Should Parents Be Responsible for their Children's College Education?

With the rising cost of college education, fewer parents are able to help significantly with their children’s educational costs.Moreover, some parents who have the means to do so are refusing to do so, both because of the growing financial burden of a college education, and because they feel their kids will appreciate their education more if they pay for it themselves.

Here’s a recent article about this topic in the Chicago Tribune discussing why there are More College Students Paying Their Own Way.

Unfortunately, the financial burden of a college education has become so cumbersome that families have some tough decisions to make. On the one hand, it’s becoming increasing difficult for students to pay their own way through college with part time jobs and financial aid packages, even at state schools. This is what I did fifteen years ago, with some help from my family, and although money was pretty tight, it worked. And yes, I do feel that I appreciated my education all the more because I worked for it. But a mere fifteen years later, this scenario becomes very difficult without taking out excessive amounts of student loans or working exceptionally long hours at a part time job. At most, I worked about 20 hours a week. That’s nothing compared to the hours many students put in today.

On the other hand, college has become so expensive that many parents can’t afford it either. Most of my college friends had their bills footed by parents, and none of my friends came from families that were particularly wealthy. Today, paying for college for middle class families can mean second mortgages, and dips into retirement funds, and other financial transactions that can put a burden on a family’s financial future.

So what to do? Parents and college-bound kids need to sit down for some serious discussions about college finances. Who’s going to pay for what? Who’s going to take out the loans? How many hours should the student need to work? How much are the parents willing and able to help? These talks can be uncomfortable, but the current state of higher education mandates open communication between parents and their kids about finances.