Why I Did Not Pay for My Children's College
Many people wonder how they are going to save money for their children’s education. Some people go into debt for their children’s education.
We chose not to worry about how to pay for our children’s education—not because we didn’t want them to go to college or not because we didn’t care, but because we did not have an extra dime to our name when our children were born.
We wanted our children to have ownership in their education.
Our Story as Parents
We had our son two years after we were married. Neither of us had a college degree, but after he was born, we decided if we were going to get anywhere financially and intellectually while we raised him, we needed college degrees. My husband and I waded through mountains of paper work each year to get grants and loans in the beginning. Then, because we had the responsibility of our little family and worked so hard studying to keep our grades up, we were able to earn the Presidential Scholarship and the Dean’s Scholarship.
Our parents helped us by babysitting when we needed them to and by understanding how hard we were working to make our family successful for our son. They were supportive, but neither side was able to contribute financially to our college fund. That was left up to us, as well it should have been. We had gotten married young, 18 and 20, and we were living with the choices we made and doing all right. We were proud of what we were doing and our parents were proud of us. We never expected our parents to pay for college or for our decisions/choices in life. Even if we had taken a the traditional route of high school then college then marriage then children, our parents would not have been able to afford college tuition for us. Looking back, I am glad because we were awesome college students since our own time and money were on the line.
Why Kids Should Figure Out How to Pay for College
Making your children pay for their own college may seem harsh to some, but it may feel like an impossibility to others. There is no need to feel guilty for not paying for your kid’s college.
Kids need to take ownership in their own education. When parents are paying tuition, many kids, not all, do not appreciate it and party their first year away. Their grade point average drops as do their chances for keeping or gaining scholarships. They come from high school, they do not know how to structure their lives in order to balance homework (tons of homework), time, work, and any small amount of social life. They do not want to give up their social lives. When it is their money or their grant that their college future is riding on, rather than mom and dad’s bank account, it becomes an entirely different issue. Again, for the most part, when they have ownership in their education, they will do the work to do well. They are doing it for themselves. How many of us know a student who has switched majors several times and is in college for a couple of extra years beyond the norm? Why not study and be a student when you aren’t paying for it? Students are more accountable with their choices/decisions, grades, and actions when their money, grants, or scholarships are on the line.
What Are Parents' Responsibilities?
Parents can play an integral part in helping kids be prepared for college.
- First, from your child's early age, read to them and expose them to age appropriate activities that will make them have a love for learning; for instance, taking them to a science museum or to historical landmarks.
- As they grow older, be involved in their school work, but expect them to do the work. You can't do the work, and you cannot expect the teacher to spoonfeed them.
- There will be times of success and failure. Teach your child how to recover from failure and how to graciously accept success.
- Set high but reasonable standards for your kids and encourage them along the way.
- When they are in junior high and high school, make sure they are taking classes and are in activities that match their ability.
- Know that not every student is an honors student or even a college-bound student. That is okay if they have good work ethic and high morals so they will be working at a job they enjoy.
- College and workplaces are looking for kids who have worked and/or volunteered in the community and can be team players. These are skills you can help your child/children with as they grow and mature.
These are just a few of the ways parents can be involved in helping their kids' educational experience to be a positive one.
Classes Your Kids Should Take in High School
Of course, your kids should take the core classes, but help them pick electives that will suit their learning style and interests. Some states have programs for juniors and seniors that will allow them to work as tutors during one period out of the schedule, which, if requirements are met, such as a 2.5 GPA and a 95% attendance record, the student earns a certificate to go to a 2 year state community college for free. Kids can get their general education out of the way or get an associates degree in a variety of vocational fields simply by being good students. If they mess up, it is on them and has hopefully taught them a life lesson, and you have not wasted your money.
If your student is an athlete with good grades, there are many scholarships out there, and there will be several college scouts looking for students to be a part of their program. Encourage your children to be good team players and to do their best (whether they are in a sport or not), but do not push them into doing something they will not enjoy. Sports scholarships are great, but many do not provide a full ride.
If you have an honors student, encourage him/her to take as many honors classes as possible. Keep in mind that your kid needs to be a kid, too, so no high pressure. High expectations are great, but burning your kid out by constantly riding them to do well is discouraging. Have your honors student take what he/she can manage. They have their whole adult lives to be the responsible, hardworking, nose-to-the-grindstone productive members of society. Don't kill that sense of self-learning and wonder by going overboard pushing them to do well.
I paid for my kids' college
Our Experience With Our Kids
Missouri has the A+ Program in place so my kids both tutored lower level kids in high school, kept their grades above a 3.0, and went on to one of our local community colleges. My son partied his first year, lost his required 2.0 GPA and had to pay for the last year of community college. I must add that if your kid is looking at colleges but does not have a lot of money, community colleges are cheaper and a great way to get their general education out of the way. My son graduated from the community college with his general education associates degree. He took time off to go to boot camp, got married, had a tour of duty in the Middle East, came home and started in his major in a university using the GI Bill.
During high school, my daughter felt she was "above" going to a community college and had all kinds of plans to move to a university in a land far, far away. Well, she could not find one far enough or close enough that would grant her a full ride scholarship. When she graduated, she finally came back to earth and enrolled in the local community college. So far, so good with her. Of course, she has her brother in the background constantly harping about how he screwed up and she needs to keep her grades up. She is working and saving to pay her tuition when she moves onto a university.
This is not to say if you pay for your children's college that they will not be successful. Many kids are, but it is often the case that the first year is the most difficult time for adjustment. We chose not to pay for our kids' college because we wanted them to want it for themselves, and nothing makes a kid want something more than when they are having to pay for it or figure out a way to achieve it themselves.
A CNN Money Statistics on Student Loans
CNN reported that 2011 college graduates owed an average $27,000. That is a lot of money. Students need to budget for payments when they choose a field of study. Careful consideration needs to be given to how much money they will make in their career. Choices students make will affect them down the road, but if they make wise choices they will reap the benefits and ownership of their education for the rest of their lives.
More about kids:
- How to Raise Kids to Survive Their Future
We are being called an enabled society and a nanny state. Do individual parents have responsibilities to help kids be good citizens? Parenting is a difficult job; do you have the skills to do it?
If You Are Helping Your Kids Search for Loans, You Need to Read This Article
- Sallie Mae Student Loans - Why Private Loans are Bad for Students
The private student loan system in the US is broken and Sallie Mae is the worst offender. I hope to educate student loan borrowers and campaign for change for those already in over their heads.
Questions & Answers
What would you say is the average education level and occupations of those parents who have sent their children to college?
I can only speak from my experience. Many parents have college degrees, and many have jobs where they worked their way up without a college education. Of course, there are some who do not work. I would not venture to place a number on them.
© 2012 Susan Holland