Managing Finances

Should My Financial Support be Tied to the Academic Performance of My College Student?

As a parent, it is natural to want to do as much as possible for your children. That care and devotion can take many forms, from providing a shoulder to cry on to providing financial support for college. But is paying for college really in the best interest of your child – not to mention your own financial future?

It’s a question many parents ask themselves, especially as the price of higher education continues to rise. Many parents feel stretched, worried about their own retirement while they try to find a way to pay for their child’s education. Julie Mayfield of U.S. News and World Report acknowledges that parents want to do what is best for their children, but they also advise parents not to neglect their own financial needs. In the end, students who have a financial incentive in their own education tend to do better in school – and in life – than those whose parents pick up the entire tab.

Should Parents Tie Their Financial Support to their Child’s GPA?
Parents who do choose to foot the bill for their child’s education face a dilemma – whether to tie their financial support to their child’s academic success or allow their child to succeed or fail on their own. That can be a tough choice – one fraught with emotional as well as financial realities.

Many parents choose to fund part of the higher education bills for their children, while at the same time expecting their sons and daughters to shoulder some of the burden on their own. For instance, mom and dad might agree to fund the first year at college, then expect their child to work through the summer and earn money toward the next semester. Other parents agree to pay for tuition costs, while expecting their students to pay for books and other incidental expenses.

Tying financial support to academic performance can have a motivating effect on a young person, especially if that individual has not been particularly self-motivated. Expecting good grades in exchange for financial support is one way to motivate students and make them work harder in school.

Of course that means families should set up communication strategies and agree on outcomes that merit financial support. It’s not always possible for parents to see their student’s grades because of laws like FERPA. Students are able to give family members permission to view grades. Check with your university or college to find out what this process looks like.

Financial Support and GPA – A Surprising Connection
A recent study by the National Center for Education Statistics found that the financial support of parents actually had a negative impact on the GPA of college students. That study found that the children of parents who paid the full cost of a college education had lower grade point averages than those who paid for college on their own.

While every student is different, it is worth thinking about this study when considering how to approach financial support for your own children. At the very least, this new study should be a conversation starter around the family dinner table. Talk to your student about college – from the financial support they can expect to your expectations regarding work and academic performance.

In the end, there is no one right answer when it comes to funding your child’s education. There are lots of degrees of financial support for your college student. Here are a few additional things to consider.

  1. How much of your student’s cell phone bill should you pay and for how long? 
  2. How much rent should your student be responsible for? 
  3. Do you expect them to have a job? Discuss with your student where they think the money they earn should go.

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