Study Suggests Parents Should Let Kids Pay For Their Own Education

Students do not have the same experience when attending college, the same way kids raised together do not have the same perception of their childhoods. Some students work part time to pay for basic expenses, while others work full time and struggle to get through the day with both a course load and a work schedule. Then there are the lucky few whose parents pay for everything or who make every effort to make sure their kids don’t have to worry about affording college tuition, books, electronics, living expenses, transportation, etc. However, there is a drawback to spoiling your kids by paying for everything: lower grades.

A new study, “More Is More or More Is Less? Parent Financial Investments During College,” by Laura Hamilton, a sociology professor at the University of California, has been published in the American Sociological Review. It suggests there is link between lower grades, graduation rates, and financial support from parents.

Hamilton analyzed data from five national post-secondary datasets to determine what effect financial parental investments have on student GPA and degree completion.

Most parents assume that the more money they pay for their children’s education, the better their children will perform. If students don’t have to invest time, burdened with working to support themselves, then they are free to study more, right?

The results assess that students whose costs are entirely paid for by their parents use that unencumbered time engaging in more leisure activities. This can reflect in their academic performance with a decline in grades. Despite lower grades, the graduation rate for students whose parents paid their way was higher. Many students leave college for financial reasons and have difficulty returning.

Forbes reports, for students from the most affluent families the hit to their GPAs don’t make much difference in the long run. Because after graduation, their parents’ connections help them get a job. But students from middle or low-income families, whose parents work hard to find the money to send them to college, often have a tough time post-college because they don’t have the parental connections that will get them jobs, and their parents can’t afford to support them once they graduate.

“It’s not that all money is bad,” says Hamilton. “The problem is how the money is given. Make it clear that this is their job. Say, ‘I’m going to give you this money to purchase art supplies for this class you want to take. I’m not going to fund your trip to Cabo San Lucas for Spring break.'”

Hamilton recommends that students be required to get a part-time job or work-study position at least ten hours a week. The work may give their kids a new perspective on what things actually cost, and the energy involved in earning in lieu of the ease of asking for the cash. Additionally, have students be proactively involved in researching grants, scholarships, and ways of paying for college expenses without automatically assuming someone else will.