Despite skyrocketing tuition rates, parents today can feel immense pressure to pay for their kid’s college and even advanced degrees. It has become generally accepted that parents are obligated to continue funding their children’s lives all the way to age 22 and beyond, even to their own detriment. But while a college-level education can be an extraordinary gift to your offspring, there can also be a lot of value in not paying for your kids’ education. Parents should feel no guilt if they can’t afford to or simply choose not to pay for their kids’ college or graduate school.
In fact, there are a lot of potential benefits to not subsidizing young adults in their pursuit of education.
#1 – It gets the student emotionally invested.
Allowing students to take responsibility for funding their educations ensures that they will be emotionally invested. We have an epidemic in America of college students not taking they educations seriously. There are a number of reasons for this. Chief among them is the reality that most students have no firm grip on what their education actually costs. Parents who are frank with their children and allow them to have skin in the game witness students who take their studies much more seriously. Parents who act as ATMs for their offspring and commit to paying for school without limitation prevent the students from taking ownership. When young people goof around on their parents’ dime its no big deal. But when they know they are wasting their own dollars, it matters more to them.
Parents should never feel that they need to force their college-age student to take their schooling seriously.
#2 – Students have plenty of time to work and contribute.
Many parents are guilted into funding college for their children because they are worried that if the student has to work during school, they won’t be able to focus on their studies. A full-time college student is in class for 15 hours each week during the semester. Even for the most conscientious of scholars, this leaves copious amounts of free time. Most college students fill this void will Netflix binges, keg parties, campus recreation, and plenty of day-time slumber. None of these activities is necessarily wrong in moderation. However, most students could benefit greatly from replacing 10-20 hours of recreation with money-making labor. Parents will benefit as well.
#3 – There are a lot of lessons to be learned outside the classroom, and work is a great place to learn them.
The primary purpose of college should be to prepare the student for a career. However, everybody knows that career preparedness does not originate in a classroom. To be certain, book knowledge can be valuable and even vital for many career fields. However, certain skills like relating to people, interfacing with clients, and meeting hard deadlines, can only be acquired on the job. Pretending that four years of sitting in a classroom is going to adequately prepare a young person for real life is naïve. Students need practical experience in order to get the most out of their educations. Working a job to pay for school is a great opportunity to gain that practical experience. It may also relieve significant financial pressure from mom and dad.
#4 – It forces them to grow up.
In generations past, children were expected to be fully matured and ready to leave home by age eighteen. In recent decades that age has been pushed back substantially. Now, college and the early 20s have become the elongated period for youngsters to transition from money-sucking parasites to independent adults. But this natural maturation process cannot complete itself until parents are willing to take the hard action to stop feeding their little eaglets and push them out of the nest. It may sound harsh, but that is the real world. College—and even graduate school—have become protracted extensions of adolescence instead of the preliminary years of adulthood. Having to work and pay for school can help ensure this period fosters growth and maturity rather than stunting it.
The bottom line is that parents should feel no guilt if they decide to not finance college for their kids. If you can afford to pay for you kids’ college, that’s great. If not, that’s great too. It may turn out that the opportunity to mature and take ownership of life might be the best gift you could possibly give to your children.