Welcome to College Confidential!

The leading college-bound community on the web

Sign Up For Free

Join for FREE, and start talking with other members, weighing in on community discussions, and more.

Also, by registering and logging in you'll see fewer ads and pesky welcome messages (like this one!)

As a CC member, you can:

  • Reply to threads, and start your own.
  • Post reviews of your campus visits.
  • Find hundreds of pages of informative articles.
  • Search from over 3 million scholarships.
Please take a moment to read our updated TOS, Privacy Policy, and Forum Rules.

Do parents "OWE" their kids a college education?

toblintoblin Registered User Posts: 1,862 Senior Member
edited March 2012 in Parents Forum
Seems allot of people here on CC think all parents absolutely do have this obligation. I elect to this by choice. But I would NOT put this obligation on all other parents. Does that make me a Heretic in the CC religion?
Post edited by toblin on

Replies to: Do parents "OWE" their kids a college education?

  • Mr.BMr.B Registered User Posts: 1,914 Senior Member
    I put myself through school, will do everything I can to help my kids through school, but I don't think there is any obligation.
  • soozievtsoozievt Registered User, ! Posts: 31,288 Senior Member
    I don't think we owe it to our kids. However, for some people, such as myself, it is something that we highly value and want to give our kids, and will move mountains to make it happen because we care about this.

    However, I find myself, from time to time, having to remind my younger child that we do not owe her this or many other things we do and it is not in our job description and so she needs to not always expect things and remember to act appreciatively. I say that about a lot of things. I do these things because we love our kids and want to do it but I prefer when my child says and acts appreciative and recognizes this is not our obligation but our choice to do these things. One of my kids is big on showing appreciation and the other does it periodically but also at times needs reminding that none of this is something we "owe" her. I think it is important to differentiate between doing something because you want to and doing something because you are obligated to do it. Sending your kid to college is not truly an obligation but if you value this highly, you likely want to do it and you do it no matter what as you can't imagine NOT doing it. But that is different than feeling like you owe it to your kids. I feel like I want to do it and feel responsible to do these things because these things were done for me growing up and I want this for my own kids. But some things are truly a choice. Because I value this highly, sometimes it is hard to understand those who are not willing to help their child go to college (whatever they can afford) but I realize that they simply hold different values. My older D's best friend's parents are not going to pay anything at all, I do not believe and in fact, she is taking a year off and working this year to help earn her college funds. I could not do that but truthfully, they are not doing something wrong but just not what I would choose to do.

  • jamimomjamimom Registered User Posts: 3,278 Senior Member
    I had a long talk with an acquaintance about that question. She is a second wife. Her husband has a daughter from a marriage that did not last long at all, and for whatever reason, there has been very little contact between father and daughter, and no desire to start any. However, he has been paying child support as agreed. He also pays a "bonus" on holidays and anytime he is cued in on events. He has not been invited to any milestones in her life.

    However, when she became a senior in highschool, the issue of college tuition came up for the first time. Apparently the mother has debts up the whazoo and is barely making it, and the stepfather refuses to pay a dime. The father is fairly well to do with 3 kids in private school from this second marriage. THey are not "rolling" in the money but I would definitely describe them as affluent. In the state involved, there is no legal requirement for the father to pay for college. The child support ends at the later of the girl's 18th birhday or the month of highschool graduation. Why should the father pay.

    I explained how the tuition system works. Basically the girl has little recourse if her parents can't, won't pay. Legally, no, her parents do not have to pay for college. But what are the moral and ethical issues involved? What is the philosphy regarding education in this household? What is the right thing to do here?

    They are paying exactly half of the cost of a private college for this young lady for years, and continuing with the child support amount for the summer. They could afford to pay the entire cost, and offered to do so the cost did not exceed the dollar amount of the private college. There was no magic formula involved here. They had to come to some feeling of what was right, and they did so even though there was some resentment, as the money will be sorely felt. Now had they been so wealthy that they would not have even missed the money, should they have paid the entire cost? What if they were struggling with finances, and would not be able to pay for the 3 little ones in private school with a college tuition thrown in there? How much sacrifice should they have to make to pay the tuition? Should the amount have been equal to the child support and just continued that over 4 years? There is no right answer to any of these questions.

    Now for your own children, there is often an implicit promise that you are going to pay for the college unless you are specifically caveating this. Telling kids to save their birthday money, graduation money, grandma money, babysitting money, a portion of any money for college is a way to make it clear that they too are involved in paying for college. But in families that are committed to education, and have been providing well for the child, there is often an explicit promise that they are going to go to college. Sometimes it is not an informed promise, as many parents just assume it is going to work out. But in a case like that, I do think that with the expectations created and raised by the parents, there is an "owe" factor. How much and with what caveats, is a whole different story.

    We always made college a must. Highschool graduation was not a big deal. It is college that marks the final years. In our family the idea that any of them would not graduate from college was as terrible as not graduating from highschool. But our older kids also could see that we did not have the money that a lot of other families did, and they seemed to "get it" that costs were going to be an issue. This is my first one who was not raised that way, and what a difference. We have spent more on him than any of the others, as he goes to an expensive private school. To put him into a school like that where everyone not only goes to college but most of the kids go to pretty danged selective school, is really making it clear that college is the next step. For us to say we would NOT pay for college or encourage it would really be hypocritical, I think. So in his case, I do believe that we "OWE" a college education. But we are insisting that he work this summer and put some money towards the process. And he has had an account where he has put prior earnings and gift money away, all for college.
  • reidmreidm Registered User Posts: 1,050 Senior Member
    50 years ago - no.

    Today - yes.
  • coureurcoureur Registered User Posts: 11,386 Senior Member
    When I finished college I thanked my dad for all his help and $upport. I thanked him in a way that suggested I owed him a lot. He waved it away and said I owed him nothing. But he said I did in fact owe a debt, but the debt was not owed back to him but forward to the next generation.

    So for me the answer is yes, I owe it to my kids.
  • tokenadulttokenadult Registered User Posts: 17,472
    "Owe" isn't the right word, but I think a parent is wise to invest in children's educations up the maximum extent of the parent's energy and creditworthiness.
  • MotherOfTwoMotherOfTwo Registered User Posts: 2,110 Senior Member
    I don't know about "owing", but I do know that my parents (who were highly intelligent, outstanding students throughout their school years, but never graduated from college due to the need to go to work during the Depression) made paying for college for my sister and me a priority. The same was true for my husband's parents, who began to save for the college educations for their three kids as soon as they were born. My parents worked much harder than I do and did not enjoy many of the luxuries which I take for granted. My husband and I have attained our comfortable lifestyle only because of our professional careers, which were made possible by our college educations. Although the cost of college compared to income has increased greatly since our college days (the mid-70's), my husband and I feel that giving our kids a college education, as our parents did for us, is the least we can do for them.
  • mensa160mensa160 Registered User Posts: 1,224 Senior Member
    Yes they OWE bigtime. Kids didn't ask to be their children. They OWE bigtime.
  • dmd77dmd77 Registered User Posts: 8,663 Senior Member
    I am fifth-generation college educated on both sides. (Yes, that means my lineal relatives were getting college educations in the mid-1800s.) The deal in my family has been, from the first college educated person to the present: I'll pay for you, but you have to promise to pay for your children. For some of us, that has meant state colleges, for others, private colleges. But, at our family reunion last summer (descendants of the same parents three (or four) generations back (10 children, 1860-1880), all of those attending were college educated (if of age) and all of those not attending (and we manage to track down almost everyone) were college educated. Intriguingly, we had a LOT of teachers (elementary to college), which I think may be related to the lack of college loans.

    It works for us, as a family philosophy.
  • kirmumkirmum - Posts: 1,218 Senior Member
    Given that the system demands a parent contribution, I feel yes, we owe this to our children. Is it reasonable to set a dollar limit? Yes to that, too. If your EFC is zero, you're off the hook.
  • MotherOfTwoMotherOfTwo Registered User Posts: 2,110 Senior Member
    dmd77 - I like your story and the way you explained it very much. I think that this should be the philosophy for our family too, although it is beginning several generations later for us than it did in your family.
  • bluebayoubluebayou Registered User Posts: 24,333 Senior Member
    I with Suzie the Vet :) , and Mr. B. As the first in my family to go to the U, paid for myself, working for "it" helps builds character (I even got out in four years). However, working nearly FT kinda diminishes the college experience. So, "moving mountains" to make the experience happen for da' kids is the current plan, but I don't think its owed. But, for me to move moutains, they owe the hard work and effort to get there.
  • charlesivescharlesives Registered User Posts: 63 Junior Member
    Yes I do!!!!!!!!!!
  • reidmreidm Registered User Posts: 1,050 Senior Member
  • charlesivescharlesives Registered User Posts: 63 Junior Member
    Yes, I know the biography well. I have been an Ivesian since the early 70's with a discography of more than 200 recordings. And I have been to the Ives home in Danbury Conn. The ultimate Ives experience was a live perfromance of the Concord Sonata!!
This discussion has been closed.