Essays & Criticism 0

When Parents Pay for College


Allison Stahl said she remembers the first time she saw her roommates fill out a FAFSA form. Hunched over their laptops, clicking through the various requirements, they would breathe out heavy sighs. Each student would have to call their parents asking for tax information here and there. And this was just the first step. Once this paperwork was filled out, they would have to wait to see how much financial aid they would even be eligible to receive.

Going through a FAFSA form means filling out various financial information. Every year in March, this is a headache for numerous students. Some students’ parents do it for them, but for others, they are forced to take a crash course in finances just to make it through the page. They text their parents asking about which tax form is which and if they themselves even have information to give. Some students religiously check their financial aid, making sure they did not miss an aspect that could prevent them from attending college. These forms work to provide extra money to 75 percent of Ball State students that couldn’t otherwise obtain it.

Allison, a sophomore exercise science major, is not familiar with the FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. In fact, she’s never filled one out before.

Allison’s parents are of the 77 percent of parents that say they will pay for their child’s schooling, according to a survey by Discover Studies. This number is down from the 81 percent of recent years. Allison’s parents not only just planned to cover the bill, they have kept their word. Allison’s parents set up an account when she and her sister were first born. Now, they have managed to pay for both Allison and her sister’s tuition, including their room and board.

Allison’s parents decided to pay for her schooling because they wanted to provide a life for their daughters that they did not necessarily have. Working for UPS for years, her father has been putting money away so his children could have the opportunity to attend a university.

Paying for their children’s schooling may relieve the students of financial burdens after college. However, it also may be preventing them from gaining financial responsibility that students who pay for their college are, Srinivasan Sundaram, a Ball State finance professor said.

An opportunity to learn from financial mistakes early on is something that students who do not have their parents pay for their schooling gain. Students like Allison, who have never had to worry about the loans or their tuition not being paid, are perhaps not as prepared for the financial world they will be stepping into immediately after college, because they may have never had to worry about their finances before.

Srinivasan said that this depends completely on the student. Every college student is being given a lesson in finance in college, he said. But those who take the opportunity to learn from it are definitely at the advantage. He said that students who pay their own way understand money differently, but he said he doesn’t know if the stress added to them is worth it if they can avoid it.

Srinivasan said this was the main reason that he decided to pay for his own children’s schooling.

“I wanted to give them the help I can give now. Why wait until I am dead for them to get my financial help?” he said.

He said that he paid to put both of his children through school because he wished his father would have done so for him. For Srinivasan, he thinks that all parents want to help but not all can. If a parent is fortunate enough to be able to help their children enhance themselves and their education, then they should. He said that the children will in turn prove whether they will continue to receive the help.

Students that had to pay for their own education drank less than those who had that financial burden lifted from them, according to a study called Project Ready. This same study said that students who pay for their own schooling consider themselves more of adults than those who do not. This gives the idea that when students pay with their own money, they focus more on their studies. Students who have their schooling paid for perhaps don’t understand how much money is allowing them to be on campus for an education, and an education should stay in mind.

Allison thinks her parents paying for her schooling makes her focus on academics more. She said it hasn’t altered the way she acts as a student. However, it does sit in the back of her mind.

She said that if she misses a class, she remembers that her parents are footing the bill for a class she didn’t attend. She said she understands that the there is a stereotype that students whose parents pay for their schooling party frequently and don’t worry as much. She doesn’t feel she fits within this stereotype.

Srinivasan said that as long as you stress to your children these lessons, they will understand them. The duty falls on the parent to not just let their child have an easy way out of learning about the most vital part of being an adult — finances.

If a parent teaches their children the lesson of finances, they will learn. Srinivasan said that stressing students out is not teaching them anything. He said he’d rather his children focus on school, rather than a job.

Allison agrees that this is the most beneficial thing she has gained from her parents paying for her college — the ability to focus solely on obtaining an education. She said her parents make sure to explain the lessons they have learned, rather than burden her with learning them on her own. She may not be getting a crash course in finances, but she said that because her parents make sure to explain just how they are able to pay for her schooling, she understands financial responsibility.

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