since I was also in internship program that actually pays the students during internship, so i was able to pay for half of my tuition fee and my living cost for 2nd and 3rd year. I also did take on 6 courses for the second term of my year to further reduce my tuition cost (the 6th course is free- i think the universities changed their policy and students can’t take the 6th course for free). My tuition fee and living cost were half paid for by my parents and my own effort.

    #2: I would be willing to shell out up to 80% of the tuition fee. Depends on the program and the circumstances. I don’t want to shelter my children, and they need to learn to face the real world, especially during university.

    #3: It does. Paying the tuition on your own is entirely possible. But it’s all comes down to the circumstances. Given that the tuition cost today will be higher tomorrow, so it’s harder for students to cope with financial cost of their education. Some help will be warranted but not the entire cost.

  6. #1. Was your tuition completely or partially paid for by your parents?
    I was really lucky my parents planned to pay for all of their childrens education and my tuition was entirely paid for. I did pay all my living and entertainment costs though and worked full time while I was in school to pay rent.
    #2. How much would you be willing to contribute to your children’s college education?
    I intend to pay for my childrens education as long as it doesn’t put a financial burden on me but since I know now I want to pay for it, it’s an expense I will save for way in advance.
    #3. Did your own experience of paying or not paying for your own tuition affect your decision to pay or not pay for your kids’ tuition?
    Since my parents paid for me and I know they did make sacrifices (no new cars, no big vacations, living frugally) to put aside that money it did influence how I view things.

    Also as a side note: I find it absolutely mind boggling when parents won’t pay for education but then give five figures to cover a wedding. Just seems weird to me.

    • Yeah, that wedding thing is weird. My parents didn’t pay for my wedding either (although it was under a grand, so it wouldn’t have been difficult), but that’s basically telling your kid that marriage is more important than education. I have a sad feeling that these are mostly the parents of females…

      • Very true that’s exactly how I see it just strange. Besides if you pay for their education ideally they are well employed after and can finance their own life right? Including extravagant weddings should they choose.

    • I won’t pay for my kids’ college education, but I also won’t be giving them money for a wedding either. I’d rather just give them a lump sum and let them decide to do with it what they will.

      This is also influenced by the fact that I myself do not want a wedding/get married, and it wouldn’t be fair if you only got money just because you chose a certain path (e.g. if let’s say my parents gave my siblings money for a wedding but if I chose to avoid all that, I’d get $0).

      • That’s fair, luckily we all decided to go to university so there was no issue there but my parents are pretty fair if one of us didn’t go I am sure they would have helped with trade school, a house or maybe something with their share of our education money.

  7. #1. Was your tuition completely or partially paid for by your parents?
    My parents helped with books the first two years but the last two years and my grandma gave all of her grandkids money for school, for me it was about 10-15% of the total cost. The rest ended up as loans.

    #2. How much would you be willing to contribute to your children’s college education?
    If I had kids, I would help a little bit, especially with book/living expenses in the beginning, but it would not be a priority at all.

    #3. Did your own experience of paying or not paying for your own tuition affect your decision to pay or not pay for your kids’ tuition?
    Probably – I find it fairly manageable. While my remaining student loans are in the $50k range (I graduated in 2009), I haven’t had a problem paying them on my own and have even knocked one out so far. I also don’t think that the costs will continue to rise like they are right now – we’re definitely going to hit a point where they have to stop, as no one can afford it anymore.

    • I have quite a bit in student loans (although a bit less than you) and I find them reasonably manageable. And I’m not even working in my field anymore, I’m paying them on freelancing income. I think people are a bit over-dramatic about the burden of student loans.

  8. 1) My parents didn’t pay for any of my education. I paid for it with a combination of grants, wages from high school and summers, working about 10-18 hours a week during school, and student loans of about $25,000.
    2) I will absolutely pay for my child’s education, with a few caveats. The maximum amount I will pay for tuition is the most expensive in-state public school.If they want to attend an expensive private school or go out of state for something they could be getting in-state, the financial burden of that decision is on them. They will also have to work during the summer and while they’re in school for about 10 hours a week. Having more demands on their time will help them to learn how to manage it better, and anyone who says you can’t do all of your school work and work hasn’t tried it.
    3) My opinion has absolutely been shaped by my own experience. I do resent not getting any help from my parents a little bit, and I believe with good long-term planning it can be avoided for myself.

    Interesting questions, certainly.

  9. #1. Was your tuition completely or partially paid for by your parents?

    My parents did not pay for my college at all. I applied to many many scholarships (big and small) and earned enough scholarship money to have all of college paid for. In fact, I earned so many scholarships–I had left over money that just went right into my bank account—I say it was the best job I ever had :)

    #2. How much would you be willing to contribute to your children’s college education?

    I don’t have kids, yet, so I don’t know what I would be willing to contribute. I agree with Michelle though–it wouldn’t be a priority, but if my retirement is on track, I wouldn’t mind helping future children with school.

    #3. Did your own experience of paying or not paying for your own tuition affect your decision to pay or not pay for your kids’ tuition?

    Yes. I don’t think it is a big priority because I was able to earn scholarships even though I was average (A-B student) academically and average financially.

  10. 1.) Nope-I paid for my schooling

    2.) I will begin contributing to a school savings fund once they are born

    3.) Yes, I don’t want them to have the debt that I incurred going to college.

    Also, I will require them to pay for their books and monthly expenses.

  11. #1. Was your tuition completely or partially paid for by your parents? No, they didn’t have the financial means.

    #2. How much would you be willing to contribute to your children’s college education? Pay tuition (if they are doing well), but leave textbooks, living expenses, and fun to them. They should work while in school, I did and it is good experience and something to put on the resume which makes it easier to get a full-time job once out of school.

    #3. Did your own experience of paying or not paying for your own tuition affect your decision to pay or not pay for your kids’ tuition? YES. Being $20K in debt at 23 working at a just barely better than minimum wage job SUCKED! I wouldn’t wish it on an enemy let alone my own child.

    However, too many people I know that got their parents to pay for their education either didn’t finish or went along without really caring since they weren’t going to foot the bill. So, I would definitely cut off the financial support if they’re not doing well.

  12. 1.) Besides my mom and dad cosigning on my loans, I paid for college through my savings and loans.
    2.) Yes, I will set up a savings account for their education. They will receive the money only if they attend 2 or 4 year college, do their best to receive scholarships, and work during high school. I would also require them to work a student employment position while in college to earn their own spending money.
    3.) Yes. I think my parents did the right thing by having me have ownership over the cost of my college. Though they only managed to save a couple of thousand, I was extremely appreciative of it. I was the only child out of 3 to receive their college savings money because I was the only one who received good grades, went to a four year college, and worked throughout high school.

  13. Working 20 hours/week would be pretty steep for the college I went to, especially if the jobs were not workstudy. I think worked more hours than any of the people I knew (most didn’t have jobs) and I only worked 10 hrs/week and thankfully could work on homework for most of the time I was on the job. I think it is great for students to have some skin in the game in terms of paying for some expenses, but I wouldn’t put that high of a time commitment on my child if he/she was in an academically demanding major like engineering or science (which I certainly hope he/she will be).

    #1. Was your tuition completely or partially paid for by your parents?

    My parents paid for the vast majority of my tuition and room and board, though I took out the max allowed federally subsidized loans each year (amounted to $17k by the end). (I went to a super expensive private college.) I was on my own for additional expenses, but I really didn’t have many and I covered them with my workstudy job.

    #2. How much would you be willing to contribute to your children’s college education?

    I don’t have a number yet. Probably we’ll save regularly for our kids’ college educations once we have them, but it will depend on our means. I don’t want to make any guarantees about fully covering it but I think we would have to be pretty hard up to say we couldn’t help at all.

    #3. Did your own experience of paying or not paying for your own tuition affect your decision to pay or not pay for your kids’ tuition?

    Definitely. My husband’s parents paid for 100% of his college experience, even giving him an allowance for miscellaneous living expenses. So between the two of us we really feel the need to pay forward this leg up we had at the beginning of our adulthood.

    • I can’t comment on the engineering/science aspect, but I did 20-35 hours a week studying accounting. It was challenging at times, but not impossible. That said, without actually studying those things, I can’t tell you whether or not 20 hours a week is feasible :)

  14. 1) I paid for my own tuition 100%. But upon graduation my parents surprised me by giving me money to pay off about 1/5 of my student loans.

    2) I am leaning towards not paying for my kid’s tuition, and maybe doing something my parents did by helping them pay off their students loans if they show that they are financially responsible during their schools years, like I was.

    3) Yes. Paying for my own tuition and dealing in part with the student debt repayment after was the best financial lesson I have ever learned and it’s something I would want my kids to learn as well.

  15. My parents co-signed for a loan for school because I didn’t qualify for OSAP. I had saved a good portion of money prior to school but couldn’t have afforded to go right out of high school by myself.

    I’ve worked a minimum of 10 hours a week since I was 14, at times holding 2-3 jobs. By earning and saving as much as I could prior to leaving for school , my parents were willing to fill in the gaps where necessary in lieu of Christmas/ Birthday gifts (my housing was covered for my full 4 years in University).

    In addition to helping with housing costs, they also “gifted” me the interest payments +$100 on my student line of credit as well as a $500 graduation gift towards the debt repayment. Once I graduated I assumed all tuition debt that I had accumulated over my 4 years in University and 1 year in post-grad – to the tune of $20,000. This doesn’t include any books as I was always able to pay up front or use library copies.

    That being said I think they picked a pretty generous approach. I think it all depends on your financial situation. I wouldn’t have held a grudge if they hadn’t helped, but I can see the amount of debt a number of my peers have and am VERY glad I was fortunate enough to not be $40-60,000 in debt.

  16. #1. Was your tuition completely or partially paid for by your parents?

    No. All $60,000 was my doing, which included moving out at the age of 19 to attend said colleges.

    #2. How much would you be willing to contribute to your children’s college education?

    $0.

    If after they all graduate and I have money that I would like to give to them, I’d give each child the same amount of money (e.g. $25,000) and then let them decide what to do with it — pay off debt, or if they didn’t go to college, use it for something else.

    #3. Did your own experience of paying or not paying for your own tuition affect your decision to pay or not pay for your kids’ tuition?

    Yes.

    Only in my last year when I realized my parents were lying the whole time and had $0 saved for my education (they told me $10,000!)… I started applying for scholarships, grants, and saving for my own education.

    I worked 2 full-time jobs while going to school, moved out at 19, paid for everything on my own, cleared my own $60,000 student (and living) debt in 18 months, and have no sympathy whatsoever.

    What I went through, will not happen with my kids.

    1. They will know up front I am paying for nothing, and they will make decisions on their own knowing it is of their own free will and money…obviously with PF basics I will have already covered with them since the age of 5.

    2. They will know up front that I do not expect them to attend college especially if it’s to take a degree that they consider a hobby but is not something they plan on making a career out of — the trades is also a good place to go if you are not academically-minded.

    3. I don’t reward on expected results, also known as “hopes and dreams of delusional parents”.

    I will reward on ACTUAL results, that is, they made it through that period of their life, made decisions with their money for better or for worse, and if they have proven to be responsible with money (this will be in their mid-20s perhaps early 30s), it will make me a lot more relaxed and more willing to give them my hard earned money after the fact.

  17. **three exceptions, engineering should be included

  18. 1. My mom helped me with part of my college expenses. But most of my college degree was funded by scholarships luckily. I took out the necessary amount of student loans each semester and worked a few hours each semester. Probably less than 10 hours a week but it was the best I could do with my course load.

    2. I would hope to set up a 529 for my kids and help them choose a college wisely.

    3. Yes it definitely did. I would want my kids to be helped considering college is so expensive, but not feel entitled to a completely free ride.

  19. #1. Was your tuition completely or partially paid for by your parents?

    - My tuition was partially paid for by my parents (my mom left her stay-at-home mom-ness when I was in middle school to help save money for this – and I’m super grateful!). The other part was taken care of by student loans that I’m responsible for paying back.

    #2. How much would you be willing to contribute to your children’s college education?

    - I’m willing to contribute whatever is saved up in my daughter’s 529 plan, but honestly we want to pay off our own student loans before saving up for her college education! You can take out loans for education, but not for retirement!

    #3. Did your own experience of paying or not paying for your own tuition affect your decision to pay or not pay for your kids’ tuition?

    - Yes, maybe? I wouldn’t take on a second job (because I already have a full-time job) to save up for her college costs, but I like the idea of helping with what we can and having loans cover the rest. I’m also hopeful for college scholarships to come through!

    I also believe that it’s important for my child to get a job in high school, even if it’s just babysitting or something similar. My parents didn’t encourage me to do this very much (nor did they help me manage what I took in), so I didn’t really “work” until I had my work-study in college (which wasn’t a shock or anything, but I just think of how much I could have made and maybe even contributed to my own education)!

  20. I received a scholarship that covered 100% of my tuition + other scholarships for books and supplies. Because of this my parents said they would pay for my living expenses. Then I switched schools after 2 years and the tuition scholarship didn’t transfer but I was lucky enough to get that paid for too. My brothers on the other hand have had to take out loans because they didn’t get enough scholarships. I’m very grateful to be debt free, but am also proud that I worked hard enough to get many costs covered on my own accord, not soley from daddy’s bank account.

  21. My parents did NOT help me pay my tuition. And sadly for me, both my sisters got a scholarship through my dad’s work, so I’m the one that got the short end of the stick.

    I would like to open an RESP for my kids (once I have kids) that will help pay for their school, but I don’t intend to fund them 100%. I am considering not giving them an allowance or taking something like 25% of it and putting it right into the RESP. Sure kids need spending money, but I’d rather my kids have an education then blow all their money on candy or toys. (My kids are going to hate me!! Haha.)

  22. My parents cosigned my loans (bad idea I wish they had said no and let me figure it out on my own) but I am the one who is responsible for paying for them. I did work part-time at a bank throughout my school career and I am beyond thankful for that because I got some good experience in addition to my education.

    At first I was upset that I got stuck with this much debt and my parents aren’t helping me, then I realized that it was MY decision to go to a private school and spend all that money when I was 10 miles away from a good public school. When I have kids I will help them pay for school, but I will not pay for everything.

  23. #1. Was your tuition completely or partially paid for by your parents?
    Completely paid by parents and they paid for everything else, including $200-400 in credit card bills every month.

    #2. How much would you be willing to contribute to your children’s college education?

    I would pay 100% of college education, their credit card bills, and other bills until they’re 21.

    #3. Did your own experience of paying or not paying for your own tuition affect your decision to pay or not pay for your kids’ tuition?

    It’s definitely influence my decision, or rather the thought of not paying their tuition didn’t cross my mind until this article. In theory, I do see the value of children being financially responsible for their college education.

  24. Most ppl I have met fall into one of these categories:
    A) Parents contributed nothing – you’re on your own at 18
    B) Parents make partial or full contribution to degree(s)
    C) Parens do B plus a house downpayment, RESP for baby, wedding bonus, etc..

    In my experience, most Bs and Cs intend to be the same way with their children, as do most As. However, there are a subset of As who want to do B or C, of which I am one.

    I’ve often thought how crazy it sounds that I will pay for 3 educations (my own 2 degrees, and those of each of my two future children), while my grandparents, parents and my children will pay for none….it’s kind of interesting when you think about it that way.

    I think it’s very important to pay for the child’s education in this competitive world where a degree is a necessity. Also, the long-term consequences of having to foot the bill yourself can include: delayed marriage, parenthood, buying a home, missing investment opportunities and compounding, delayed retirement, poor health (eating crappy food to pay down debts?), missing life experiences, forgoing advanced education, not reaching full potential at work, etc…..

    Although I supppose if every parent funded every child who wanted to go, they we may as well have the state fund post-sec, which might not be a bad idea.

  25. 1. My parents paid my tuition for both my undergrad and after-degree. I was made well aware that they had struggles with student debt and they wanted that stress off my shoulders, which I will always appreciate. With that said, having them paying for my tuition did not equate to a free ride. I went to a school in town for as long as possible to get basic pre-requisites out of the way and then transferred to a different university once I needed more specialized classes. I always paid for my books and living expenses (when not living at home), and was expected to work as much as my course load allowed.

    2. When I have kids I would help with their tuition as much as possible, however would go into it with the same expectation that they would work hard, get good grades, and apply for as many scholarships in order to offset the cost of going to school. If it was out of town they would also be expected to pay for their own living expenses.

    Having your parents pay for a post-secondary education is a MASSIVE privilege and not a right. If you are lucky enough to have that kind of financial support then use it wisely, and do your best. I had some classes where I certainly didn’t get a very good grade, but if my parents knew I had worked hard, studied, done required assignments, and gotten extra help when needed they were proud of me none the less. The attitude I take with my future kids will be the same.

  26. #1. Was your tuition completely or partially paid for by your parents?
    My parents contributed $1,000 the first year. Drops in the bucket, but not nothing. They helped with some living expenses, but nothing that was a big burden to their finances. (They let me live at home for a semester or two, and kept me on their car/health insurance.)

    #2. How much would you be willing to contribute to your children’s college education?
    As much as we can afford while still having retirement goals, assuming they are serious about their studies.

    #3. Did your own experience of paying or not paying for your own tuition affect your decision to pay or not pay for your kids’ tuition?
    Not really. The thing that did influence me was the fact that my parents didn’t know a lot about the college scene and I didn’t do a big college search. I will push my kids to explore their options and take finances into consideration.

  27. 1 – Partially paid. I had to bust my ass and they made up the difference. One summer I juggled five jobs.
    2 – Probably the same as my parents, you have to hustle and I’ll make up the rest.
    3 – Yes, my parents paying for part of my education left me a good spot financially and gave me a lot of opportunities. If I decide to have kids, I would love to give them the same opportunities.

    Re: working while in school, I absolutely disagree. A lot of what I was able to do, like play on a varsity team, learn leadership, marketing, and strategic planning skills from volunteering wouldn’t have been possible if I was working.

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