How much OOP money do ask from your college student?

Our first of 3 heading off to college this fall and my husband and I are having discussions on if and how much money we should ask from our son.

A little history … my husband and I both put ourselves through college (private universities lots of loans) , we worked summers sometimes 2 jobs and while in school pt jobs, paid for our first cars and expenses not many hand outs to put it nicely. Granted we were given a lot of fin aid back in the 90s. Our parents helped where they could but I was from a single parent household and my husband was one of 7 lots in college at the same time and many private colleges to boot…

We are fortunate enough to be able to offer a set amount of $ to our son per year towards his education and we will have him take the federal student loan, we will not take private loans and do not want him to either. This is where we get hung up on what to do and how much more to ask of him.
We want him to have some “skin in the game” per se and he will have the federal loans but we do not want him crippled in debt as we were. That loan may be enough quite honestly…
All of the colleges he is applying to are private and expensive but he has good grades, is a good student he has scholarships offers from these schools on the table, the OOP costs are lining up for the most part with what we have anticipated.

For anyone willing to share I’d love to hear what you have done with your college students in the past or currently or plan to do.

Some of our thoughts have been for him to pay us a set amount say $2000 (just an example) or maybe a percentage that then needs to be paid over the summer before he starts school in fall each year, needs to pay for his own books/supplies and spending money…
or the other option
if there is a gap in the school he has chosen that exceeds our set amount then he needs to come up with that or some of that (most gaps are 1K-3K so far give or take)
We will be encouraging him to work on campus a PT little job but that would be spending money for him and nothing too stressful.
Thanks for any imput it is very appreciated!!!

We asked our kids to cover all discretionary spending and books. We have no idea how much they actually earned and spent, because this was their income…and their spending.

But they never asked us for discretionary spending money, or money for books.

We would have helped out with books.

We also sent things like gift cards or cash gifts for holidays and the like to help out.

We covered all other undergrad costs so we felt this was reasonable.

The only caveat now is that jobs aren’t all that plentiful due to Covid.

1 Like

Why do you oppose private loans?

Our DDs contribute quite a bit. Partly because DH is of the “work your way through” mindset- he worked his way through 3/4 of a year of trade school in 1989 so obviously it can be done :smirk:

DD’17 went to community college and she paid all her rent/groceries/fun money. She worked at Target. She probably worked a bit too much, but she didn’t want to touch her savings. We paid for car/gas/phone. Tuition was a non-issue between her scholarships and the tax credit.

DD’19 had a lot of scholarships for freshman year so it was super cheap. Now that she is off campus, I have her also pay rent, utilities, and groceries. She has been able to do that from earnings so far but she has savings she could use. And, since her college costs more, she also pays $1500 tuition/semester from her savings. Though she now has a $3000 Americorps education award so for two semesters she can use that to cover her share.

It works because they chose inexpensive schools and live in a low COL area. And it’s been good for them to work and manage money.

1 Like

Are schools still able to offer the same work-study jobs for campuses that are closed?

1 Like

The numbers are close with what we will pay, plus scholarships. We don’t anticipate needing them but if there were a gap we would just prefer not to have them

Not at my daughter’s school. Very few work study jobs available last semester and those that were had limitations and started late. Looks to be the same this semester. She has used 1.7% of her work study allocation.

I think you all need to get on the same page as to the purpose of the “gap filling”. People tend to respond to incentives in ways that can’t be predicted.

IF you can afford the modest gap-- and you’re asking your son to fill it because you want him to learn some kind of lesson- be prepared for him to turn down a hugely prestigious but low-paying job editing a professors book in order to keep his job serving tacos at the local restaurant where tips are good. Which one is more important/helpful to him intellectually, academically, professionally? Be prepared for him to stick with tutoring 8th graders in his college town- a solid $20/hour gig with plentiful hours, instead of taking an unpaid research spot at his professor’s genetics lab which will teach him important skills plus contribute to a meaningful and exciting advance in science.

If you can’t afford to bridge the gap then let him know that-- and elicit his participation in filling the gap AND taking advantage of the many, possibly low or non-paying opportunities to learn and grow while on campus.

I’m all for “skin in the game”- but I know too many kids with affluent parents who spend all their non-class and study time working food service and clerical jobs because Mom and Dad want them to have the skin-- and never go to a debate, concert, performance, or apply for a fellowship or research position because they just don’t have time for anything besides passing their classes and showing up for work.

The most hilarious was the neighbors who grumbled that they had to buy their kid a car so he could get to work at the mall near campus (no bus service). The insanity of paying for a car, insurance, parking so the kid could earn minimum wage and “contribute” to his tuition seemed bizarre…for people who could comfortably write a check for a car!!!


We are like Thumper, our D is responsible for all her incidentals - books, meals out, entertainment, any car related expense, and we also had her pay for her study abroad. We pay tuition, room, and board.

She’s moving off campus for the rest of her time and we told her we would pay no more than what we were paying for R&B on campus and the rest is up to her.

She has worked since HS so has a nice nest egg of her own. She tutors during the school year and her grandparent typically sends money here and there, and that covers all her incidentals. She also has had internships and is doing a co-op, but we’d rather have her save her money so she can be fully independent when she graduates.

She didn’t need any further motivation to feel like she has skin in the game. She knows she’s working towards her future.

We also have the expectation of 3.0 minimum GPA to keep funding tuition. She would also have to repay us for any class she has to retake. She’s never come close to being in jeopardy of that.


I agree and thank you for this insight!
We would not have him jeopardize any opportunities as you mentioned. I’m really thinking more along summer job to make money. Any job we would encourage would be an on campus 10 hrs a week sort of job- if available.

1 Like

Sounds very fair.

While it is important to set out expectations, know that circumstances can change. My youngest had a job as the end of HS he expected to keep all summer, but that ended and he had a hard time getting another. We paid for books but after freshman year did not really give our college kids spending money.

After sophomore year, one stayed at the university to work in a lab, was supposed to be paid but the funding ended up not coming through. He got a part time paying job and continued to work in the lab (unpaid). We paid his rent and he covered his expenses. He kept the paying job through the rest of college. However, he had moved into an apartment so we were giving him money for food and didn’t ask for an accounting of how he spent it.

Point being that having a tough time getting a job, having an opportunity for a low pay or no pay internship, or struggling with a tough major may require flexibility in requiring paid employment. You can also “loan” him some of the gapped money and have him pay it back (no interest) once he is working or forgive the loan as a graduation present.

1 Like

I’ve never quite understood the “skin in the game” mindset. My DD has never needed any “skin in the game” to do well in school and our approach has been for me to provide her with spending money and for her to focus on maximizing her experience, which means jumping on all opportunities that interest her without being limited by work during the school year. She’s had a couple of very high paying internships and another couple that while not high paying have been excellent experience. Since I cover her discretionary spending during the school year, in addition to building a strong resume, she’s also built up healthy retirement and other savings accounts.

If you can comfortably cover your child’s full costs during college, don’t hamper him by “skin in the game.” The “skin in the game” thinking seems to be cultural, in my experience.


Same… Almost exactly. Both my kids “wanted” to work. During a really tough schedule I told my son to forget work and just concentrate on his school work. He ended up picking up a second job (hours he could do on his own time schedule)… He did great also. For many kids too much time is just procrastination time.

Yes, it’s tougher now so maybe some leeway but you want them to become part of their college community also.

1 Like

For us, getting good grades and preparing for a future career/life are enough skin in the game.

With that said, I agree with many of the above responses…including that child care and tutoring can be much more lucrative than on-campus jobs, and can also work as summer gigs. Depending on his major/career goals, he may need to get industry appropriate summer internships/jobs.

It’s not clear if you are talking about external scholarships and whether you qualify for any need based aid. Just know that many colleges require external scholarships be paid directly to them (if the student receives need based aid) and they will offset their FA package accordingly. Many schools will remove the student loan and/or work-study requirement first, but if the external scholarship is greater than those amounts, your S’s need based aid may be reduced dollar for dollar by the external scholarship.

Whatever scholarships your S has, make sure to understand the conditions needed to continue receiving those (certain GPA, etc.) and whether they are renewable/guaranteed each year.


Our first of three is a senior in high school right now. He only applied to in state public schools because that is what we can afford. He has gotten a little bit of modest merit aid from 2 schools so far.

We will cover his tuition and room & board and continue to pay his car insurance. He will be responsible for his car maintenance/gas (as he is now), entertainment, eating out/incidentals and books. He has been working part time since he turned 16 and has a nice savings account built up. He’ll continue to work during the summer before he leaves for school and will get a part time job of some sort once he starts college this fall.

If he needs help with study abroad (which we really want him to experience), we’ll help him out with that too.

We also have told him that he will be taking out the federal student loans, as we also have S23 twins and they will need to the same.

1 Like

Thank you.
I’m speaking of merit scholarship offered by school, nothing external.

The car cost a lot more than the total income made from the minimum wage job. If he did not have that job, they would not have bought the car?

We committed a certain amount per year for my D20. If her education cost more than that, she would need to take out federal loans (it doesn’t). We were clear from the start that we were not willing to cosign private loans or parent loans, so that definitely informed her application and decision process.

We do ask her to pay for her books and discretionary spending. She saved $4k working this past summer, with the intention of allotting $2k per semester.

1 Like

This is where we are leaning I believe but our son will have to take the fed loan at any of his choices. The “gap” if there is one will most likely fall on him or we will split with him or something along those lines…

1 Like