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Sunday, August 14, 2011

College Costs and Parental Resentment: After Graduation

No, not my resentment. I have noticed a common theme in my chats with parents of recent grads: resentment at the costs.

I was chatting with a volunteer at the Food Bank Thrift the other day. I mentioned that I was searching for some nice clothes for Frugal Son, a recent grad.

Her:Do you feel that you were paying to fund a small country?

Me: No. Frugal Son made use of TOPS, a Louisiana free tuition program. He also got some other scholarships. I'm so glad he chose to go to a public institution.

Her: My daughter didn't. She went to *** (some private college I've never heard of in Iowa??? It must be fairly obscure if I've never heard of it.).

Me: Oh, well at least she's done. I hope it was a good experience.

Her: She liked it. I paid for it all. Then she went to grad school for physical therapy and dropped out after a semester. She's working at the Y and living at home.

Me: It's great that she has a job! And a lot of kids are living at home, so that's OK too.

Her: No, it's not OK. I told her to figure out what she wants to do. She's going to have to pay for it herself.

WOW!!! I don't know if I managed to convey the resentment and even anger emanating from this normally sweet-natured woman.

Anyway, it's probably too late for the soon-to-be college students, who have already made their choices and paid their tuition. Still, the message to parents has been let your child follow his or her bliss. The message from colleges is we're worth it! The abysmal job market for recent grads has perhaps revealed to parents some unarticulated and unacknowledged expectations.



Marcela said...

That is so sad...

Shelley said...

I'm not a parent and I paid my own way through college, so this is not my experience. I can appreciate that a parent might feel that they are 'launching' their chick from the nest, as it were. If the chick uses all that resource and still lives at home, the launch wasn't at least immediately successful. I could see having a sense of things not going to plan.

There is a lot of discussion over here following the riots about 'sense of entitlement'. I think the advertising industry has perhaps done too good a job convincing us we need to have whatever we want.

Duchesse said...

I am going to guess there was at least some sacrifice involved in the woman's funding of her daughter's education. Therefore (by her reckoning) she would have liked to see some benefit flowing back to her: her child's securing of a job, for one.

When this does not happen, resentment builds. (Resentment is usually about expectations that are not met.)

Parents should realize that very few educational achievements guarantee a good job. Children could make at least a partial donation (through part time jobs or by qualifying for aid) to the expense so that they do not become "entitled". I would put the responsibility for that sense of entitlement at parent's feet before advertising's.

FB @ said...

If I sacrificed X amount of money to pay for a child who ended up living at home on my couch (or whatever), sponging off me, not paying rent and working at some job she could have gotten without a degree.. I'd be resentful too.

Glad I read this :) I'm stoked to know that when I have kids I will still do the following:

a) Push my kid to go to a public college

b) Make 'em pay for it and sweat it out -- will only clear the cost as a gift IF I have the extra cash for it at their graduation.

If not, I am going to teach them all about my $60,000 debt from school and how it weighed on my back of my first job

c) Drill financial sense into them ... and frugality.

d) Make them pay some sort of rent if they decide to live at home so that they understand life isn't free.

Duchesse said...

FB: You are assuming a job that pays enough for a young person to save tuition will be available, and that your child will have enough time free from school work to amass the required hours.

Many parents opt for a shared-expense approach. In our case, we saved enough to pay the costs at a public university, and our sons worked part time for living expenses. They did not graduate in debt, and we were happy to help them.