In my opinion, far too many parents burden themselves with debt sending their children to college. At Halcomb Singler, LLP, I spend a good portion of my day meeting with different people facing financial challenges in life. Some challenges are relatively minor, such as one credit card company filing a lawsuit for a bill that has fallen behind. Other financial challenges are more extensive and will require a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy to solve. But again and again I have noticed that almost all of the people I meet with, regardless of the size of the financial challenge we are attempting to solve, that each parent is laser focused and dead set on paying for college tuition for their children.
Having spent 7 years (4 for undergrad and 3 for law school) in college I certainly value education. But I wish that parents, both those struggling financially and those who are making ends meet) would think long and hard about their responsibility to pay for the college tuition of their children. I wish that our country as a whole might rethink whether parents should be the ones paying for college because I do believe that there is a certain amount of societal pressure that parents receive to pay for college. But what if things changed? What if society, parents and children shifted their thinking to expect that if an 18 year-old wished to attend college that the student would be responsible for payment. What if our students opted to work their way through college part-time instead of taking on the burden of student loans? Would then colleges be forced to keep tuition costs in check with the reality of student thinking harder about stretching that tuition dollar and only entering programs that would be worthwhile for future earning potential instead of blindly choosing a college based on the beauty of the campus, the school’s basketball team and the fact that he or she could obtain a 4 year degree in general studies?
To be clear, I am not saying that no parents should ever pay for their child’s higher education. There are certainly many in our state of Indiana and throughout the country who have worked hard and been blessed with abundant financial resources. These parents can afford to pay for college tuition without taking on debt and without hindering their own lifestyle or retirement. This blog is much more targeted toward those parents who are just making it, but perhaps not investing a lot in their own retirement or taking loans out to fund their child’s education at “Big State U” or even “Small Private School.” In my opinion it is these parents who should think very long and hard regarding whether or not they can afford to pay for this tuition, room and board, books, activity fees, etc. Would it make more sense to budget a flat amount that could be contributed to tuition each year and then have the child take out their own loans or work for the difference? Does it make sense to support the child by allowing he or she to live at home rent-free for the duration earning a college degree that he or she paid for individually? Or does it even make sense for the potential student who has always shown a knack for auto repair, computer brilliance, etc., to obtain a 4-year degree? Maybe there are certifications or 2-year degrees that make much more sense.
Again, this blog is written with the hope that parents will think about all the options available to support his or her child before rushing into the financial aid office to sign for thousands of dollars of loans. Parents need to remember that if they are 43 when their child starts college that they are only about 20 years away from retirement. They also need to think about the fact that they will be 47 when the student loan payments come due and that, depending on the selected repayment plan, that the length of time spent paying back student loans could force them to work longer than they had planned.
In addition, I can personally testify that I took my studies in law school much more seriously that I did as an undergraduate. While a portion of that can be attributed to gaining maturity with age, a large portion is also attributable to the fact that I paid for (and am still paying for) my own law school education while my parents paid for undergrad. I even calculated the amount that I was paying for each hour of law school instruction. Finally, I think that parents need to remember that by the time they reach 18 children are adults. At this age children need to understand that nothing in this life comes easily. Giving them responsibility in paying for the education that will help them in their future is really a gift, as it will allow them to mature and grow into better people.
Halcomb Singler, LLP, is a debt relief agency. It helps people file for bankruptcy under the bankruptcy code. No attorney-client relationship with the firm of Halcomb Singler, LLP, is created through this blog. Also, please note that Erika Singler is an attorney licensed in Indiana and does not seek to practice law in any jurisdiction in which they are not properly authorized to do so. The information contained in this blog is general in nature and should not be relied upon for the circumstances of any individual(s) or businesses.