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The Bank of Mom and Dad: Post-secondary students should not continue to make withdrawals

Well, another academic year has begun and college students, both new and returning, have one big thing on the brain: paying for their schooling.

For some, college is their first foray into adulthood and the independence that comes with it. Although undoubtedly exciting, it also raises certain questions.

Should students expect their parents to help them pay for post-secondary? The answer is no.

If students want to experience independence, they have to step out of the protection offered by their parents and step up. Even without contributing to education, it costs an average middle income family more than a quarter of a million dollars to raise a child for 18 years, according to a 2015 analysis from financial publication MoneySense. That cost is even higher if a family has more than one child.

A study done by the Bank of Montreal in 2014 found that almost half of Canadian parents with children under 18 expect to contribute financially to their children’s educations and often make sacrifices to benefit their children in the long-term.

While this desire to help their children is admirable, it should not be something parents feel obligated or expected to do, even though post-secondary education is more expensive than it was when the current generation of students’ parents went to college. 

“Students who do get financial help from their parents should do their absolute best. Parents don’t have to help at all, but if they do, they deserve to know that it’s going to enhance their child’s future,” said Morgan DeLisle, a graduate of Lethbridge College’s health unit clerk course. DeLisle said she received financial help from her parents while she attended school.

According to a recent poll of students by the RBC, money has a profound impact on students’ happiness. Even more so than finding work in their fields or feeling as though they’re reaching their potential. Having enough funds to live comfortably contributes to happiness, but the lack of them understandably causes some anxiety.

Of course, college is stressful enough without the spectre of money troubles looming over a person’s head.

For some students, parental help is almost a necessity, especially if they’re attending college right out of high school and don’t have much money saved.

However, this generosity can have different outcomes depending on the student. I’ve known people who worked extremely hard and achieved high marks while attending school on their parents’ dime, but I’ve also known people who blew thousands of dollars of their parents’ money on a few semesters at college with nothing to show for it at the end.

Some situations make parental help impossible.

“I know lots of people who are from very large families, and relying on their parents wasn’t an option,” DeLisle said.

As with most things in life, we value what we work for. When the student is the one handing his or her own money over, or is the one who has to pay back the loan, it instills a strong sense of responsibility.

Skipping class or slacking off might be tempting, but when it’s your money on the line, you want to reap the rewards that can only be gained by putting your effort where your money is. 

Students who are fortunate enough to receive financial help from parents should repay that gift with both hard work and gratitude, but that help shouldn’t be an expectation. 

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