Parents Starting To Put Own Finances Ahead of Kids’ College Costs

One of the essential questions that many families have to answer is whether or not parents should pay for their kids’ college costs. Increasingly, some parents are paying less for their children’s schooling.

CNN Money recently reported on a survey from Discover Student Loans claiming that 77 percent of parents will help their children pay for college. This represents a decline from 81 percent of parents last year. Even though many parents still think that going to college is worth it for their kids, they are worried about their own finances.

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Taking Care of Your Own Needs First

It’s been famously observed that there aren’t loans for retirement the same way there are loans for attending school. As a result, many parents realize that, if they want to retirement comfortably, they need to make sure they are funding their 401(k)s and IRAs, not putting that money toward college or other education costs.

The CNN Money article reports that 15 percent of parents think that their children should be solely responsible for their college costs, and 32 percent think that their kids should foot most of the bill. These numbers are up from last year — 12 percent and 27 percent, respectively.

This indicates a shift in the way we, as a society, view college and how it should be paid for. Parents are increasingly looking at their own financial situations, and realizing that they really aren’t in the position to help their kids pay for college. Many parents know that they just can’t afford the cost, as tuition continues to rise at a pace that leaves inflation in the dust.

Parents are also starting to set terms for their kids. About 33 percent of parents say that they will limit what they are willing to do for their children based on degree choice. Clearly, some parents are concerned that they will simply be enabling their children to study “useless” degrees that result in a high amount of debt and a salary insufficient to make payments.

How to Better Help Your Child with College

Of course, the survey indicates that most parents are still interested in helping their children pay for college to some degree, even if they aren’t going to foot the entire bill.

As a parent, how can you make your portion of college costs a little more affordable? Here are some things to try:

  • Be clear about expectations. Let your child know early on what he or she will be responsible for so that he or she can begin to save up, work toward scholarships, or take other actions.
  • Start saving as soon as possible. Don’t forget begin saving. There are tax-advantaged accounts like 529 Plans that can help you build up money for your child’s education.
  • Teach your child about money: Finally, make sure that your child understands smart financial choices so that he or she is prepared to be on his or her own. If you want to help your child avoid the kinds of mistakes that can result in you coming to the rescue during and after college, you need to take the steps to teach your child to handle money.

It’s a tricky situation, but you need to start thinking about — no matter how long you think you have.

How will you help your child pay for college?

Last Edited: 9th July 2014

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    Share Your Thoughts:

  1. says

    It really is a shame that sky rocketing tuition is forcing families to make this decision. It seems the kids of today are going to have a very different college experience.

    • says

      Totally agree Syed, sad that unless parents plan from a very early age, which not many are doing or even realize what amount they need to save, they will have to chose if they help themselves or their kids. Although most parents want to help their kids, they may be better off helping themselves first.

  2. says

    I had read about the 529 Plans and it’s such a good plan for the parents or other family members. Surely, it would be a big help for their kids that they already have funds if ever they would go to college.

  3. says

    In Asian families, the parents usually foot their children’s whole college bill so the children can graduate debt-free. However, when the parents get older, the children are expected to care for and support their parents. It seems to work out financially, but I do think that the experience of having to work some during college and learning to manage money when you’re young is extremely valuable and should be a part of becoming an adult whether your parents pay for your college or not.

  4. says

    The question is if saving will really cut it. Students and their families are now squeezed from two sides: a) cost of tuition is rising far faster than normal price levels are (some of which actually go down, e.g. computers) and b) students coming out of college more and more get jobs well below their qualifications. As a result, student debt is ballooning and while parents with academic credentials could expect to enter retirement with their house just paid up, this generation may enter retirement as renters who can barely hope to have their tuition paid back by then!

  5. jim says

    I really hate this subject – it’s so damn gut-wrenching. We made our kids save 1/2 of everything they earned during high school and told them they were going to need that money for college. They also worked while they were in undergrad. We saved and scrimped for years to ensure we would be able to get them thru school debt-free (which, thank God, we were able to do). The money they saved during high school went to their extra-curricular activities. However, with this job market for college grads I’m wondering if it was worth it (and I’m one of the biggest supporters of getting a college education). If we had taken that college money and invested it, they’d be a helluva lot better off financially than they are. I feel really bad for this generation of recent (or soon to be) college grads.

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