Why I’m Paying for My Children’s University (or College) Educations

Why I would pay for my children's university education

Why I’m Paying for my Kids’ University Education

Tonight I read this article in Today’s Parent by a friend of mine Sandra Martin. In the article, Sandra shares her reasons for requiring her kids to kick in for their own post-secondary educations. I actually agree with a couple of her points, such as asking young adults to take some responsibility for their fiscal situation, but what really bothered me was the title, ‘Why My Kids Won’t Get a Free Ride to University’.  These words implied to me that providing my children with the best start in life that I can afford is in fact doing something gratuitous for them, something they don’t deserve, that they haven’t earned.

I’ve got three teenagers. One already in university, one in the 11th grade, and one just finishing primary school. And, to the best of my ability, I intend to pay for their post-secondary education. (Yes, I faint every time I think about it.)

My Dad, who passed away a couple of years ago, valued education above anything else. Growing up, his question was never ‘Are you going to University‘, but rather, ‘Where are you going to go and what are you going to take?’ He paid to educate four of us through undergraduate degrees (and several college courses for my youngest sister), and went so far as to help two of us out with post-graduate degrees too.  Even when I was 4o years old he’d call me up and ask me if I wanted to go to Teacher’s College, get a Master’s Degree, take a course. If it was learning, he was willing to spring for it.

My Dad was no kind of deep pockets, though. He wouldn’t buy us expensive clothing or fancy vacations. He did like a nice meal, but didn’t squander money unnecessarily. However, an education was not an area he was open to scrimping on.

What a gift he gave all of us children. What an amazing start to our adult lives.

That’s why I find it interesting to hear about so many parents who do not believe in paying for their kids’ educations, even if they can afford it. Especially if they can afford it.

I am not even sure if I can afford it and I want to help my kids out. And this is why:

I don’t want them to start their adult lives with debt. According to this article in Macleans Magazine, it costs on average $80,000 for a student to obtain a four-year degree (I can attest to that as I have the bills from my daughter’s first year, and they added up to $18,000), and most graduate with  extensive student debt. For many, the path to repayment will be at least 14 years, taking them into their mid-30s before their Bachelor’s degrees are paid off (forget professional or Master’s degrees.) The statistics for student debt are even more overwhelming for Americans.  Why in the world would I do that to my child? What kind of lesson is that?

Don’t borrow when you can pay in cash. My Dad imbued in me an intense dislike of interest, unless it’s the kind you’re receiving. I have had 18 years to save up for my kids’ educations with the ability to leverage compound interest and 20% government contributions into their RESPs. Student loans may be easy to get, but there is interest attached. Instead of paying out the percentages, bring them in. Take off $10 per paycheque, per child, and bank those decades of birthday, Christmas, and Chanukah cheques. Save for their future just like you would save for your own retirement.

Teach a child to appreciate something and they won’t take it for granted. My kids may have grown up in a middle-class lifestyle. They know that lots of families have more, but even more have much less. Being gifted with an education is just that-a gift. And one that is accompanied by expectations, such as how they are to comport themselves and what they are to achieve. Just like all of our parenting, we let them know what’s expected of them, and we don’t pussy foot around them. There’s no ‘free ride’ in this house, but rather a deserved result of something they have worked very hard for.

University is a life experience as well as a learning experience. I truly believe that teenagers benefit from living away from home when they’re taking a degree or diploma. Campus life, parties, dorm life, roommates, finding a house, apartment, managing time, budgeting, preparing meals0 these are all part of college life.  To me, unless the student really isn’t ready to leave home, going away for school is a necessary part of the separation process, especially in these days of helicopter parenting. So, half the money goes to tuition, and the other half goes to living expenses (unless you’re living it up a little too much, like I did, and then you’re coming home. Which I did. See point above.)

Now, before you think I’m all kinds of spendthrift and that my progeny have no idea about the value of a dollar, these kids do have to contribute. My daughter worked two jobs last summer and saved a ton of money to feed her shopping habits. And, she’s already been told that she needs to work part-time starting in second year. But, I just don’t feel like hardship makes you stronger, or more appreciative.

So, just like my father, we may not pay for designer jeans, expensive lipgloss or concert tickets. But, we do pay for University (or college, or music school, or trade school…)

Because to us, when it comes to our children’s futures, we truly believe that a Penny Wise is a Pound Foolish.

photo credit: Glenn Waters ぐれんin Japan. via photopin cc


  1. My now 15 year will have her university or college paid for too, conditionally, that is she must have a B average to access the cash. I expect grades equals work, which equals money. My student loan debt lead to bankruptcy years later, and I definitely do not want that for my daughter.

  2. Pam Dillon says:

    I agree with you. Completely. I have one kid in university and another on the brink. More than anything, I want the opportunity for my younger child to go away to school. I think that’s an invaluable experience and life education in itself.

  3. My parents helped me through university – our deal was half and half… ok maybe my dad ended up paying a litte bit more! But I did have to pitch in and I was fine with that. I started working part-time when I was 13 years old and learned the value of a dollar very early. I thank them for that important lesson!

  4. This post got me a little teary. This is such a sensitive subject for me. My parents weren’t able to help me pay for University and I graduated with a ton of student loans ( I did 3 degrees) and now in my mid thirties I am still paying them off. However, that said – I would never have my job without those degrees.

    Since my boys were born my parents have put a ton of money into their RESPs. While I am happy my boys will hopefully avoid the stress I have it is hard to reconcile that I am still paying for my education when theirs will (hopefully) be paid for and they are only 3!

    Good for you for paying for your children’s education – I think it is amazing and remarkable!

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