This week, Today’s Parent asked its readers if they were planning on paying for their kids' education. Some said, Yes, absolutely, I already have my RESPs started and some flat out said, No way; if we pay, they won’t feel the need to work as hard. My friend and todaysparent.com’s Managing Editor, Nadine Silverthorne, has a very well thought out plan – they will pay for half of their kids’ education up front, and upon graduation, will give them back the other half. I like this solution, as it encourages her kids to work before school, but ensures that they won’t be totally saddled with student loans afterwards, should they have to supplement with them.
However, I was a bit dismayed by the many voices echoing the sentiment that they would not be paying for their child’s education at all. It’s one thing if a family cannot afford to pay for their child’s education – I completely understand, and came from those circumstances myself. A child usually knows well that the family is in that position, and (resentful as they may feel about it, because yes, sorry, but that is a possibility) knows that student loans are probably in their future.
But flat out saying that you won’t be paying because you feel your child will take it more seriously if it’s their money?
That won’t happen.
Because here’s the thing – kids go to university now at 17 or 18 years old. Even if they have been babysitting since they turned 12, had a part-time job since they were 15 and never, ever spent a penny on themselves (that sounds like a fun youth, thanks mom and dad), they won’t have enough to sustain themselves through university. Even if you pay their rent. Even if you give them an allowance for groceries. It just won’t be enough. And 17 and 18 year olds are not known for their stellar decision-making abilities. Keep that in mind, too.
So your kids will have no choice but to get student loans. Hopefully they’ll be able to, because student loans (at least in Ontario) take into account a parent’s ability to help a child, so if you make ‘too much,’ your kid will get very little. If they don’t get enough in student loans, they will (I promise) accept the credit cards being offered them all over the campus. The credit card companies are counting on it.
Possibly, your kid will also need a part time job. Fine, I don’t think that’s such a hardship. I worked full-time hours all through full-time university, because I had to pay my own rent, groceries, books, transportation, etc., which my student loans didn’t cover.
Your kids will probably get through university or college without your help. But, that they did it without your help will be painfully obvious to them. That means, the decisions they make are theirs alone, and don’t expect them to respond to your concerns or even your input. 18 year olds that are on their own don’t need their parent’s permission to take, drop or fail classes. They don’t need your permission to move out of residence and into a shady apartment, or to spend their summers gallivanting across the West Coast with friends. You didn’t pay, you don’t get a say. Keep that in mind.
Also keep in mind that it takes more than just lip service to ensure your child’s success. It takes some practical planning. I feel like I was totally expected to succeed, but really had no practical help in achieving that success. I think I’ve managed it, but it took many, many years and many, many bumps in the road. And it was a struggle.
And I simply don’t want my kids to have to experience that particular struggle. I want them to go to school, to do well and to have fun. I’m not saying that I will pay for everything – I won’t. I will expect them to have part-time jobs before university and maybe even during university, but this is how I think of it: school will be their job, and I will be their employer. So, as long as they do their job well, I will keep paying. There will be expectations, and there will be consequences to not meeting those expectations. I will not relinquish my financial support – or my vote in how my money is to be spent – as long as those expectations are being met.
I want to see my children happy and successful, and just saying that I want that, but not supporting them in their quest, won’t get them there. They will need my money, and I’m hoping that they will be motivated by the expectations I attach to providing it to them. And that they will graduate, loan-free, excited and prepared for the next phase of their life.
In fact, I’m banking on it.