Should parents pay for college tuition? The issue often sparks strong reactions. There are many valid reasons on both sides of the argument. For example, parents paying for college may help kids avoid student loan debt that could easily set them back tens of thousands of dollars.
On the other hand, not paying for children's college frees up money for parents to continue working toward their own financial goals, like paying off a mortgage, saving for looming retirement, and more.
My parents did help me pay my college tuition, fees, and even living expenses at times, but I’m glad they didn’t pay for my entire college education. Paying for college on my own had a lot of perks. Here’s why:
- I gained a greater appreciation for my education.
- I felt free to make my own decisions.
- It helped me learn responsibility and self-sufficiency.
- I didn't feel like a financial burden on my parents.
1. You Appreciate It More When You Pay Your Own Way
I can’t tell you how many times I saw students slacking off in class and not showing up. These students didn't take their education seriously. Nine times out of 10, their parents were footing the bill for them to attend college.
Because I was paying most of my own way through college with scholarships and student loans, I was motivated to take my education seriously. While college is a time for fun, making friends, and becoming your own person, the whole point of it is to get an education. Otherwise, what are you paying for?
College can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $70,000 per year — sometimes more — depending on where you’re from, where you go, and what you study. While not all students can be put into the same basket, example after example has shown that those who pay for at least part of their education value it more than those who don’t.
Further Reading: Learn how to refinance your student loans.
2. You’re Free to Make Your Own Decisions
Have you ever heard horror stories from young adults who feel stuck in a career because they “had” to major in a field that they weren’t interested in? This is often because their parents, ready to finance their children's education, also controlled where their kids went to school, what they studied, and more.
Is it unfair for parents to have a say in where their children go to college and what they study if they’re footing the bill? That’s a tough question, but one that can you can avoid altogether if you're paying for college on your own.
3. You Learn Responsibility and Self-Sufficiency
Parents who pay for everything aren’t doing their children any favors when it comes to teaching them about responsibility and self-sufficiency.
Aside from getting an education, another big reason to go to college is basically to practice for adulthood. College gives you the chance to get some of those messy financial and life mistakes out of the way before you enter the big bad world.
But if your parents pay for everything and continually provide you with money to fall back on, you won’t learn anything from your mistakes.
All this does is prolong childhood. It sets you up for a rude awakening the first time you have to handle your own finances after you’ve graduated and are truly on your own.
It’s far better the learn the limits of your money during college — when you most likely have fewer “real” bills to pay — than afterwards, when you could end up having your home foreclosed on if you don’t pay your mortgage on time.
Further Reading: Check out these common money mistakes and how you can avoid them.
4. Your Parents May Be Getting Into Debt
Stepping up and finding ways to pay for your college education can save your parents from setting themselves back financially. If parents are paying for college, chances are high that they’ve diverted that money from being used for their own financial goals, like paying off their mortgage or contributing to their 401(k)s.
Even if they’ve been saving for your college since you were a baby, they probably could've used that money for other things at some point in life. Saving for their kids’ college has a lot of opportunity costs associated with it over the years.
Why I Appreciated Paying for College on My Own
Admittedly, having my parents to turn to when I did need financial help during college was a godsend. But I’m still thankful they didn’t try to pay for my entire education. Having to foot most of my own bill helped me learn a lot of tough lessons. Lessons that I might not have otherwise learned until later in life, when they would have been much more costly.
Further Reading: “I Don't Use My Parents as a Piggy Bank, and Neither Should You”