There are plenty of people out there who will emphatically tell you it’s impossible for a kid to pay their own way through college these days. I know. That’s what I’ve been told over and over again. Even as my own kids were doing it.
I’m here to tell you that’s balderdash. It is possible for a kid to pay their own way through college today. It’s not easy though. There’s no magic formula or secret scholarship. There is hard work involved. But I believe the sense of accomplishment and the maturity which develops over the course of a student’s undergraduate years will be more satisfying than having mom and dad foot the bill for four or more years only to graduate with a psychology degree and no idea of what to do next.
Some parents feel it is their duty to pay for their kids to go to college. If you have the means and if your kid isn't going to take you for a ride and party for four years, then I say, "Good for you!"
I want to tell all the other parents out there it’s okay to NOT pay for your kid to go to college. You’re NOT a bad parent because you aren’t footing the bill for a $100,000 or more education. You’re NOT being selfish by protecting your own retirement account and credit rating. You’ve probably gotten where you are by your own hard work and it’s time to let Junior grow up and experience some of that American work ethic and pioneer spirit that has made our country strong.
I know many parents who aren’t comfortable with that. They tell me how they graduated with lots of student debt and how hard it was to start a family, buy a house, keep a car running and pay their utility bills. They want more for their kids. They want their kids to have it all right away--without having to sweat or worry over mounting debt.
That’s a noble thing, wanting to take care of your kids. It’s not bad to want to help them avoid debt. But it might be keeping them from growing up.
We live in a technologically advanced world where everything we could possibly want is literally at our fingertips. We have more variety, more choices, more luxury goods than any other civilization at any other time in history. Life is good. Life is easy. Easy credit and the natural human desire to “keep up with the Joneses” have made bankruptcy and losing one’s home all too commonplace.
I propose that your kid will be better prepared in life to avoid financial disaster if he learns how to make it through college on his own (albeit borrowed) dime.
Good ol' natural consequences
There is an adage in parenting philosophies that says natural consequences are the best punishments to apply to children when they break rules. For example, if Sonny doesn’t get his homework done, he doesn’t get to play his computer game. As Sonny matures, these consequences become more severe, because his actions take on greater importance. If Sonny cheats on a chemistry final exam he could fail the course and lose his spot on the football team.
Now, apply this adage to paying for college: If Sonny doesn’t pass his classes, he doesn’t get any credit toward graduation, but he still has to pay for the class. If Sonny doesn’t pay off his student loans his credit rating suffers and he might lose his job. If, however, mom and dad have paid for Sonny’s college education and Sonny has no stake in it, he can continue to fail classes without worry. And if he doesn’t have any student loans to pay back, he can use his paycheck to buy himself more stuff, while mom and dad continue to pay the bills.
Coming soon: Suspended Adolescence--the Twixters