Should parents be obligated to provide a college education for their children? : LUSENET : Internity : One Thread

Does parental responsibility end at eighteen? Are they under any moral or ethical obligation to pay for their child's college? If they are not going to pay for it, should they inform their child with enough advance notice so the child can take the appropriate steps?

-- Jenna (, August 01, 2000


No, I don't think that parents are morally or ethically obligated to pay for a child's higher education. I think that a family's financial status often (read: not always) has much to do with whether a child can, basically, get a free ride through college. To be trite, you can't squeeze water from a rock no matter how hard you try. Does that mean that parents who can't afford to send their children to college are morally or ethically challenged and parents who have the money are somehow morally and ethically superior? I hesitate to think so. And even if parents decide not to foot the bill despite being able to handle it financially, I see no ethical or moral issue. You ARE an adult at 18 and technically life is now completely in your hands. I don't think that anyone is morally or ethically obligated to pay for your life decisions at that point. If they do: fantastic; if not: you're on your own. There are many ways to get to point B from point A: scholarships, loans, work, etc. I have had several friends who had to work hard and/or odd jobs they hated during the summers/semesters, work-study during the semesters, study hard to get the grades for a scholarship in order to attain the over-hyped bachelor's degree. In fact, if I hadn't had a full scholarship and assistantship for graduate school, I wouldn't have been able to go, either. Now I am going back to grad school. Could my parents pick up the cost? Possibly. Would that make my life easier? Hell yes. But at some point a parent's financial obligation to the child ends and the child has to make it in the world as best as he/she can with the resources he/she can round up. At some point life becomes what you make of it and how hard you work to make it happen.

-- Psyche (, August 02, 2000.

What kind of a question is that? Come on,Jen, you remember what it was like for me at the end of high school! I couldn't WAIT to get out from under my parent's thumb, and college was just another way for them to keep me subservient. Granted, my view point has changed, and I HAVE realized that I'm never going to get a good job without the BA, but at the end of high school, I wouldn't have gone to college w/o pressure from my parents... The point I'm trying to make here, is that teenagers SELDOM realize what a HUGE gift it is for your parents to send you to college... How can you ask if parents are obligated spending between $60,000 an $100,000 on a gift that your kids aren't necessarily going to appreciate? I don't mean to sound caustic, but I just had this conversation with another friend of mine. I would hate that! Having to tighten my belt and subvert my wants and desires in order to give my children a gift that they don't appreciate. It DOES bring up an interesting parental decision, however... If your parents CAN afford it, and they DON'T send you to college,why? I can see in certain instances a kid needing to do it for him/herself or needing to take some time off, but if you want a "better life" for your kids, a degree is necessary. Well, at any rate, I certainly don't think it's a parental obligation. Perhaps a tough parental decision, but not an obligation... Of course, as you know, I AM majorly influenced by my parent's point of view which is basically, everything they give me is a gift... ;-)

-- Thor 42 (, August 02, 2000.

Well! At least it got some response...albeit from people I know. Okay, perhaps I misworded the question. First of all, I meant - given that they have the money, should they pay for it? I'm not sure at all that it should be an obligation, but I do think they should inform the child in advance if they are not planning to pay for it, so the child is fully aware of the consequences. I realize this may not work too well since teenagers are typically not so good at heeding parental advice, but at least then they have no one to blame but themselves. I had no idea college was as necessary as it is until I got well into the real world, after I dropped out of high school. My parents told me all my life that they were going to send me to college, they had the money to do it, they just didn't. I'm not saying they were obligated to do it, but I think they had some obligation to let me know about their decision while there was still time for me to realize that I needed to bust my ass a little more to get that scholarship or whatever. It's not like I have no chance now or anything, but it's a hell of a lot harder than it would have been if I'd known. I mean, I have a husband now - even if I manage to work and go to school both, where does that leave him? I know people do it, and we will do it, but I resent that my parents misled me about this.

-- Jenna (, August 02, 2000.

Well, this is one I'm going to jump in on. While I don't believe parents have the OBLIGATION to pay for their child to go to college, (as was said previously, these days most can't afford it) I think that as a parent, part of the responsibility includes doing your best to make sure your child(ren) are prepared for life. While that may include college for some, or not, regardless, the parents need to prepare their children to face the real world. My parents could never have afforded to send me to college, much as I would have wanted to go, and I understand that. However, when I got out into the world, I was WOEFULLY unready. I didn't know how to work when I absolutely had to, didn't know that just being "smart" would not be enough. While to an extent, that can't be completely taught to a child, some aspect of preperation is necessary if you want your children to actually be a success in life. About the only thing that saved me, at least, was imparted by my parents. That was the unwillingness to accept a dime from the government. Without that, at certain points of my life, I would have been on food stamps, welfare, something, and I find that utterly reprehensible. I am VERY grateful to them for that lesson. Basically, the upshot of all this is, while parents are not 'morally' or 'ethically' obligated to pay for college, I believe they ARE 'ethically' obligated to prepare their children for real life. That is just part of the responsibility that is assumed (willingly or not) by the act of having a child.

-- Daniel (, August 02, 2000.

I agree with both your answers. I think it is most definately a ethical (and in my opinion moral) obligation to prepare your kids for the real world. I mean, that IS the point of having kids right? (Other than slave labor, of course) To contribute another able-bodied person and participatory member of society. Sounds cold when I put it that way, but in the big picture that's what it boils down to. I also (personally) think that it is reprehensible to not send your kids to college if you can afford it, but that's a decision each parent has to come to on their own. Objectively, however, I don't see it as an obligation. I also have to agree with Jen that it would be NICE if your parents gave you ample notice that they were not going to send their kids to college, however, I don't think that, as a teenager, kids really understand the full impact of what it means not to have a college diploma. I think the best thing parents can do for kids is to make them work menial jobs as soon as can. Really the only way you can teach your kids the value of a college diploma, AND give them some understanding of what the real world is like is to make them get out there and work! ;-) I would've HATED that as a teenager, but then if I had been forced to do that, I would have understood the value of college sooner, and wouldn't have to spend an extra semester there! Anyway, that's my take... Try to give you kids the best work ethic you can while you still have the chance. Easier said than done.

-- Thor42 (, August 04, 2000.

I appreciate your question, but it ignores a more fundamental issue: Is there a value at all in acquiring a collge education?


If your parents are "well-off" or already working in a "professional" capacity, it doesn't matter where you go to school. However, if you grew up in the projects, going to Harvard is better than going to State Univ., which is better than going to high school and no more school.

College is over-rated. It is a middle-class conceit. Don't believe me? Look at all the computer geeks making 6 figures with little, if any, college education. (Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, dropped out of Harvard after his first year. But then again, his FATHER, Bill Gates SR., was a wealthy businessman, with the kind of connections that get your foot into IBM's door, so that you can build a PC operating system for them........"and now you know the rest of the story.").

-- More_Wise_Than_When_I_Was_19 (, January 28, 2001.

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