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Re: How do you motivate your kid in college?? (Debt incurred based on performance?)

SteveUNHparentSteveUNHparent 2 replies1 threads New Member
Hi All,

Can you weigh in on my question below?? My step-daughter is a college freshman at the University of New Hampshire. She made honor roll several times in HS but took more of an easier path than take AP and honors courses despite trying to encourage her. She is intelligent but I feel I need to encourage and push her this time since the cost is high for out-of-state tuition and she is not much of a go-getter or joiner (she refused to do Work/Study last semester). My biggest fear is that she will take a "fluff" major and just try and attempt to get by. I've joined the parent's association but want her to learn, grow, do well academically, and join student activities to build her resume. I also want to see our Return of Investment (ROI)!!

Financially, we have saved and could send her to school almost debt-free but I'd like to pose a question to you: I have always believed a student should have some "skin in the game" and carry some debt (but not bury them). I am trying to think "out-of-the-box" without putting too much pressure on her and also realize I have two young girls I need to send to college in 9 years. What do you think of the idea of holding a student to the amount of debt they will inherit based on performance?? For instance:

1. 4.0 GPA + join 2 activities (no debt incurred)
2. 3.0 GPA + join 1 activity ($10,000 debt incurred)
3. 2.5 GPA + join 1 activity ($15,000 debt incurred)
4. 2.0 GPA + no activities joined ($20,000 debt incurred)

Is this too much pressure or fair treatment? Any other ideas for setting expectations?? Thanks.

75 replies
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Replies to: Re: How do you motivate your kid in college?? (Debt incurred based on performance?)

  • sylvan8798sylvan8798 6802 replies142 threads Senior Member
    The first thing that struck me reading your post is that you characterized one child as your step-daughter and the others as your two young girls, despite being on a totally anonymous forum. That said, perhaps we need more information. What is this SD majoring in? How did she do the first semester? How did her Mother feel about her effort/success this semester? Will you be imposing the same conditions on Cinderella's step-sisters?
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  • romanigypsyeyesromanigypsyeyes 34203 replies770 threads Senior Member
    4.0 GPA is COMPLETELY unrealistic.
    You shouldn't force people to join activities. This isn't high school. If she wants to be involved, let her seek it out of genuine interest not because she's being forced to.

    Btw, if anything, you should tell her to get a job. Employers aren't going to give much of a hoot about activities, but work experience is important.
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  • intparentintparent 36291 replies644 threads Senior Member
    We made our kids responsible for their own spending money, books, and costs if they took any unfunded internships during the summers. That was some skin in the game. My youngest did not take a work/study job last year or this year because she felt she couldn't keep her grades up if she did. I didn't care, as long as she worked summers and covered those costs we had agreed to.

    And... activities are pretty much irrelevant in the success of a student post-college graduation. It isn't like high school where ECs count for a lot. Unless she is going to med school, then having some kind of medicine related activity is important (but that can be in the summer). You should encourage her to intern or get some relevant experience in the summers, at least starting after sophomore year (not all freshman can land a research or internship experience). So I see no reason for you to tie paying for her school to activity participation.

    Regarding the "fluff" major, my kids were told that they need to be self supporting when they graduate. Whatever they wanted to major in was fine, but I made it clear that moving back home without a job wasn't an option. Again... I didn't tie paying to major, just told them what their responsibility was. They stepped up to it.
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  • DmitriRDmitriR 838 replies0 threads Member
    edited December 2014
    I agree with @romanigypsyeyes‌. Many college students (most?) usually find one thing and commit to it all the way. In college it's easy to sign up for a hundred clubs and wind up on a hundred mass-email lists, but this means less than nothing in terms of commitment and it doesn't really impress potential employers either. It's better to have one activity that she really cares about, whether it's a service fraternity or a sorority or volunteer work or some club or sport. If you do pressure her to do anything, it should be a job rather than a club.

    (You might get results if, instead of a loan, you just said that she had to earn her own spending money -- money for going out with friends and that sort of thing.)

    As far as GPA, in my opinion it's better to have a floor GPA (IE you have to make at least a 3.0) rather than have a scale like that. What's more important is choosing a meaningful course of study that challenges her; if she has to have a 3.5 or a 4.0, the pressure then is more about grubbing for grades and avoiding any class that might actually risk that (that is, avoiding anything that she might actually have to work hard at). That's probably not what you really want, especially since you have a concern that she might waste her time with a 'fluff' major.
    edited December 2014
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  • thumper1thumper1 78028 replies3499 threads Senior Member
    I personnally think your plan isn't a good one. We told our kids they had to maintain a 3.0 GPA in college. they both had scholarships that required this GPA. We made it clear that if they lost the scholarships, they would be coming home to attend a local college...as commuting students.

    And we expected both of our kids to work 10 hours a week...or so. This money was for their discretionary spending...which we did not fund. Who currently pays for your step daughter's discretionary spending?

    On one hand you mention work study, but on the other you say that you have enough money to send this student to college debt free. Work study is a need based financial aid award. Did your step daughter receive a work study award as part of a need based financial aid package? If not, she is not eligible for work study jobs. But she certainly could look for a job that is NOT work study.

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  • prospect1prospect1 1391 replies41 threads Senior Member
    I have found that the most powerful motivator for attaining a good gpa is for the college kid to go through the process of trying to find an internship or summer job in their field. They will see firsthand what it takes to be interesting in the job market, and they will see that a good gpa is the first barrier to break through. Freshmen are unlikely to land internships, but going through the process can be eye-opening.

    As noted by the poster above, work experience (even a menial job outside his/her field) is also one of the things that will make them attractive, and will give them something to talk about during the "important" interviews for real jobs/internships. Therefore, I think it is fine to encourage the student to get a job, although not at the expense of grades if that's an issue. A summer job, or a job during school breaks, is a good idea.

    Also as noted by the poster above, a 4.0 gpa just is not going to happen for the vast, vast, vast majority of college students. This isn't high school, courses are not weighted, curves are the norm (and can be harsh), and competition is fierce.
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  • thumper1thumper1 78028 replies3499 threads Senior Member
    There is a parents association at UNH? What does it do?

    Please, try to let this young lady become an independent adult in her own fashion. Please try to let go. This is not high school. She will be fine.
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  • SteveUNHparentSteveUNHparent 2 replies1 threads New Member
    Thanks all. Interesting responses. Ok,agree, expectations too high for 4.0 and she has had her struggles in her first semester as an Undeclared. We are trying to show empathy with the work-study as we are not forcing this upon her but letting her know that she will pay on the back-end to make this up. I do think that activities are important (student orgs, fundraising, etc.) as hiring managers look for this type of activity once a grad is in in the working world. The more relevant the activity the better. I am a hiring manager myself and my counterparts feel the same way and want to see this engagement on campus as well as the internships. Definitely agree with the internship point.
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  • dentmom4dentmom4 1499 replies4 threads Senior Member
    edited December 2014
    If you want a relationship with your step-D, this will be the quickest way to ruin it. There is nothing wrong with letting her have some skin in the game, but your proposal is very unrealistic.

    If you can be full pay for all 3 kids, so be it. Our 2 kids had nice merit scholarships that required a 2.5, so that was our basis. Lose the scholarship, you will commute to local directional. We are full pay, but our kids pay for all discretionary activities. They both got jobs on campus (not work-study) and in the summer to earn money. I also do not believe in requiring "activities"; she will probably find something that interests her, be it a sport, service activity, or just attending the many different activities offered at school (games, theater, music performances, movies). Give her some time to develop interests.

    You may want to suggest she develop a plan to graduate in 4 years or 8 semesters. Talk over her schedule, potential majors, career paths without being confrontational. She can visit the career center if she needs direction and help putting this together.
    edited December 2014
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  • sseamomsseamom 4880 replies25 threads Senior Member
    It's very common for a first-semester student to be undeclared. It's very common for a first year student to change majors. Are you planning to impose a major on her, or a major chosen from a list YOU'VE prepared? It's early-search older threads and you'll see that MANY students struggle and question their choices in their first semester. Give the girl a chance!

    I'd be very careful, as the "step" about treating your stepdaughter differently from your biokids. Having seen my own kids struggle with that, I can't overstate the damage that can do. And, you're being unrealistic about grades, about activities, about almost everything here, IMO. Your SD can have skin in the game through working a small number of hours during the school year or over the summers. But not everyone wants to be a joiner and it may not enhance her college experience to be forced to do so.

    It looks like you're determined to make her pay you back for a part of her education, even though you can afford for her not to. Was this discussed before she chose her college? Will her sisters be forced to do so as well? Are you just coming here to look for a way to force this on her? If she did not know this going in, I feel you are being very unfair. I feel you should really let her find her own wings instead of clipping ones you've designed on her. Expectations are one thing. Unrealistic expectations and adding them to a ball already in play is another altogether.
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  • DmitriRDmitriR 838 replies0 threads Member
    The more relevant the activity the better. I am a hiring manager myself and my counterparts feel the same way and want to see this engagement on campus as well as the internships. Definitely agree with the internship point.

    I help out with on-campus recruitment for my firm. Engagement on campus is important but it's not measured in the number of activities the way you do on the original post. It's about the level of engagement rather than the quantity; joining two clubs is not really better than joining one, but being vice-president of a fraternity is more valuable than being tangentially involved in dozens of couples. I'm with you on encouraging her to get involved but I don't think it makes sense to measure her involvement in terms of number of activities.
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  • intparentintparent 36291 replies644 threads Senior Member
    I do think that activities are important (student orgs, fundraising, etc.) as hiring managers look for this type of activity once a grad is in in the working world.

    I am also a hiring manager, and honestly find it mostly irrelevant. Only students who don't have work experience, internships, research, etc. usually even put it on their resumes, and then it is mostly a space filler IMHO.
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  • thumper1thumper1 78028 replies3499 threads Senior Member
    My daughter did NOT get involved in any activities during her first semester in college. She also was an undeclared freshman. She had a full course load and was working about 5 hours a week as well. As she put it...she was "learning college".

    Fast forward...she went on to get a great on campus job, was the statistician for two sports teams, played in the college orchestra, was involved in community outreach programs, and graduated with a double major.

    As noted above. We expected our kids to maintain a 3.0 GPA which is what the scholarships required. And we also funded four years of college...not more.

    Our kids knew we were very serious that if they lost their scholarships, they would be heading back to our town. That was sufficient motivation.

    In terms of getting a job...both worked. They would NOT have had a nickel of spendong money for discretionary purposes without jobs. That was sufficient motivation to get a job.

    I don't think your plan to tie debt to a certain GPA and activity count makes any sense at all.
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  • brantlybrantly 4228 replies75 threads Senior Member
    Terrible idea. Let her find her way. If you and her mother want her to contribute to her college education, make it a token flat amount not contigent on grades. And regarding the activities, let her make her own decisions. I am one who believes that just because we parents are paying tuition doesn't mean we have the right to control what they do on campus.
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  • MichiganGeorgiaMichiganGeorgia 4389 replies85 threads Senior Member
    How are you going to have her pay this debt? The only way I can see that is if you make her take out student loans along the way. Also how are you going to really know that whether she is in an activity or not? The only thing I could suggest is that you make a floor GPA. Say it's 3.0 or whatever you feel is realistic and if she doesn't keep that GPA then she has to take out a student loan next year to help cover the costs. And fluff major or not she needs to know that she will be supporting herself after college.
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  • twoinanddonetwoinanddone 24568 replies19 threads Senior Member
    I'm a very strict parent, but I have to be realistic that my kids are not me, and don't want exactly what I want. One child is a good student, and I have to tell her to back off a little. Her major has some semesters at 18 credits (suggested) but I think that is too much so told her to take 15. Her skin in the game is keeping her scholarships, and that is a lot of stress. It's not that I'd force her to come home if she loses them, it's that I'd have no choice because I couldn't afford the school without the scholarships. She cannot work because she's too busy.

    My other daughter will probably lose her scholarship because her gpa will fall below 3.0. I know she's doing her best, but if she loses it she'll either have to borrow that amount or work more. Threats won't help, never have. She'll do her best, and if she ends up having to leave that school, she'll be said and so will I. Could she get B's and A's if I ride her for 4 years, require her to check in with me on all assignments? I think so but that's not college. I want her to do her best, not my best.

    The joining activities won't achieve anything. If she doesn't want to join, what good will it do to have 'French Club' or 'Swing dance club' on her resume? No one cares. No one even cares about the high school ones. If you want her to have a stake in her college career, have her pay for a certain amount. You can always decide to pay those loans, but don't kid yourself that $15000 isn't a lot to pay back, for her or you.
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  • austinmshauriaustinmshauri 9741 replies371 threads Senior Member
    edited December 2014
    I think it's a recipe for driving a wedge between your wife's eldest daughter and (what I'm assuming are) her two youngest. I think you should do for your eldest daughter whatever you're prepared to do for her sisters. If you have the money to send the youngest two to college "almost debt-free," are you going to make them maintain an arbitrary combination of activities and GPA or will you help them start their young adult lives with no debt? I wouldn't make one pay if you're not going to make the others.

    If your daughter is struggling academically, you could always give her a minimum GPA (3.0 seems pretty standard) that she has to meet to stay at this school. If you just want her to get a job, tell her you and her mother will cover x amount of expenses and she has to cover anything over that. However, since you're apparently worried about grades, I wouldn't push her toward outside activities or work until her grades are stronger. Her education should be her priority.
    edited December 2014
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  • Deuga7Deuga7 63 replies1 threads Junior Member
    Steve, you're right, she should have some skin in the game. I can also appreciate the possibility that you might be having some buyers remorse because she's not trying to conquer the world, yet. However, I think you're approaching it backwards. The time to talk about the financial burden she will need to bear if she chooses this college or that college was before she chose UNH in the first place, not after she's been there for 1 semester. Am I understanding this correctly that you told her she can go to UNH with out of state tuition, then now that she's attending you want to impose financial sanctions based on performance? It seems to me you should have had this conversation a year ago. Did she realize you were thinking all this when she chose UNH? If she saw your post here a year ago would she have chosen it in the first place or would she have perhaps chosen a different college that was cheaper?

    It seems you probably need to have a nice chat with her to see what her goals are. What's motivating her in school at the moment? Is it classes, sororities, guys, or something else?
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 82804 replies738 threads Senior Member
    edited December 2014
    Agree with reply #18 that the time to talk about your parental contribution and any incentives was early in her senior year of high school, before she finalized her application list. Changing the terms of whatever parental contribution you previously agreed to, if no significant adverse financial issues occurred in your household, will probably leave a bad taste lingering in your relationship with her going forward.

    Having students have "skin in the game" should not mean forcing debt on them, even if they choose a low cost school. It can mean giving them a budget limit. If the college costs slightly more than the budget, they can work and/or take direct loans up to a limited amount over. But if they choose a school that is under the budget limit (low price or after scholarships and financial aid grants), then their reward for frugality would be no student loans and no requirement to work to afford school (although working in summers or school year after first semester may be desirable for experience).
    edited December 2014
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  • GMTplus7GMTplus7 14268 replies297 threads Senior Member
    First of all, l don't know how you can legally impose debt on someone else.

    Second of all, most people don't grasp the gravity of future debt, so I'm skeptical of its utility as a motivator. Seems to me that w a low GPA, she will be in the worst possible position for getting a job to pay off the debt.

    Are u going to impose the same conditions on the other 2 daughters, or just the stepdaughter? Isn't this going to drive a wedge btwn u & your wife?
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