Apparently, Paying For Your Kid’s College Education Means They’ll Get Lower Grades

File under: stuff that really, really surprises me. 

According to a recent study, students whose parents pay for their educations earn slightly lower grades than students whose parents contribute less. The GPA difference between parentally bankrolled students and those without financial support from their parents is small, but is statistically significant.

Here’s a particularly interesting quote from the article I read about this study:

“…grants, scholarships, work-study, student employment and veterans benefits don’t have similar negative effects on GPA, though loans do, along with direct parental aid. She suggests that’s because loans and unconditional parental grants have no immediate strings attached, whereas scholarships and grants often carry GPA requirements. There may also be a psychological effect. With grants, ‘students feel like they’ve earned them in some way’ and want to justify them.”

So basically, when students feel like the money will just keep coming (whether from parents or from loans) they don’t feel as motivated to keep their grades up.

I guess this shouldn’t be so surprising – I’ve actually heard this argument made by people in both the blogosphere and in real life. It just feels so shocking to me because it runs very contrary to my personal experience: I graduated summa cum laude from a major university and my parents paid for the whole thing.*

I’m a perfectionist by nature and probably would have worked as hard as possible at my grades no matter who was paying, but I think I felt especially pressured to do my best because my parents were paying. They never told me that my GPA had to be at a certain level or that I wasn’t allowed to get into trouble. I just knew that it would be the wrong to spend all my time drinking and ditching my classes. My parents worked very hard to be able to afford my college education (and my siblings’ educations, too) and it would have felt incredibly disrespectful to slack off. I can’t imagine a more stinging slap in the face to them than bringing home sub-par grades, which is why it surprises me that so many students seem to think it’s ok to do just that.

So I’m not sure that reading about the outcome of this study impacts my thinking about whether or not I think it’s a good idea to pay for my (future, hypothetical) child’s college education. I’ve said this before, but I think that if people raise their kids to be responsible individuals and respectful of their parents, they probably won’t blow off their studies.

But what about you? Do you think it’s a good idea to pay for your child’s whole college education? Does the news of this study impact your thoughts on the topic? Do tell!

P.S. – For further reading about this topic, check out Johnny and Joanna’s thoughts on paying for their baby girl’s college education.


*My students loans come from my graduate degree, which I was responsible for financing on my own. I chose loans :(