College Planning: Should Your Kids Pay Their Own Way?

BY: Brent Landrum

The right answer might depend on personality and maturity.

There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to who should pay for college. The decision must be made by all parties involved and everyone should be comfortable with what is arranged. In my experience, I had a little bit of everything when it came to paying for my education.

Starting out as a young 18-year old freshman, my parents knew I wasn’t mature enough to understand all the components of financial aid and made the best decision for me. Their goal was me succeeding in my academic career by having me focus on what school to attend and what to major in. I was not involved in the financial decisions, and I didn’t fully understand that whole realm. My parents had me take any financial aid I qualified for, and they covered the difference along with living expenses.  There were many pros and cons to this mentality, but for me it allowed me to take the first couple years for granted and not focus as I should.

Ultimately, after a couple years with little academic success, my parents and I agreed to split the cost of my education so I could begin to take ownership of my future. This approach helped me understand more about paying for college, but life had other plans for me, and I ended up taking time off.  It was during this phase in my life that I was forced to take ownership of my finances and work toward being fiscally smart.

Fast forward a few years, and the situation was much different.  After my extended break from school, it was time to return and earn my degree.  As a non-traditional student with more life experience than before, I took the initiative to understand my financial aid options and consult with my parents so that I could pay my own way.  More options were available to me at an older age. There were hurdles along the way, but in my opinion, those struggles meant growth.

Through my experiences, I learned it’s always important to consider all expenses involved and who can or should pay for what.  My parents were active in the conversations throughout and helped guide me along the way.  They saw the benefit in paying for college themselves as well as me paying for it and helped me understand the process.

My advice when making these decisions for you and your future student is to consider these three things:

  1. Have an open and honest conversation with the student about financial aid. Explain what it is and what it means.
  2. Include the student in the financial conversations.
  3. All parties involved should hear thoughts and concerns about the financial aspect, both during and after college.
Watch for more information on planning for college expenses each month in this newsletter. If you would like help in planning appropriately for college tuition, call (608) 798-5233.

Brent Landrum

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