EDU in Review News Blog

Parents Who Refuse to Help Kids Pay for College

Here’s something that makes me hopping mad: parents who refuse to help their children pay for college–and a financial aid system that’s set up in such a way that if parents don’t pay, students fall through the cracks.parents pay for college

And no, I’m not talking about parents who really can’t afford to pay–as the children of these parents will probably be eligible for financial aid.  I’m talking about parents who can afford to pay for college–or who can do so with some sacrifice–but refuse to because they don’t feel it is their obligation.

This wouldn’t be such a problem if the federal government, for all practical purposes, didn’t consider parents responsible for a student’s education.  If parents don’t consider it their responsibility to pay, then a student has limited ability to pay his or her way.  The government’s position is basically this: if the parents won’t pay, why should this be the government’s responsibility?  Read about the difficulties students face if their parents won’t pay for college.

And the thing is, it’s gotten so much harder.  Before 1992, if a student could demonstrate financial independence and was off his or her parents’ taxes for two years, then this student could be declared a dependent by the financial aid system–and could therefore be eligible for much more financial aid, regardless of his or her parents’ involvement.  Currently, you can only be declared an independent if you’re 24, in the military, a ward of the court, or married.

What really makes me angry is when parents refuse to fill out the FAFSA. By refusing to do so, students aren’t eligible for government grants or loans–which can help a student get through college even if the parent won’t pay for what the government says they should.  Filling out the FAFSA doesn’t obligate parents to pay a penny–so by not doing so, all they are doing is hurting their kid.

Of course, parents aren’t the only ones to blame here.  The fact that education has become so expensive that it’s really difficult for a student to pay his or her own way is a serious problem.  Students shouldn’t have to rely on their parents to get a college education, and the government really needs to make education truly affordable for everyone who is qualified.  The way things are now, students who aren’t lucky enough to have good family situations are falling through the cracks.  That is an injustice that shouldn’t be happening in the United States.






33 Responses to “Parents Who Refuse to Help Kids Pay for College”

  1. Michaela says:

    Thank you for posting this! I understand everyone is not made for college. But I was. I excelled all through school. I thought having good grades would be enough. I had such good grades that I was offered a big scholarship on the spot at a college fair. But there was no FAFSA and I was only 18. I had no money to make up the difference. I have always been willing to work through school. Without a degree though, you make very low wages. I had to quit school until I was 24 almost 25. It pains me a lot that I am not done with my degree although I enjoy school. I know I had the drive to finish on time. I just didn’t have the money. So parents who don’t file the FAFSA, I think that’s very cruel. Like people stated before, things are different now! You miss out on most SCHOLARSHIPS without the FAFSA! It’s no fun getting a late start in life!

  2. Adriana says:

    I can relate too this as well i just graduated high school last year. and my parents are divorced, and i live with my mom. she was late on the fasfa and its just put me through a whole lot of BS. because im still dependent. and i think its ridiculous how you have too be 24, a veteran, orphan, etc. what about the students who are eligible for grants but there parents just refuse? its really irritating. And of course the financial advisers are worthless as long as there sitting there getting paid they could care less about helping you out.

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  4. val says:

    If the government let me keep the 30% of my check they keep to give to the deadbeats on welfare and foodstamps i could pay for my kids college. The article says the government doesnt see it as their responsibility to pay for my kids education. Well if i had all the money back theyve stolen out of my check all these years i could pay for their education easily. Instead they give food stamps to the lazy 24 year old who screws the neighbor across the street for roxys. So yes it is the governments responsibility to help pay my kids school because they are taking MY money every 2 Weeks.

  5. T says:

    I have a friend who is 22 and pays her own way through college. No help from her parents whatsoever. She is an exotic dancer.

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  7. FactChecker says:

    I agree the system is flawed, politicians don’t want to fix it, I disagree with Will because the military is not for everyone and if he doesn’t want to pay for his child’s education then he should not have chosen to have kids, however since he does support them at shelter , I don’t agree that he is very mean spirited, many children want to pay for college themselves but that will not matter when it comes to fin aid, its ridiculous, a college education is great, but its not guarantee of success, depending on major, other experience, local job market, grade deflation and the professor’s policies which may vary, and both too many arts and too many non-arts classes making it difficult to transfer.

    Fafsa is a classic example of socialism and communism yet no republican politician talks about it, in addition although many low-income folks may get aid, many choose not to use it for higher priced colleges due to circumstances such as living with other children, hardships, and believing their dollar would go further and grants such as pell are not much and have only increased recently.

    I sympathize with Chase, however 5 dollars won’t buy you groceries, but understand your plight, the problem is who is too blame, who is getting entitlements, advocates who don’t want financial aid for the higher or rather middle income folks would put folks in Chase’s situation , what happened with Julie is sad but not uncommon, it sucks if a person especially takes a break at 22 for example and says maybe 2 years more and I will get financial aid since I am independent status.

    Merit scholarships at local community and universities are excellent, however those are under attack from those who say that benefits the wealthier students, when in fact the child could be motivated to go merit to get aid because he/she would not otherwise qualify for aid whereas someone who has a lower gpa would slack off a bit because he or she qualified for aid or he or she did not feel as motivated to keep a higher gpa.

  8. Julia says:

    I grew up in one of those families that refused to pay for college. My father had been drafted into the Korean War and went through college and law school on the G.I. bill. My oldest brother went to college in the early 70′s and like many of his hippy friends he simply went down to his college financial aid office and had himself declared independent. For all you parents out there who see this as your way out of supporting your children during a crucial time of their lives, listen Up: THINGS ARE DIFFERENT NOW!

    My case is pretty extreme but it just shows you how difficult it can be to get financial aid as an independent student. I grew up with a mentally ill sibling who became so dangerous that when my parents failed to protect me from him I was legally removed from their custody. I bounced from group home to state-run school until I turned 18. I managed to get very good grades throughout those years but had been pressured to get my GED at 16 so that I could work to help support my foster family. I believed that I had a good shot of both getting into a good college and receiving financial aid. I was very wrong about that.

    When I began to apply for college I was 18 years old, living on my own and working full time making a little over minimum wage – about $12,000. I had officially been a ward of the court. My parents refused to fill out the FAFSA and told me I was on my own. At the time loans were also out of the question as a co-signer was necessary. I had no choice but to continue to work drudge jobs for anther 6 years. At 24 I reapplied for aid as an independent student. I also applied for all of the scholarships I could – was accepted for a few of them too. Then I found out that many colleges would not accept students with GEDs (this is no longer true). So I went to community college. It was far from a good experience as I had to work and go to school and I did not own a car. It took me another five years to complete my AA, only to find out that far less aid is available to students who are not “new” – as in, have taken college courses previously.

    I was 30 when I finally stepped foot on the campus of a four year school. My entire AA degree transferred, but I was required to take 75 more credits to graduate. Again I applied for scholarships and loans. I had been supporting myself as an office temp making maybe $10/hr, but even so, my estimated financial contribution was estimated at over $9,000. My scholarships were reduced by the amount of loans I received. At this point I was desperate to graduate as I had never held a real professional job (just retail, temping and nanny positions as they were flexible enough to enable schooling). It took another 4 years to finish by BA and qualified for little aid since I was part time. I paid with loans, to the tune of $60,000. I had little choice – the only schools around were private and I had absolutely no way of leaving my place of residence. Believe me, I tried any and every other way to try to pay for college – working on campus (non-work/study students weren’t allowed), employer pay (too much temping and lack of degree made me an unattractive catch), and since we were in the middle of our endless gulf wars joining up would have just sent me into active duty.

    So I entered the professional job market at 34, 3.9 GPA, degree in Business. Guess what? Now I was too old. Not a “new graduate” in anyone’s eyes, ineligible for internships or much of anything else. What did I do? I temped and made $12/hour. So thanks mom and dad, thanks a lot. Don’t wonder why I never call or stop by.

  9. sam says:

    Yes, I believe in supporting your kids. But if your child’s GPA is 2.4 and sleeps in class but has the potential of at least a 3.5. Why should the parent pay for thier childs immaturity and reward thier lack of studies. Why should the NCP send them off to college and pay for them to sleep in college as well. There are options but few are willing to do what is neccasary. THe military GI Bill is worth over $50,000 and tutition assistance is 100% funded while you are on active duty. The Air Force has its own Comm College of the Air Force. Why go into dept and throw away a thousands of dollars of free education. Every financial advisor suggests strongly that if you are over 50 you need to put money into your retirement and not into the kids college education. They have many years and many choices. Scholarships and working and interning and using students loans wisely and chosing colleges based on degee and cost..When you retire,,,there are no loans and no grants..you are on your own. Some of you have stated that you cannot fathom not supporting your kids college..But I ask you,,,what child would want to bankrupt thier parents or take away from thier parents retirement fund so they can go to college, get a degree, and party. I know a woman whose parents told her they were not paying for her college since her 3 brothers/sisters dropped out before thier junior year. 3 children and tens of thousands of dollars wasted from thier parents..When do children start making thier own choices and start working for what they want to do. How many kids change degrees and decide to go 5 years instead of 4 and want to go to expensive schools knowing the parents are footing the bill. Pretty selfish if you ask me. Parents can and should help out,,but not be the money tree. It used to be child support ended after 18 or high school. Now it is 21-23 if in college or longer they go to grad school. Next it will be child support until they get a job..working at Mcdonalds does not count..and if they chose not to get a job..child support until when ever…Thanks to courts,,kids do not have to pay or be responsible for anything. even after 18 and in college…After many years of paying Child support,,,it is time to let the child pay thier own way and find thier way.

  10. Anna says:

    I am partnered with a guy who has two teenage sons. My partner and I both have college degrees that we obtained on our own merits/student loans. Recently we combined households and I was shocked to find out that my partner’s oldest son, who is headed for his senior year in high school, has not taken the SAT, has no idea what FAFSA means, and his parents have nothing saved for his college fund. They have spent the little extra money they had over the last 6 post divorce years buying ski passes, taking the boys to Busch gardens, a trip to Costa Rica, etc. No one prepared these kids for the hard reality that they needed to work towards a high GPA for merit scholarships and score high on the SAT/ACT. Though the kids have high IQ’s, they have no part time jobs, no work ethic to speak of, and spend most of their time playing Air Soft and Gaming! I have zero intention of contributing financially to the educational futures of these boys if their loving parents have been asleep at the wheel. I am trying to light a fire under everyone to get them all mobilized for future, but meeting with resistance from the boy’s mother as she defaults to “but they’re just boys!”. On top of this both parents have already made plans for converting the oldest boys room into home offices post high school graduation, so clearly no one has the intention of having these kids not leaving the nest…This whole situation is pretty commonplace apparently…seems so unfair to indulge a generation in an extended adolescence to appease one’s consciousness for a split up home, the jettison them into a future they are unprepared for and saddle them up with $100k in student loans.

  11. Emily says:

    I am one of these students but I don’t blame my mother and step-father. We always thought that we would have no problem paying for my college. We were not aware though that when I was 8, after my parents got divorced, my birth father emptied the savings account that my grandmother had set up for me that had $10,000 in it when she opened it. We didn’t know about that until this year. The year I am suppose to start college. The worst thing is that all they really look at is the FAFSA, but things change. Things like last year our family made $78,000. But my Step-father has now retired, my mom was forced to take a pay cut, and we moved from Minnesota to Tennessee where we purchased a house. After all of this there isn’t much money left and we still need to pay for medical supplies for my and my mothers Diebetes. They should look at the current situation not the situation from a year ago.

  12. Val says:

    To the parents who think the world is blaming them that kids don’t have money for college: Its not that we blame you, its that we blame the government for forcing us to rely on you when you are either unable or unwilling to pay. It shouldn’t have to be the parents responsability – though bless those that are willing to help – when many times it is the child’s decision to go to college in the first place. We aren’t blaming you. But quotes like “Well, I paid for my own college without help, why should I pay for theirs?” Makes me sick. Just because you had a hard time doesn’t mean you should give your own kids the same treatment. Shouldn’t you want a better life for them? Shouldn’t you WANT to support them in reaching their goals? And I’m not talking about the kids who are too lazy to get jobs or just fail classes left and right – they deserve what they get. I’m talking about those hardworking and dedicated kids who love what they do – shouldn’t you support them when you can instead of letting them suffer the same way you did? OR even if it was your own choice to go at it alone, forcing your kids to do it the same way without taking their wishes into consideration is a sin. While it is the system to be blamed, I can state clearly that parents who force their own ideals, goals, and opinions onto their children without any thought as to what the kids want to do in life are inconsiderate and should have thought twice about having kids in the first place. You’re trying to raise an individual, not an exact replica of yourself or a model of what you wish you could have been.

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  14. Will says:

    I feel no obligation to pay for my children’s post-secondary education, and I have already informed them. I paid my own way through college via hard work and benefits received from my military service in the US Army. I love my kids and wish to see them succeed. However, they will achieve success from their own hard work and dedication. My wife and I will allow them to live at home for free if they choose to attend a local college–as long as they are putting forth the effort. We will also help them to apply for scholarships and student aid. But, we will not contribute to tuition and other expenses. Furthermore, I am encouring both my children to serve in the US military for a tour of duty to mature, build character, learn a skill, and earn money and benefits for college. No, I am not cold hearted–I believe in serving one’s country and earning one’s own way.

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  16. Joe says:

    On the flipside: I have the money to pay for my son’s college but I refuse to finance his quixotic journey without his sacraficing something.

    His tuition at CC is $1000 per semester- I told him I would pay HALF- he had $300 and only needed an additional $200 to pay for his education… and he did nothing to raise the money. He didnt seek employment, he has never held a job…. he had the $300 from a bank account that I set up for him (his birthday monies). He has expensive gaming systems, laptops, gps devices, TV’s… I suggested he sell something on craigslist to raise the remaining money: He did not.

    I conclude that it’s entirely possible that some people are not college material.

  17. geedub says:

    I had those kind of parents – did not contribe one thin dime towards my education – but they could pay the church 10% of their income every sunday.

  18. Gavi says:

    My boyfriend has recently been cut off from his mom. She pays nothing for him. He doesn’t even live in her house. She doesn’t claim him on her taxes. Because of all that she doesn’t do, she doesn’t see the importance of her filling out her information on the FAFSA. So even though my boyfriend is in every sense independent, FAFSA doesn’t see it that way. Therefore, he would have to take out alternative loans to continue his education, but his mom refuses to help him with that by co-signing. So now what is my boyfriend to do? I thank God every day that my mom was willing to co-sign for him, otherwise he would have been screwed out of his BA half way through. The system does need to change to acknowledge that parents aren’t perfect–and that if it doesn’t change, (as Naomi explained) good kids with ignorant parents fall through the cracks. I hope this issue is dealt with in the next couple of years…

  19. beth ch says:

    Over past two years my husband & I have shelled out over $20,000 in education for my daughter. Her biological father has paid nothing since the last child support check after high school graduation.
    We have also had to deal with my son’s bills. He was diagnosed with cancer just weeks before my daughter started her first classes.
    So over the past two years, we have paid for college, very expensive medical
    treatment, and my husband was forced to retire!
    The financial aid officer still thinks we can afford to pay without and assistance!
    Oh… they may be able to help once my son’s bills have us virtually bankrupt.
    Writing congress… what a freaking joke! Talking to financial aid officers is an even bigger waste of time. I had four 3 inch binders of medical bills that they never even opened!
    Stepfather and I are blamed for being the bad guy while “dad” who pays nothing is the one skating by .
    Don’t blame parents! Blame the system!

  20. Sidra says:

    I do believe children should pitch in. I paid my undergraduate tuition myself, however my degree got extended to six years because I was working full time. And my GPA fell too..so I worked so hard to pay, and in the end, it was barely worth it because my GPA is too low to move on to any other degree. I didn’t have any car and had to ride my bike to school everyday.

    If I was a parent, I would pay 100% of my kids tuition at a public school, but if they wanted to go private, I would have them take out the loans themselves. I fully expect kids to work part time for job experience and financial responsibility, even during school to cover their day-to-day expenses. Many of my friends have parents who were very demanding of their kids but at the same time they paid 100% of their tuition. Now they are all in med schools or working at good jobs….my parents often get angry at me that why couldn’t I become outstanding….but parents need to be realistic, it’s not fair to make comparisons when you can’t offer the same level of support.

  21. leann says:

    I am a parent of a child who falls thru the cracks. I fully expect him to blame me for years to come for not paying for him to go to college. My sons father died 3 years ago with no life insurance. he received ss benefits until he graduated high school-child support would have continued thru college. My son was able to control his ss benefits the day he turned 18. guess what? he had a great summer with all that money but saved none for college. His dad and i planned to work together to send him to college, but thats not going to happen now. Now my son is mad at me for making just enough to not let him qualify for grants but not enough to actually be able to help him with college. i am looking for a second job, which will give me even less time to spend with my other child, and will probably push me further over the line for help, but still not in the clear to help him without much sacrifice–its very easy to blame the parents–and i do blame myself for not having planned better–but he is just as able to work as i am, but would rather blame me than take on any of the responsiblity himself or even for one moment think that it would have been nice for his dad to have planned better also-i am willing to make sacrifices to help-but so should the kid wanting to go college

  22. Jasmine says:

    I have a friend in this situation. Her parents are kinda freaky. They think it’s her ‘responsibility’ to pay her own way through nursing school. I think they live in a fantasy world where everybody works hard and gets what they deserve. Yeah right … I’m thirty years younger than them, and I’m not half as naive.

  23. Lynne says:

    What about the parents? My parents paid for 3 semesters, then I had to take over. I worked a lot of jobs and made it through in 5 years and some student loans, and don’t think I wasn’t bitter about it. Now I have 2 stepkids – 1 is a junior and 1 is going to be a freshman in college, and we will be paying $25K a year for them to go through. I’m sick with the idea of how we’ll swing this. Jeopardize my own future for theirs? I won’t deny then this, but everyone needs to chip in and that includes the kids. If kids want a Bachelors so bad, they can work 60-70 hrs a week to get there. Anyone can get a degree if they want it bad enough. Don’t blame the parents.

  24. Ernie says:

    What I hate is the punishment clause. I screwed up a couple of years ago and now my son is getting punished for it. Thru my own error I lost my job and ended up running up credit cards to cover things till I got a new job. I have had it for about two years, but am still paying on those huge bills. The FASFA rates everything on your income and does not take even the slightest concideration into the parent financial situation. Enough to pay the bills but not enough to pay for his education.

  25. Chase says:

    I totally agree. I’m currently in my 2nd year at college/university and I’m in this exact same boat. It’s so frustrating!

    My parents make a lot of money, but they aren’t paying a dime. I’m 19, not living at home, take 6 courses and work 2 jobs. It is so unbelievably difficult and I’m struggling with everything.

    I applied many times for financial aid/student loans, but I can’t get anything because my parents make too much money. All I’ve got are entrance scholarships but obviously that’s still not enough for rent, utilities, groceries, transportation, sky-high tuition, and books.

    It makes me so angry when I see other kids at school whose parents are paying for everything. I see them slap down 5 dollars for a latte at Starbucks and I’m thinking to myself…man those 5 bucks can buy my groceries for the week! I skip meals to save on grocery bills, steal soap from public bathrooms, load up on condiment packets at the cafeteria, liberate the occasional slice of bread from roommates, attend functions with free food at school, haven’t been shopping in 2 years, buy expired produce to cut costs, haven’t eaten out since I started school, don’t have any friends because friends require time and all my time goes to working my 2 jobs, and I’m always, always, always late on my tuition fees and rent.

    The way the government has this set-up is profoundly inadequate. Not everyone’s parents feel an obligation to provide for their children once they’re no longer minors.

  26. Hyrum M. Allred says:

    I have a friend in this situation. As well as these responses outline the loop-hole in the Financial Aid system, that causes ridiculous problems for students with radical parents. I haven’t seen any offered solutions…
    I have spent weeks digging, I have found a few scholarships unique to the school my friend has applied too, and there are always freelance scholarships(nothing large enough to serve as effective aid), and the competition for these is high
    (This thing with parents not helping pay for their children’s education when they can easily afford it, simply because it is inconvenient to do paperwork or the child is not doing what they think is right ‘major chosen or something along these lines’, happens more than I think many Americans would like to admit.).
    My interest lies in alternative Grants or Funding that doesn’t require payback except to keep grades high.
    Grants or catered programs designed for combating this issue would be appreciated. Help me solve the problem. It’s not little trust me. And now that the problem has been identified, instead of continuing to just complain about it, think about it and ways to solve it!

  27. Corinna says:

    This is a really important issue. I’ve been screwed over by my parents because they didn’t file their taxes on time, or didn’t fill out the FAFSA on time. It is rather sad that some parents won’t pay for their child’s education when they have the money, but some of them have just reasons (as in, they know their kid will party and fail out).

    The thing that really gets me is that I’ve been living in my own apartment, paying my own bills, for over three years. But not until this year could I claim myself as “independent.” I’m sorry, but I’m not going to marry my boyfriend just to prove I’m “independent”– in fact, isn’t that kind of the opposite?

    That very fact has kept me from going back to school after I dropped out following my Junior year. Plus, I’m still paying off the student loan I had to take out the first time, with absolutely nothing to show for it.

  28. Rob says:

    This very thing happened to be 12 years ago. My parents cut me off after my sophmore year, and refused to fill out the FAFSA. As this article describes, I was pretty much screwed. I ended up putting myself though an AA program and have been employeed full-time ever since, but now I’m 31 and don’t have an Bachelor’s degree.

    The bright side is that I’ve been debt free all this time, and make a decent living at what I do. But… not having a BS has really held me back, and I have no real “job mobility” to speak of. I basically have to stay in my current feild forever. :(

  29. Kelly says:

    I am one of these students! My mother makes approximately 85,000 a year and lives way below her means. She has enough to pay for new T.V.’s, a new car, etc. but refuses to pay for anything having to do with school. I have been working hard since age FOUR to go to music school…I went one year and took out a 10,000 dollar loan for that one year since I was not eligible for financial aid. Now I am working a 10 dollar an hour job, living on my own and paying all my bills (barely) and hoping that I can someday get a music scholarship…if not, I am screwed. This has been my dream and it’s heartbreaking : (

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  32. mallory says:

    This has happened to my sister. My parents split and their finances are a wreck and b/c of that my sister can’t file the fafsa. It breaks my heart and I wish there were something I could do. She’s in a committed relationship…. but I’d hate to see her rush into marrying him to break free of my parents for tax purposes.

  33. jack says:

    I can’t believe some parents would even fathom not supporting their children! it is concerning and i think they should take a hard look at what find of parents they are really being! College tuition is not cheap and without it good luck getting a decent paying job…


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