Is it OK to hit up my in-laws for tuition help?

<p>OK, here's my background: I have a son who's a sophomore in college and a daughter who will begin next fall. Some years back my father passed on to me what he called his inheritance, the logic of the timing being that I could use it better in my 40s/50s than in my late 50s when he'll likely pass on. I put the majority of that into two 529s, one for each of my kids. The balance in these accounts is such that they will fund MOST of their education but not all. I resolved to fund the balance out of pocket to the tune of about 10k per kid, per year. My EFC is unfortunately high enough that we will not qualify for any need-based aid, just loans. Please don't suggest that my kids simply borrow the money on their own as I am firmly committed to having them graduate debt-free if at all possible. I want to leave this as an absolute last option.</p>

<p>The 10k/kid/year on my part is a sacrifice but it should be doable. However, for the current year (my son's spring tuition, due in 3 weeks specifically) it is a problem. My mother-in-law who is comfortably retired in a McMansion on a golf course and married to a still-practicing psychologist, has never offered any help, and has never so much as asked how we're covering these costs. At one point she asked my wife if my father was paying for college, and wife's reply was ambiguous enough to leave the impression that yes, it was all taken care of. She has three grandchildren, two of whom are mine. The family is not large.</p>

<p>She's instead taken to giving small gifts to my son at school - sending him $100 here or there. It's nice but obviously doesn't go towards tuition or books. It's spent at Chipotle and Buffalo Wild Wings.</p>

<p>So the question is, can I approach mother in law about the possibility of helping out, even to the tune of 1-2k per year? What are people's feelings about grandparents helping with tuition?</p>

<p>There's nothing wrong in asking. It depends on the nature of your relationship. All she can say is NO. But will you feel 100% fine if she does say NO? Don't hold the expectation over her or let it injure your relationship if she declines.</p>

<p>On the other hand, might she hold it against you and your wife? Don't mean to bring up unpleasantries but I thought it should be mentioned.</p>

<p>Also 1-2K per year isn't an extravagant amount. An option would be to have your kids sign promissary notes and have them pay it back later -- they are the beneficiaries after all.</p>

<p>Personally I would never ask either set of grandparents to help out. Of course neither set of grandparents is as well off as you describe. In our case I'm not sure the grandparents even have enough to last through their own retirement.</p>

<p>While I don't think it's a grandparent's responsibility to contribute to college costs, certainly many would be happy to do so if they had the resources. If I were in your shoes, I'd bring up the topic in a low-key way, mentioning that the 529s aren't sufficient and you'll be really stretching to make up the difference in order to avoid burdensome student loans. Either you'll get, "That's too bad, sorry to hear that..." or a more helpful response. Or maybe she'll tell your wife, "See, I was right all along, this loser can't support you and the kids properly." ;) </p>

<p>A lot depends on your relationship. Your wife might be the right one to bring it up. Good luck!</p>

<p>Why would it not be your wife who approaches her own parents about this? Is your wife opposed to this idea? </p>

<p>She could take the opportunity to correct the erroneous impression she may have given her mother about whether your father had covered the full cost of the kids' educations.</p>

<p>This is a very delicate issue, in my opinion.</p>

<p>In some families, it is customary for grandparents to help out with college expenses if possible. In other families, this idea is never considered.</p>

<p>Your in-laws may feel that they are being more financially responsible by hanging on to their money so that they can pay for any medical or long-term care expenses that may come up down the road, rather than contributing to grandchildren's college expenses. They might be shocked that your spouse's parents gave up money that they might need later in order to help fund your children's college expenses.</p>

<p>I'm being the devil's advocate here because my husband comes from a family in which grandparents customarily help with college expenses, and I come from the other sort of family. When the time came for us to pay for our children's college expenses, his parents had both died, but if they had still been alive, they would probably have offered to help. My father was still alive, but he did not offer, and although my husband urged me to do so, I did not ask. In the context of my family, it would not have been an appropriate request unless we were in financial trouble, which we were not.</p>

<p>I would go for Stafford loans. It is your son's education, and there is nothing wrong about asking him to invest in it. Sure, it's great to graduate without debt, but in this economy it's not always possible.If he only needs a couple of thousand dollars it will not be all that catastrophic to pay it back over time, and if you feel all that badly about it you can always help him pay it back. It also helps him to establish a credit rating.</p>

<p>His grandparents are being pretty darn generous in sending him spending money; I don't know many grandparents that do that. A few thousand in debt is better than awkward relationships with inlaws....</p>

<p>Is $1-2K/year that much that you couldn't save by tightening a bit? Or is this some kind of power play like, since my family is helping so should in-law's?</p>

<p>I would never ask. If the offer came that is fine but I do not think it is fair to ask.</p>

<p>I would never ask. If the offer came that is fine but I do not think it is fair to ask.</p>

<p>I agree with above-</p>

<p>I totally agree with #4. I think a low key conversation is best with your wife leading, and I think there should be no expectation of change. If anything is offered, consider it a blessing. Perhaps pick up the book "Crucial Conversations" at the bookstore and look through it for ideas? Again though, you must be ready to accept no response without resentment, or to me it isn't worth it. </p>

<p>In our area, there is one city known for having well-off families with beautiful houses and kids who are generally pushed toward advancement and education. I was chatting one day with a merchant in my city, which is next door and just fine but not as upscale. She told me that nearly all the bounced checks she had ever received were from City #1. I am most certain that you know this already, but it never hurts to be reminded.</p>

<p>The key thing, I think, is to correct the perception that "college costs were taken care of" by the OP's father. That would be a soft "ask." </p>

<p>As Marian notes, every family is different. In some families, even the parental contribution is questioned. (The FAFSA and schools have no doubts on that topic, of course.) Available resources matter a lot, too. If I were a cash-strapped parent, I'd be more likely to accept help a wealthy grandparent than one who is just getting by. I wouldn't want grandparents who were endangering their own retirement lifestyle to contribute, even if they were willing.</p>

<p>If the grandparents can afford it and have seemed to be willing to help with the stusents' education, it should be fine to ask.
Of course, my dad's parents passed away before I even met them and my mother's parents are not very supportive of me and my mother (but absolutely adore my brother and older male cousin), and also neither side would be able to financially provide money for college, so I would never have to face this situation.
Just be careful to not offend and destroy relationships with the in-laws :)</p>

<p>I would never ask - it's not fair, and just because she is well off does not mean she is required (even morally) to fund her grandchildren's college education. I don't think it's a terrible thing for your kids to have small loans for school either.</p>

<p>I think it is inappropriate to ask your parents to help out with your kids´education. I think it´s nice when grandparents offer, but it is bad taste to ask. We all talk about how when someone turns 18 then he/she is an adult. What about when we are in our 50s, we should certainly be responsible for our own children. If you couldn´t afford it then send them to a school which you could afford, or take out a loan to pay for it. I would be very embarrassed to ask my parents to pay for my housing, food, or my kids´upkeep.</p>

<p>Grandparents have no obligation to help their grandkids financially. Their first obligation should be to themselves, to fund their own retirement. That being said, I am grateful my D's great-grandmother bought her EE savings bonds starting when D was born (she passed away when D was about 8) and her grandmother sends her $100 a month spending money. My own parents give her a nice Christmas and birthday check, but don't contribute to her college expenses, nor should they IMHO (they have 10 grandchildren and are nearing 90 years old).
What is your children's relationship with their grandma? Do they spend time with her, call her, email her? Write her thank you notes? My own mother got tired of sending gifts to grandchildren who never responded, not even a thank you note. So she cuts them off if they don't acknowledge her gifts. Just because the grandparents seem to be well-off doesn't mean they have an obligation to give that money away, even to their own grandchildren, if they don't have some kind of close relationship with them.</p>

<p>I wouldn't ask the MIL. It's not her responsibility to pay for your children's educations. However, since it seems you have a cash flow problem at this time - why not have your wife ask her mother if she can loan you the money necessary until such a time that you can pay it back to her.</p>

<p>So you make enough so you don't qualify for need based aid, yet you're only asking for $1-2K??
They're your kids and your kids' educations, so I suggest either pay it yourself or have the kids contribute the $1-2K out of their own earning power/small loans.
Not granny's problem.</p>

<p>Psychologists don't earn that much. My tennis coach is a full time psych but he teaches from 3 until 8 PM, even in the freezing winter. Can't live too comfortably with the practice alone. So, if you or your son can swing it, try that before asking. If you have to ask, your wife should be the one. I suppose it is less awkward as they are mother/daughter. I can't imagine I am the one who bring it up with my MIL even though our relationship is decent.</p>

<p>Woody has a good point, op - what is the job situation with S and D? No reason they can't earn some of the $10K themselves.</p>