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Thursday, May 24, 2012

How much responsibility does a parent have in providing an education for their children

Our two youngest children are teenagers.  They'll be going to college/university in a year and a half.  We'd always thought that we'd pay all their education costs.  With the cost of tuition having skyrocketed in recent years, even the state universities are not cheap.  If our daughters go to the school of their choice, the combined costs for 4 years for the both of them will be more than we spent on our house, interest on the mortgage included.  It's unbelievable, isn't it?

What were your experiences?  Did you pay your own education costs? Did you work your way through school? Did your folks help with costs, in part or in total? Did you come out of school with a massive student loan debt, and no decent jobs to pay it off? And what do you plan to do/or what have you done education-wise for your own children?
Time to weigh in.  All opinions are valid.


  1. I did about half (maybe less)--when I was a teenager and had a part time job, my parents said I had to put at least 10 percent into my college account. I put in a third because it made things easier for me (one third for personal savings, one third for college and one third for fun). I also worked part time during the school year and full time during the summers.

    1. Good work! I wish we'd been more on the ball, with this. Did you avoid student loans altogether?

  2. I'm interested in the replies you receive for this. My kids are still young (8 & 6) but I know the time will pass all too quickly. I have a bachelor's degree--my parents paid the first 2 years, I did the second 2. They loaned me the money and I paid them back. I worked summer jobs and jobs during the school year while in college. I think it took me 5 or 6 years to pay them back. Here's the thing--many professions now require a master's level or doctorate for entry (I am an occupational therapist--I have been "grandfathered" in but it is currently a master's level requirement). So not only are college costs astronomically higher than when I went to school, but additional degrees may be required. has some interesting thoughts on paying for college.

    My brother's son has a bachelor's--he spent 2 years in community college and lived at home. His daughter has a master's (she's also an occupational therapist) and she did all 6 years at a public university. My brother says they saved thousands by my nephew attending a community college.

    Perhaps it makes sense to encourage a year or two of community college or an online program to cut costs?

    My overall sense is that people value things more when they have a stake in what they are doing, both financial and time-wise--it's an individual decision for each family, but I think there is a lot of wisdom in having kids contribute some of their own money to their education (while they are still teens or attending college, I mean). It kills me to see local college kids at the coffeeshop spending $5-$10 on a "snack"--if they are paying for it out of their own hard-earned money, that's fine, but I suspect most of them are funded through their parents. Sorry, just me on a little rant . . .

    1. Kris, you have some good insight here, especially about how people place more value on something they've had to work for, in this case, helping with paying for education. I'll check out's section on this (I do frequent their recipes). And you know, if I were working overtime to pay my children's tuition, and I stumbled upon them at Starbucks having a nice little snack, at my expense, and they weren't working any kind of part time job, well that would kind of get to me.For your children, have you begun setting aside anything yet, or looked into prepaid tuition credits? Your absolutely right about time going by so quickly. I pan on keeping this question active for a while, as it's something my husband and I are grappling with, and I'm sure others are too.

    2. Yes, we put some aside--my husband's thought (echoed in Livingonadime) is to first pay off our house early and then putting the same amount we have been using to pay the mortgage into a college fund. The basic premise in Livingonadime is that it's ok to help your kids pay for college but you need to be completely debt-free first--this is a departure from what many of the financial "experts" say but it makes sense to me. My kids are now in school full time so I have been picking up more hours at work and am trying to think through the best way to use our "extra" money.

    3. That is very good advice -- help your kids, if you are completely debt-free. The experts always remind us that while there are plenty of scholarships for college/university, there are no scholarships for retirement. For the university my daughters are most interested in, we are looking into scholarships for part of the tuition. I do know that there are many scholarships that go unclaimed every year.

  3. My parents spent our entire lives saving for our college education. We didn't have video games, VHS, microwaves, Disney world trips, etc. etc. Education was the #1 priority.

    But it was worth it because we did go to the colleges/universities of our choice and we came out with no debt. And we both make quite a bit of money now.

    I did work part-time in college to pay for my additional expenses besides standard tuition and board. My sister worked summers and used that money for her additional expenses.

    1. Wow! Thank you for sharing. Your parents taught you something invaluable -- the difference between things with transient value and things with lasting value. A lot of parents seem to be missing the boat on that these days. And you feel the sacrifices (not having video games, etc) were worth it in the end.
      You and your sister contributed to the financial outlay for the time your were in college. So, it was a shared financial "burden", your parents doing as much as they felt they could/should, but giving you some responsibility for your expenses as well. It sounds like you and your parents made sound choices.

  4. This comes via email from a friend. I wanted to include her thoughts, as they might be helpful to anyone following this question for their own children's futures.

    "with regards to
    post secondary education, I think you know my approach -- all three kids had to pay
    their own tuition, but we let then stay at home for free and paid for their books. And
    because we live outside of town (meaning no easy access to bus services) we bought each
    of them a second hand car. "
    She goes on to say that she recently read an article about scholarships in the US, not always being what they seem and sometimes costing significant additional money. So scholarships should be taken as a "read the fine print" thing.

  5. Hi again--

    As I was reading the "biographies" about our college grads today at church, I had another thought about paying for college--if my child has decided on a major and is committed to seeing it through, I will be more inclined to help out financially than if he/she is "undecided" or planning on majoring in "something in the medical field". The girl at church who was planning on "something in the medical field" will be living on-campus--to me, it seems if you are THAT undecided about your field of study, it would be wiser to go to a community college and pick up some general credits first.

    1. Hi Kris,
      that is a very good point. What is the student's commitment to their pursuit of education? As the financier of this education, I want to know that my child is taking this seriously. I have known many kids who go to college, because it's just what's expected of them, but have no inclination to actually gain an education, just put in their "time".

      This is an area that we've tried to develop with all 3 of our children. We've had many conversations about their future careers. We've helped them find their particular areas of interest, and found ways for them to explore these areas. It worked well with our son. He had been interested in computers since he was about 10 years old. We just let him run with it, and helped him find jobs where he could work alongside like-minded people. He took his work at the University seriously, graduated on time, and was diligent in his pursuit of a career job after graduation.

      Our two daughters also know what they want to do for careers, and we're working on helping them towards their goals. And you're right, I'd feel better about paying their entire education expenses, knowing they were committed and making the most of their time at a university.

      Community colleges are the perfect place for a person who's not sure what they intend to do for a career. Get the general ed stuff out of the way there, then transfer to a university/college.

      For my girls, summer break begins in 10 days. So we're trying to find some sort of employment for each of them, so they can put away some of their earnings for the future.

  6. I have a lot of education under my belt and a wide variety of college & university experience - I paid for it all without student loans.

    I am a firm believer in community college for almost EVERY student who wishes to go to college. It has several advantages:
    1)it costs about 1/4 the price of "University"
    2)the credits are usually transferrable to University when you graduate community college.
    3)there's a lot less partying.
    4) it provides a transition time between being a kid at home and being an on-your-own adult
    5) after 2 years, you can have highly marketable job skills- and then work your way through whatever additional education you want - using those job skills.
    6) if you do that, you have experience to put on your resume.
    7) if "life intervenes" during the education process (marriage, baby, burnout - whatever) - then you still have skills & can work (I've known people to drop out of 4 year University at 3 1/2 years with NO marketable skills - not to mention those who GRADUATE without marketable skills!)

    I am strongly opposed to student loans. They're a prison. I've known people to take 5k in loans and end up 50k in debt after government penalties, interest, etc. Not to mention those young mothers I know who want to stay home with their children - and could if living expenses were the only consideration, but MUST work to pay off huge student loans.

    1. Hi Anna,
      The more I think about student loans, the more opposed to them I am, too. A young person's financial life is hard enough, without the burden of a loan to repay. Plus I do think that many students "forget" that this money is just loaned to them, and tend to live more extravagantly as students than if they were working their way through university.

      Also, I have faith reasons for not taking out loans for university. It's not a terribly popular view, but as a Christian, I adhere to the view that God's people should be lenders and not borrowers. Any man who owes another man money is not truly free.

      And I totally agree about many young adults needing a transition time between high school and really being on their own. The amount of partying that goes on at some universities is evidence to me that many of these students are not ready to be on their own, if these are the choices they are making.

      Thanks for your input.


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