Whose Responsibility Is It To Pay For College?

Graphic by Jessica Dreyer

Jessica Dreyer

Graphic by Jessica Dreyer

College is a big investment in a young adult’s life and having to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to school can be very overwhelming for a young person starting out, so some parents save up and help their children pay for some, if not all, of their college tuition. But who’s really responsible for paying for college, the parent or the student?

Parents that are paying off their child’s college bills are having to save a lot more than they used to because the cost of a college education has increased over the years. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, some private colleges can cost around $50,000 a year compared to about $20,000 in 1980.

To make the situation even more complicated, a recent national study highlighted in a New Yorks Times article by Tamar Lewin has uncovered that students that had college paid off, are more likely to have poor grades.

According to “More Is More or More Is Less? Parent Financial Investments During College,” a study by Laura Hamilton, a sociology professor at the University of California, Merced, “students with the lowest grades were those whose parents paid for them without discussing the students’ responsibility for their education. Parents could minimize the negative effects, she said, by setting clear expectations about grades and progress toward graduation.”

“My parents have high expectations for me in college, but they would have the same expectations even if my dad didn’t work at the university. The only difference is we don’t have to pay for it,” East senior Joseph Lilly explained.

East senior Joseph Lilly has a unique situation when it comes to paying for college: his father, Christopher Lilly, is a professor at Concordia University Chicago. Because Joseph’s father is a professor, the University will reimburse Lilly for his undergraduate tuition after graduating from Concordia. Room and board is not included, so he plans to live at home while in college.

 Despite Lilly’s unique situation, he feels “like paying for college is the parents’ responsibility, but the student should do well in school for the parents to pay.”

Another senior, Rachel Conley, has a more common situation for paying her college tuition. Conley is going to Triton College next year and plans on transfering to NIU after a year at Triton.

“My parents will help pay for college the first couple years, but they won’t be paying all of it because I have 3 siblings that are expected to go to college too,” Conley explained.

“I think it’s the parents responsibility to pay for their kids college because some kids need some guidance, but students should pay for some of it because it’s their education,” Conley said.


Next year, I plan for go to a 4-year university. Although I am unsure of exactly where, I am considering Loyola University and Marquette University. I have received scholarships to both schools, and I’m waiting for financial aid to help pay some more of the tuition. Any money that is not paid for by scholarships and financial aid, I will get a loan for. My father will only be helping me with deposits for college when I finally decide where I will go to college.

I feel that students should pay for their own college education because by eighteen they should start taking more responsibility of their future and relying less on their parents for everything.

I know from experience that if I pay for my own belongings that I will care for them more, and not just throw them around. I think the same goes for college.

Knowing that I have to work hard to pay all that money back would make me want to do well, and be able to get a good paying job from the education to earn money that I will need to pay my loans back.

I don’t think some students realize how hard it is to make the amount of money it would take to pay for their college. If they pay it off themselves, they can learn from it and appreciate the value of it, rather than just relying on their parents to deal with the stress of college tuition.

If parents do decide to pay their child’s college for them, they should sit down and talk with them about what their expectations are for the child. After all, it is the parents’ money, so they should have a say in how it’s going to be used.