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Should Parents Foot the Bill for College?

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I recently read this older piece on Kiplinger.com, entitled “Who should pay for college?” and it got me thinking: Assuming money is not an issue, do you think parents should be responsible for paying for their kids’ college education?

There’s a whole range of responses to this question, from:

Absolutely not! I paid my own way through school and my kids will do the same! It builds character.


100% yes! That’s part of a parent’s responsibility to his or her kids!

Of course, if you ask the students, you will get another range of responses.

And truthfully, I think it’s probably impossible to completely take money out of the equation. After all, it’s one thing for a family of millionaires to pay for college costs. It’s another thing for a cash-strapped family of four earning the median national salary (typically quoted somewhere between $43,000 and $48,000 per year) to find the wiggle room to pay for college. Even still, some families in the latter situation would sacrifice vacations and skrimp on new clothes just to be able to put aside some small amount for college. While other families would simply hope for the best (aka, a generous financial aid package).

In reality, most families — whether for financial reasons or philosophical ones – — end up somewhere in the middle. Parents assist with the cost of college to a certain extent, and then expect their children to step up and cover the rest. Covering the rest might mean applying for and winning scholarships, working full- or part-time during the year and over the summer, picking a less expensive college to begin with, or living and eating at home.

For example, let’s say your parents had managed to save up $20,000 for your college education. Whether that money was easy or hard for them to come by, it surely sounds like a nice sum of money. And it is. In fact, you might even have some spare change left… if you attend a local community college, live at home, and work full-time every summer.

On the other hand, that 20 grand won’t even cover a year’s worth of tuition, room and board at most out-of-state public schools, let alone private schools. Unless, of course, you win a ton of college scholarships.

So, even if your parents’ intention is to cover all of your educational costs for four years, that $20K would have to be used very frugally to actually stretch that far. In other words, getting into Harvard is one thing; paying for it is another.  Especially if you don’t want to graduate with a mountain of student loan debt.

Which raises another question: Should parents cosign a loan for their children? I’ll tell you my personal opinion tomorrow, but I’d love to hear with you think. Is co-signing with your child for a student loan helping them? Or is it hindering? Sound off in our comments section — I’m eager to read your thoughts!

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