A college education is a necessity in the eyes of many people, but paying for that degree can be tough. Student loan debt continues to rise, but many students’ parents pay for their college educations—or at least make significant contributions towards the bill.
Sallie Mae’s How America Pays for College 2012 found that students paid approximately 30% of their educational expenses while parents footed 37% of the total bill.
Interestingly, “More is More or More is Less? Parental Financial Investments During College,” a new study conducted by University of California, Merced sociology professor Laura T. Hamilton has found that larger parental contributions may contribute to lower grades.
These results are somewhat ironic because according to Forbes, most parents assume that their children will do better in school if they don’t have to spend as much time working to pay for their own expenses.
In truth, students whose entire college educations are paid for by their parents spend more time improving their social lives than they do hitting the books. While Hamilton found that these students do not necessarily “party hearty” enough to flunk out, their grades are significantly lower than students who pay for college themselves.
The New York Times reports that Hamilton suggests “a blank check from parents” may cause students to care less about college, or at least not take it quite so seriously.
Graduation rates, though, are another story. More affluent students whose parents pay for college are more likely to graduate from college than students whose parents do not contribute as much. Considering that students from wealthier families are already more likely to go to college than their poorer counterparts, lower grades may not be too much to worry about. Wealthier students can rely on their family’s connections to land a job and further financial assistance from their parents in the meantime.
It’s important to note that Hamilton’s research also found that money “given” to students from sources other than their parents— grants, scholarships, work-study programs, student employment jobs, and veterans’ benefits—do not have similar effects on students’ GPAs. This is most likely because grants, scholarships, and other programs often have minimum GPA requirements while money from parents does not.
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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