Should Parents Foot Their Child’s College Bill?

I’m sure most of you have heard about the honor student who is suing her parents for school fees.  And, it seems, the general consensus is that she’s a spoiled brat and her parent’s shouldn’t have to pay for her education expenses.

While I generally agree with the spoiled brat theory, a Facebook acquaintance with a keen eye for perspective mentioned the dependency status when filling out FAFSA forms to receive federal aid.

I believe Miss Bratty Pants would still be considered a dependent unless she legally got herself emancipated.

“Not living with parents or not being claimed by them on tax forms does not make you an independent student for purposes of applying for federal student aid.”

The FAFSA program assumes your family will help pay for your education.  I know many college students under the age of 24 who got zero help from their parents.  Why not just add one simple question to the FAFSA form?  Do you expect your parents to contribute to your educational expenses?  Yes or No.

I think it’s silly to assume.

Maybe this case will be the precedent to changing one small thing about a messy higher education system?

But to answer my own title question; Generally, no.  But, as long as FAFSA says college students under age 24 are dependent students and the amount of federal aid they receive is based on their parents’ income, then I believe they should at least contribute a little.

Of course, I’d also be pissed if my parents started a college fund and then redirected it.  Unless they had the minor sign some kind of contract with stipulations about her actions, I honestly believe she should be entitled to receive those funds.  Then again, I don’t know the whole story, and I only read one article.  That’s just how I’d feel if my parents had saved money for my college education and then decided to use it for something else.

What say you?  What do you think about the honor student’s situation?  Any views on the dependent/independent FAFSA status?

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13 thoughts on “Should Parents Foot Their Child’s College Bill?

  1. Kasey, my situation is a little bit different as I did use some of the life insurance policy to set up education accounts for the boys with the understanding that any excess college expenses would have to be paid by them, possibly as a student loan. Because of my income and widow status, grants and scholarships paid for their schooling leaving me with most of the money still in their accounts. Would like to divert this money back to me but would have to pay penalties and taxes which I don’t want and cannot afford to do, so the money remains for potential future education or a transfer to their future children.

  2. It’s my dream to pay for my daughters college education. I feel until that is done, my job as a parent in regards to support until adulthood is just not done. I’m working hard to become debt free to build wealth for I also would love to purchase her new home and first car. Do I plan on spoiling her? As long as she’s in school and doing well…..hell yah!

  3. I don’t think parents are obligated to help, but I agree that the current system is flawed. I finally got independence when I was 20 (got married young), which allowed me to only claim my income (and my husband’s). Before that, it was assumed my family would give a certain amount and they did not.

    I think the current system assumes fraud would occur if it wasn’t required to count the parent’s income. Like kids being supported by their parents would say they were independent to get more money. Regardless, it assumes too much.

  4. I do think that girl is kinda a spoiled brat, but at the same time I agree with her. One, she is still in (private) high school and her parents are not going to finish paying for that. Even though she is 18, they’re the ones that put her into that school, I think they have an obligation to let her finish there. Switching schools your senior year is not good for your education (and probably not for your college applications either). Additionally, if you were raised with the expectation that your parents were paying for college, it seems a little unfair that they could just change their minds. Granted, I think there’s a lot more going on with their relationship, but it does seem a little unfair to just take that away, even though she definitely has other options to pay for college.

    I do think the system is unfair. I was lucky enough to have my parent’s pay for my school, but unfortunately they didn’t qualify for FAFSA due to the value of their house. They happened to buy a house 30 years ago that has gone up (a lot) in value, so they’re supposed to take out another mortgage to pay for my education? It should be based on actual income, and only if they’re actually paying. Maybe there could be a way to prove that parent’s won’t be paying to avoid fraud? Another hoop to jump through, but worth it to save some $$!

    • I completely agree with you Alicia! I didn’t get any aid either because my father made too much, despite contributing nothing until my student loans came due. A radical approach to the FAFSA issue would be to make college free 😉 or at least free for students attending and then they repay a certain percent of their income for 10 or so years after graduating.

  5. I don’t think parents have to foot the bill, but it’s nice if they can help out for sure. It’s a tough situation. My debt has taught me so much, but help is nice. I think it’s a balance and a personal decision for each parent.

  6. My parents did not help with college at all. Neither did my husband’s parents. Thankfully, we were both able to get scholarships to help with the cost, but we still owe around $60K (two bachelors, one masters of architecture, one JD). We are trying to pay this off as quickly as possible. The upside to my parents not helping is that I don’t have to feel guilty about not using my degree right now (I am staying home with my son.)

    One of my closest friends in high school had a hefty college fund. She had always been told that the money was for her education. Then her parents decided to use it to buy a nice speedboat. She still went to college, but it was a real downer. The worst part was that she never wanted to go on the boat and this made her parents very upset.

    We are saving for our son’s future, but we don’t know that we want to do this in a 529. We don’t know that he will want to go to college when he is grown or whether college will be a good idea at that point. He might want to go into the trades or start a business or be a rockstar. Who knows? We do plan to help him financially, whatever path he takes.

    • My parents didn’t help either, and I got zero financial aid because of my father’s income. My dad’s now ex girlfriend did co-sign on 3 of my private loans. I feel pretty guilty about not using my degree but now my dad’s at least helping with the payments now…though it would have been better in college (less interest).

      I’d have a bit of animosity towards that boat too if my parents had done that! I totally understand about being wary of a 529. At the rate tuition is rising, I don’t even know if college is worth going into debt for…and hopefully there will be some major reform by the time your son grows up!

  7. Pingback: Monday Monologue #9 |

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