Who should pay for College?

One of the biggest financial questions that many of our clients face is the funding of their children’s college education.

Adding stress to an already frightening prospect is the rapid rate at which college costs are increasing.

Families also face an emotional decision as best intentions often run head first into the realities of paying for four years of college.  We all want what’s best for our kids and paying for their college education is certainly best for them, right?…  Maybe not.

Having Skin in the Game

According to a new study, Affording Emerging Adulthood: Parental Financial Assistance of their College-Aged Children, having your children help pay for their own college education can reap benefits beyond those of being debt free upon graduation.

The structure of having a job, for instance, can help to limit distractions that too much free time so often brings.  The kids who were fully funded by their parents, including discretionary spending, were more likely to be heavier drinkers and drug users.

There is, however, an implication that a balance should be sought, as too much of the burden transferred to the child can often lead to extending the amount of time it takes to complete a degree or even dropping out of school altogether.

A suggestion that comes to mind is to remain flexible.  There are a variety of paths to a four year degree, including starting in a community college.  Also, options for funding through loans are available that can help families spread resources over longer periods of time.

Sending your kids to college can be intimidating for everyone in the family, and preparing financially is only one aspect to consider.  Allowing them some ownership in the process can help them add some critical tools for when they are on campus by themselves.

Here are some more of our thoughts on college education:

Photo credit: James Almond

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