Who should be responsible for paying for college?

Wednesday , May 13, 2015 - 7:58 AM

By CALEB LARKIN
Standard-Examiner correspondent

OGDEN – A national debate on raising tuition costs and financial responsibility for college has students and parents looking for answers.

The Huffington Post recently reported that 76 percent of Americans, regardless of their generation, believe that “parents should support children through their college years.”

The Wall Street Journal wrote most financially stable families believe it is the parents’ responsibility to pay for college. The article quotes Meir Statman, a finance professor at Santa Clara University. He said, “Parents should pay their children’s college tuition if they can, even if that means borrowing money or dipping into retirement savings.”

The WSJ also reported 30 percent of students use grants and scholarships to pay for college. Some 27 percent use their parents’ money. Only 11 percent across the nation pay for college with their own income.

The L.A. Times reported on a case in New Jersey where a student sued her parents for her community college education costs. Karin Klein, an L.A. Times reporter, said, “Most of us would love to do that for our kids. But there’s a big gap between ‘should’ and ‘must.’”

So what do Utahns think about paying for college?

A recent social media poll conducted in northern Utah showed that 38 percent of students paid their own way for education. Whereas only 23 percent said they received help from their parents or government grants. An even higher percentage, 90 percent, believed that the primary financial responsibility for college lies with the student.

David Tanner, the principal at Central Davis Junior High said he doesn’t believe a parent “owes” their child a college education. “A parent’s responsibility is to provide their children clothing, shelter, and food. We’ve always tried to help our children with their college education, but we also feel it’s their responsibility to work and put their own money towards their college education,” Tanner said.

Tanner believes there is great value in the child taking responsibility for their own education. In his position as principal he sees parents who have their children do chores or summer jobs to help them learn responsibility and financial management. He also observes that students who are involved in their community, church, and school tend to be better prepared for college.

“I feel more and more kids are seeing the importance of a secondary education or training such as a trade school.” Tanner said.

He also has a son, David Tanner Jr., who is a senior at Utah Valley University. David Tanner Jr. acknowledged his parents supported him through the first years of college.

“Then I got a grant that covered the cost for the last year and a half,” said David Tanner Jr.

He does value his education with a 3.70 GPA, but admits he likely would value it more if he paid for it entirely on his own. “It would have taken me at least a year longer, to pay for it myself. So I am grateful for my parents helping me out,” he said.

David Tanner Jr. believes the ideal situation is for parents to pay for a child’s education out of “generosity and love, not because parents owe it or a child is entitled to it.”

Parents and students also look to government support in secondary education.

Inside Higher Ed showed President Barack Obama’s plan to have greater government involvement for college education costs.

Michael Stratford, an Inside Higher Ed reporter, said, “The most ambitious of the proposals is a plan to eliminate two years of tuition for some community college students nationwide.”

However the plan would cost $60 billion, which means higher taxes specifically for “wealthy Americans and financial institutions,” Stratford reported.

Utahns definitely agree the government should assist in education costs, especially with raising tuition. Some comments on the social media poll for northern Utah stated that although they believed the primary responsibility should lie with the individual, government assistance should be available to those who meet certain standards.

The White House reported that “in 1990, the U.S. ranked first in the world in four-year degree attainment among 25-34 year olds; today, the U.S. ranks 12th.” They also reported, “While more than half of college students graduate within six years, the completion rate for low-income students is around 25 percent.”

These numbers caused Obama to set a four step plan for addressing issues with college education costs. “(1) Helping middle class families afford college, (2) strengthening community colleges, (3) keeping costs down, and (4) improving transparency and accountability.”

Yet the Wall Street Journal reported the “average published tuition and fees at private, nonprofit four-year colleges and universities increased 14 percent between 2008-09 and 2013-14 beyond the rate of inflation.”

Utah tuition costs have also increased.

The “ambitious” plans for government assistance are yet to reach Utah college students.

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