Mention the word “college” to a parent and you’ll probably hear “debt”, “expensive”, “loans” and “how can I afford it?” College is very costly. But, of course, if the student lands a high-paying job with his/her dream career, it’s worth it. And, even if the student doesn’t get a job with a high salary, college is beneficial. It is an investment in a child’s future and life.
The debate on whether or not parents should pay for college is not a new one. Parents have been discussing this topic for years. Some parents don’t have a choice, as they live paycheck to paycheck and are barely able to pay the mortgage. However, some parents live affluent lifestyles yet refuse to pay even a penny of their child’s education. Here are some thoughts on whether or not parents should pay for college.
Retirement savings should come first.
Wondering if you should stop retirement contributions to pay for your kid’s college? By all means, don’t. Students can take out loans for college, but you can’t take out a loan to fund your retirement. One of the worst financial mistakes you can make is to not save enough for retirement.
Parents should save at least 10 to 15 percent of their salaries for retirement. So, if parents have no or little savings for retirement, students should look at other ways to pay for college. This may mean grants, a part-time job, applying for scholarships, and possibly encouraging the child to join the military.
Students should be encouraged to invest in themselves.
There is some truth to the fact, that if students invest in their education, they will take it more seriously. Therefore, students should be encouraged to pay for some of their college. Even if it is just a very small percentage of the total cost, it can provide them with motivation. A student who just has to contribute $100 a semester to his education, will feel that he/she is investing in the future.
If parents can afford it, they should help with the cost of college education.
If parents have the financial ability to do so, they should help out with what they can. While they of course do not have to, it can help their child improve his/her quality of life with a good education. Just as you might help a child get leg braces to help them walk, it is great for parents to help them get an education to improve their future. In the long run, it might pay off. They might be able to afford to place you in luxurious nursing home, you never know.
As a general rule, if you can afford expensive manicures, big vacations and a new car every two years, you can afford to help some with your child’s education. But, ultimately, it is your choice.
Parents should provide financial and savings guidance to their children.
As a parent you serve many roles. You’re a disciplinarian, chef, coach and counselor. You’re also a teacher. It is a parents responsibility to teach them about financial management and saving for college This means teaching them how to avoid significant debt in college, how to apply for scholarships, and more. It could also mean encouraging them to find a job to pay for college expenses.
Parents do not “owe” their child a college education
While parents should help with college if they can afford it, they do not owe their child an education. It’s a good gesture, however. In the long run, it could pay off for you and your grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Keep in mind, however, that if you choose to not help at all, and you can afford to do so, this might dampen your relationship. Some college students will be bitter towards their parents if they know they can afford to help out some.
Personally, I do have a college fund set up for my children. I have an ESA through Sharebuilder. We don’t contribute a lot, but we do know that every little bit helps.
In conclusion, if you are able to help out with even just a small portion of your child’s college education, then do so. However, do not let your retirement savings suffer. Try to your best to provide your children with career guidance and help them choose a college major. Read this article about helping a student explore careers. also check out “How to Decide on a College Major: Tips for Choosing a Career Path.” Happy Parenting!