So you’ve probably heard about the study recently that found that college kids whose parents pay for all/most of their expenses get lower GPAs, right? This gets me where I live for a number of reasons, of course, as a teacher and parent, but it also started me thinking about my own college years.
I went to a wonderful state university on a full scholarship, and worked all but two of the semesters I was there, as well as breaks and summers, in addition to a full course load in an honors program for a major and extended minor, a semester abroad, and completing an internship during my senior year. There are some decisions I regret making during my college years, but working isn’t one of them; my tutoring job is one of the reasons I went into teaching, and the other jobs (retail, restaurants) taught me a LOT about the “real world” outside of the classroom. I had worked in high school, an afterschool file clerk job in an opthamologist’s office, so working wasn’t new for me, and I never felt burdened by my need to work. However, what the study also found was that these students participated less in on-campus clubs and organizations, and that was definitely true for me too, and something I do regret.
While having a full scholarship was incredible, it also is the key reason why I really feel like I earned my degree. My parents would have helped me at any point, and I lived at home during breaks and summers, and they gave me my first car during my senior year, which made it possible for me to have that internship. However, as a scholarship student, I paid the majority of my own way, and that will always be the first major accomplishment of my adult life. I went on to earn a graduate degree, funded entirely by an assistantship that paid my full tuition in exchange for teaching a class each semester, and again, I feel like I earned that degree, in a sense that is inextricably connected to working my way through in order to pay for it.
Quote from the story: “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.”
This was true for me too, as the idea of losing my scholarship was horrifying. I know my parents would have found a way to keep me in college if I had, but the shame, embarrassment I would have felt, the disappointment, the lack of pride in my own abilities, would have changed my life and identity forever. Not coincidentally, I earned the best grades of my academic career, up to that point, while in college, because my GPA was tied to my scholarship, at a required GPA of 3.5 to keep the award. That provided real motivation for me, and pushed me to excel even in classes that didn’t align so closely with my own scholarly interests.
My own kids won’t be college-aged for another 7-8 years, but the question of how to motivate them to excel is certainly one we’ll be thinking about in the next period of their education. There’s plenty of evidence for and against paying kids for good grades, and it’s a delicate juggling act, as I’ve seen too many kids who are fixated on grades without thinking about their own learning and their own passions.Obviously, I have no idea whether my kids will earn any scholarships, or how much college will even cost by the time they are ready to go, but I feel fairly confident that we won’t be funding it entirely out of our own pockets or savings, and that they will be expected to share in the costs.
Though I won’t say the skyrocketing costs of college don’t keep me up at night sometime, I also believe that kids need to have some “skin in the game” when it comes to grades, and I do believe strongly in the value of feeling like you’ve earned something, accomplished something, in the pursuit of your own education. If my kids work their way through college, with as much support as we can give them, I think we’ll all be the better for it.
- Study: College GPA Drops When Parents Pay for School (foxcharlotte.com)
- Study: Parental Support Sends Down College GPA (abcnews.go.com)
- Parents’ financial help linked to lower college GPAs, higher graduation rates (esciencenews.com)
- 6 New Year’s Resolutions That Could Lower Your College Tuition Costs (collegefinancialaidadvisors.com)