Nate Muramatsu: Students have a right to their families’ help paying for college

Read an opposing viewpoint to this piece by opinions writer Elias Economou here.

For some, the decision to go to college may be the most important one they ever make. An education prepares students for the world, helps them build relationships and makes it possible for them to be competitive in the job market. Attending college can change the course of a person’s life.

We all know that college tuition is incredibly steep, and it’s no longer easy to “pay your own way” through school like past generations did. But since college is still so incredibly important, students should receive financial help from their families during their undergraduate years. Assuming, of course, that a student’s family has the ability to pay, they have an obligation to contribute whatever they can – and a student has a right to their help.

Of course, there are very few students facing full tuition every academic year: Most receive help through scholarships and financial aid. What they often need help with is what’s leftover, and that’s where families should come in. In 2014, a student sued her parents, who earned $272,000 a year, for not helping to pay for her college tuition. The court ruled in her favor, and I agree she had a right to that help.

Many families are invested in the success and well-being of their children. But a parent or guardian’s responsibility goes beyond ensuring that their child is fed and clothed up until adulthood. Families also need to make sure that their children are prepared to succeed in life – and sometimes, that means providing financial support for a college education.

College students are already stressed about what they’re going to do with their lives, when they’re going to get internships and jobs, how to manage their schedules and how to balance their workload. And adjusting to college is likely one of the most significant transitions they’ll undergo – they must get used to new people, new responsibilities and sometimes a new location.

When these students are also put under massive amounts of additional pressure to support themselves throughout college without financial help, they’re less likely to succeed or perform to the best of their ability.

And it’s important that students do succeed in college because it sets them up for more success down the road. We know that on average, those with college degrees earn more than those without them. Bachelor’s degree holders earn 66 percent more money than those with only a high school degree, according to the Department of Education. And the wages of college degree holders have remained steady since the early 2000s while the wages of high school graduates have declined by 5 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Some argue that students learn independence and responsibility by paying for college on their own. But parents can instill these important virtues in their children in other ways, such as requiring them to maintain good grades or participate in extracurricular activities.

I’m not convinced that if a student were forced to pay for school that they would automatically learn financial responsibility. In fact, graduating with debt could hurt a student’s future. These students, although they may not bear the full cost of their tuition, would still need to take out large loans to pay the difference.

And help with costs could also make students more independent – they would have the flexibility to take internships or more important roles in student organizations. If they were paying for college themselves, they would be required to take jobs that might help them pay for college but not further their actual career goals.

Unfortunately, it’s not always possible for families to help their children through college. But more economically advantaged families have a financial obligation to their children. It doesn’t just end once their children are legally adults.

Yes, students need to learn to be independent – and that’s exactly why they have a right to financial help from their families. That help will allow them to be successful throughout their lives, rather than forcing them to struggle on their own while they’re still young.

Nate Muramatsu, a freshman majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet opinions writer. Want to respond to this piece? Submit a letter to the editor.

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