Just in the nick of time, I have proof that I shouldn’t bankroll my son’s college education.
This month, the American Sociological Review published “More Is More or More Is Less? Parent Financial Investments During College,” by Laura Hamilton. Dr. Hamilton, a sociology professor at University of California, Merced, did a study on the relationship between parental financial contribution, GPA and college graduation. She found that parents who contributed the most didn’t get necessarily get the best ROI. Their students tended to be less serious about college and wound up with lower GPAs than students funding their own educations. For affluent families, this didn’t pose a problem as they had the connections to get their recent graduates into jobs.
However, the study did show that parental financial support yielded higher graduation rates. In a nutshell, if a student can’t pay for college, they can’t stay in college to graduate. So, how do we decide what to do? Raid our retirement accounts to get our student to graduation with less than exciting grades? Or, saddle our recent out-of-the-nest student with the full financial responsibility of college and life and see them rack up debt or drop out? (or both?)
I think the best take-away from the study is parental support, not parental bankrolling. Dr. Hamilton says that parents providing financial support should communicate clear cut expectations on grades and graduation. I agree, but want to suggest that regardless of where the financial support comes from, parents still need to be involved with their fledgling adults, whether in college or not, and offer love, advice (carefully given) and help when necessary.
So, I’m thinking that my job as a parent didn’t end when we received the college acceptance letter in the mailbox last month. I’m okay with that, how about you?
This past week, while traveling for work, I stayed overnight at a hotel that has become a like a second home. Like so many people who travel, I think I have finally figured out what I need to bring with me, request from the hotel and where to eat to make my travel time better. I have even figured out how to pack a small overnight bag to minimize the amount of stuff that I need to schlep in and out of a hotel. I finally have become that cool “with it” traveler instead of the Nervous Nelly that I usually am.
Friday morning, I realized that I needed to touch up my shirt that didn’t travel quite as well in my small overnight bag. I got out the ironing board (that I usually prop against the door to warn me of anyone breaking in), found the iron and thought to myself, “I can iron right in front of this mirror under the bright lights and see what I’m doing – how smart!” I plugged in the iron and sipped my in-room coffee as I waited for the iron to warm up.
And warm up it did. Suddenly a shrieking filled the air and I realized that I had set off the fire alarm (right above the “smart ironing spot”) in my room. Even after I moved the iron, the alarm continued to go off and I heard my fellow travelers banging into the hallway asking each other if they should vacate the hotel. What to do? What to do? I called the front desk and as it finally connected, the alarm stopped shrieking. “Oh yeah,” the front desk person calmly told me, “Don’t use the hair dryer right under the smoke detector either.”
Later, as I was driving home, my thoughts turned to my son, who believes that he is so ready to leave the nest and go out into the world. “I need to tell him not to iron under the smoke detector,” I thought to myself, then I realized that I wasn’t sure he knew how to iron, so maybe that problem was solved. But you know, my mom never told me not to iron under a smoke detector (obviously) and I survived the situation. So maybe it’s more about the big picture, instilling common sense in our kids so they can react sensibly in an uncommon situation that never came up on our “Mom warning system”. Maybe it’s trusting that the last 17 years HAVE taught him something and the next 60+ years will continue to add to his knowledge base.
I know I just added to my knowledge base this week.