Many parents pay for their children’s college educations or contribute toward the costs. Most young people couldn’t pay for it themselves and it makes sense for parents to help out if they can afford it. The way parents structure that help can make a huge difference in how much their children get out of it.
We’ve all seen college students who don’t want to be there. You hear it all the time, “My parents said I need to go to school or get a job.” So they attend some classes, maybe passing, maybe not. They’re wasting their time and the professors’ time, taking up space that could be filled by a serious student, and frittering away Mom and Dad’s money without getting anywhere.
A second problem occurs even with serious students who want to graduate. There is a wide range of prices attached to college educations. A student can get by inexpensively by taking advantage of scholarships, community and state funded schools and many other opportunities. Or they can spend a lot of money on a prestigious private institution. The cheap plan is not always the best plan. Paying more can improve the quality of their education, class availability, internships, and many more factors. Some financial decisions affect the college experience, like whether to live at home and attend community college or live in the dorms. In a perfect world, the student and their parents would weigh the benefits and costs of these decisions. This can be a challenge, though, because the student often puts more weight on the benefits than the costs, especially if the cost is not their problem.
Most teenagers are mature enough to make adult decisions if the decisions and the consequences are really theirs. So put the ball in their court. Decide how much you can afford to spend on your child’s education and give them a dollar amount. Then leave it to them to get the right education for them. They have the opportunity to take out loans, apply for scholarships or work a part time job if they want a more expensive education than your amount covers. Or they could scrimp and save, take the least expensive options and use any leftover funds to buy a car or put down on a home after graduation. This allows them to splurge on some things while economizing on others. They’ll spend the money in accordance with what’s important to them, just like an adult would.
Make sure to consider alternatives to traditional colleges, like a trade school or online university. One size definitely does not fit all when it comes to higher education.