Are Parents Responsible for Paying for College?
Justin Draeger, NASFAA President and CEO, recently published an article detailing why he feels that it is the parents’ responsibility to pay the college expenses for their child. It is an interesting argument for sure, and one that will probably provide much discussion either way. Parents are responsible for their children through age 18, but should they continue to foot the bill for their children after that age? Or, should parents allow their children to accumulate and manage their own student loan debt? Both sides of the argument are presented below. Which side are you on?
In Draeger’s (2015) article, he insists that “Parents who can help pay for college should” because “the philosophy of the U.S. higher education system depends on it” (pg. 1). The average college student accumulates more debt than they are going to be able to pay back after their grace period ends. The higher education financing system “is structured to rely on families as the foremost funders of a student’s education” (pg. 1). While the government does recognize 18 year olds as independent, for financial aid purposes, a student is not considered independent until he or she reaches 24, or has an event that signals adulthood (marriage, military service, etc.). This gap may show that young people are not equipped to deal with student loan debt.
On the other hand, the argument can be made that it is fully the student’s responsibility to pay for college. The main person benefiting from a college education is the person who is receiving it. In a country with individuals who are becoming less and less financially independent, it may be a good idea to have college students accumulate and pay off their student loan debt on their own. For most college students, earning a degree or certificate is an expensive expenditure. There are many options, however, that aid students in paying back their debt in a timely fashion. College is used to mold students into responsible and hard-working professionals, and paying back your student loan debt by yourself is a major step toward that professionalism.
There are also many non-traditional college students out there that have dependents of their own that are either attending college or plan on attending college in the future. How can you budget for your own college expenses while also having to budget for your dependent’s college expenses? If you follow the same line of thinking as Draeger, the best answer to this question is to be proactive and start a college fund when your dependent is at a young age. On the other hand, you may decide that you will let your dependent pay for his or her own college expenses, most likely through Federal Student Aid (FSA) loans. Getting an education is important for you and your dependents. So having the forward thinking to plan ahead is paramount to you and your family’s success.
There is no right or wrong answer for the above debate. If you have parents who are willing to pay some or all of the costs of your college education, you should take advantage of that. If you have dependents looking to attend college, or those who want to attend in the future, you may feel compelled to help them with college expenses. You should not, however, ever expect or count on any help, or feel that you absolutely must help your dependents. It is each individual’s education, and therefore it is ultimately that individual’s responsibility to pay for it. Financial help is great, and you should never be embarrassed to accept it. If you are able to pay off all of your college expenses on your own, that is an accomplishment you should be very proud of.
By Ryan Laspina
Senior Specialist, Red Flags and External Reviews at APUS