Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Pay Your Way?

Having recently completed three years as a high school teacher, I'm well acquainted with the trials and travails afflicting families in their search (1) for college and (2) ways to pay for it. I've known some families where the student's "dream school" was simply too expensive and the student had to select another, less expensive school. Then again, I've known parents who seem to think nothing of writing the proverbial blank check and sending the child off to college with no worries about loans or part-time jobs.

Perhaps it's not as good an idea as it sounds.

The New York Times is carrying a story, "Parents' Financial Support May Not Help College Grades" which quotes a recent sociological study linking "greater parental contributions" with "lower grades across all kinds of four-year institutions."

The article is clear at the beginning: financially privileged students are more likely to go to and graduate from college. Nevertheless, in light of her study, the investigator suggests:

...students who get a blank check from their parents may not take their education as seriously as others. She became intrigued with this possibility years ago, after spending a year living in a college dormitory and observing the students, then following them through graduation and, eventually, interviewing their parents.
“Oddly, a lot of the parents who contributed the most money didn’t get the best returns on their investment,” she said. “Their students were more likely to stay and graduate, but their G.P.A.’s were mediocre at best, and some I didn’t see study even once. I wondered if that was nationally true, which led me to this quantitative study, which found that it is.”
Intuitively, this makes great sense to me. While I have met many serious 18-year olds who seize the opportunities of university life, I know as many, if not more, who have taken college to be little more than an unchaperoned binge. They have the money, they have the time, and they have all of the opportunity to engage in indulgent behavior: keg stands are, after all, far more entertaining than calculus.

I simply offer this as food for thought. I'm not suggesting that we cut students off but that they should feel some sense of ownership of their education beyond the television and mini-fridge they lug into their dorm room. 
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