Best way to help your kid through college? Set limits

Just recently someone asked me whether parents should require their children to contribute to their college education.

Some parents feel that their children will not appreciate their college education if they don’t contribute or pay everything themselves. Others feel, as I do, that it’s part

of the cost of raising a child to pay as much as you can, if not all, of college expenses.

As you see, I hedged a bit.

When I say pay as much as you can, that’s intended for parents whose incomes have been so low over the years that they struggled to keep up with their household expenses. In those cases, I think it’s fair to ask your child to contribute to the cost of his or her education by working hard to get scholarships, or by using money saved from any jobs they’ve had.

Now I want to address the parents who can afford to help but don’t, or could have afforded college expenses had they started saving early enough.

We know that, for the most part, a college education is the entry fee for the best jobs in the U.S. You brought the kid into the world, so you should do what you can to make his or her start in the world as debt-free as possible. Why would you play a part in your child starting out in debt, if you have the financial resources?

To these same parents, I ask, what if your child got a full scholarship to their school of choice? Would you tell the child to turn it down because he or she wouldn’t appreciate the free money?

Of course you wouldn’t.

So let’s address the real issue here. Some parents are worried their children may not work hard enough if the money is there for the taking. If this reason has you withholding money to pay for college, do what I intend to do with my children and what increasingly other parents are doing. Set limits.

Fidelity Investments just released its fifth annual College Savings Indicator study. The financial company looks at the percentage of projected college costs the typical American family is on track to cover, based on its current and expected savings. The study also examines strategies families are using to cut college costs.

For example, 66 percent of the parents surveyed said they would require that their child maintain a certain grade point average in order for them to fund their education. The average GPA that parents said they would require is a 3.1 out of 4.0.

“We call this shared accountability between the child and parent,” said Joe Ciccariello, Fidelity’s vice president of college planning.

Many scholarships require students to maintain a certain grade point average so why shouldn’t you? You can be flexible if your child is taking a tough course.

Fidelity also found that the percentage of parents asking their children to graduate in fewer semesters almost doubled in the past five years to 28 percent.

It has long been the norm for students to take four years to finish school. But shave a year off that and you could save thousands of dollars. Most four-year colleges in the U.S. give students credit, on the basis of Advanced Placement exam scores, according to the College Board. College policies vary by institution, but if your high school student takes enough AP classes and achieves good scores on the AP exams, he or she could graduate from college a semester or even a year early.

Almost half of parents are having their child live at home and commute to school (up from 38 percent five years ago). I hear parents say all the time they want their child to have a certain kind of social experience in college. They argue that it’s important for their child to live on campus or in an apartment near campus. Really? Is it important enough to double the expense of college? Is it important enough to mire your kid or yourself in debt for decades?

If you don’t have the money saved for the experience of living on campus, change the expectation. Otherwise, what are you teaching your children?

You are teaching them that they are entitled to a certain lifestyle even if they can’t afford it.

“We see a lot of strategies that parents and children are employing so that they aren’t saddled with a lot of debt and their children aren’t saddled with a lot of debt,” Ciccariello said.

With the high cost of college, it makes sense to forgo some of the traditional college experiences to achieve the ultimate goal, which is to help your child get a degree so he or she can get a job.

Washington Post Writers Group

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

Members of Gravitics' team and U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen stand in front of a mockup of a space module interior on Thursday, August 17, 2023 at Gravitics' Marysville facility. Left to right: Mark Tiner, government affairs representative; Jiral Shah, business development; U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen; Mike DeRosa, marketing; Scott Macklin, lead engineer. (Gravitics.)
Marysville startup prepares for space — the financial frontier

Gravitics is building space station module prototypes to one day house space travelers and researchers.

Orca Mobility designer Mike Lowell, left, and CEO Bill Messing at their office on Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2023 in Granite Falls, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Could a Granite Falls startup’s three-wheeler revolutionize delivery?

Orca Mobility’s battery-powered, three-wheel truck is built on a motorcycle frame. Now, they aim to make it self-driving.

Catherine Robinweiler leads the class during a lab session at Edmonds College on April 29, 2021. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Grant aids apprenticeship program in Mukilteo and elsewhere

A $5.6 million U.S. Department of Labor grant will boost apprenticeships for special education teachers and nurses.

Peoples Bank is placing piggy banks with $30 around Washington starting Aug. 1.
(Peoples Bank)
Peoples Bank grant program seeks proposals from nonprofits

Peoples Bank offers up to $35,000 in Impact Grants aimed at helping communities. Applications due Sept. 15.

Workers build the first all-electric commuter plane, the Eviation Alice, at Eviation's plant on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021 in Arlington, Washington.  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Arlington’s Eviation selects Seattle firm to configure production plane

TLG Aerospace chosen to configure Eviation Aircraft’s all-electric commuter plane for mass production.

Jim Simpson leans on Blue Ray III, one of his designs, in his shop on Friday, August 25, 2023, in Clinton, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Whidbey Island master mechanic building dream car from “Speed Racer”

Jim Simpson, 68, of Clinton, is using his knowledge of sports cars to assemble his own Mach Five.

An Amazon worker transfers and organizes items at the new PAE2 Amazon Fulfillment Center on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023, in Arlington, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Amazon cuts ribbon on colossal $355M fulfillment center in Arlington

At 2.8 million square feet, the facility is the largest of its kind in Washington. It can hold 40 million “units” of inventory.

A computer rendering of the North Creek Commerce Center industrial park in development at 18712 Bothell-Everett Highway. (Kidder Mathews)
Developer breaks ground on new Bothell industrial park

The North Creek Commerce Center on Bothell Everett Highway will provide warehouse and office space in three buildings.

Dan Bates / The Herald
Funko president, Brian Mariotti is excited about the growth that has led his company to need a 62,000 square foot facility in Lynnwood.
Photo Taken: 102312
Former Funko CEO resigns from the Everett company

Brian Mariotti resigned Sept. 1, six weeks after announcing he was taking a six-month sabbatical from the company.

Cash is used for a purchase at Molly Moon's Ice Cream in Edmonds, Washington on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Paper or plastic? Snohomish County may require businesses to take cash

County Council member Nate Nehring proposed an ordinance to ban cashless sales under $200. He hopes cities will follow suit.

A crowd begins to form before a large reception for the opening of Fisherman Jack’s at the Port of Everett on Wednesday, August 30, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Seafood with a view: Fisherman Jack’s opens at Port of Everett

“The port is booming!” The new restaurant is the first to open on “restaurant row” at the port’s Waterfront Place.

Tanner Mock begins unwrapping new furniture that has been delivered on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
In Everett, new look, new name for mainstay Behar’s Furniture

Conlin’s Furniture, based in South Dakota, bought the huge store and celebrates with a grand opening this week.