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Are Students Getting Spoiled Stupid?

Students receiving financial support from their parents are more likely to rank lower on the grading scale than those paying for their own education.

Elizabeth Hoyt

January 04, 2018

Are Students Getting Spoiled Stupid?
Are students that receive full financial support for their education from their parents more likely to rank lower on the grading scale against those who pay for their own education? Yes, according to a study by assistant professor in the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts at the University of California. Laura Hamilton puts forward that the lowest achieving students are those that are attending college, with their expenses fully covered. The study, entitled “More is More or More is Less?” was also published by the American Sociological Review, which is the American Sociological Association’s main journal.

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After comparing parental contributions with grades, the research concluded that the higher the parental contributions were, the lower the grades the students achieved. The findings suggest that, perhaps, students who pay for their own schooling take their studies more seriously because they are making their own investments and taking ownership of their education, versus students whose parents simply sign checks for their tuition. Additionally, this grade impact was higher for students with parental support attending expensive, out-of-state universities, though it was still present at highly competitive institutions.

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Before you freak out—don’t. There is a silver lining. There was actually a positive correlation between parental support and students’ graduation rates.

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Also, the lowest grades were achieved by students whose parents gave financial support without any open dialogue with their students about expectations of student achievements and responsibilities. Such grades were negated when parents set clear guidelines for their students. So, let’s be honest: what else did the blank-check writing parents who didn't talk to their kids about their grades expect? Hamilton says it’s wise for parents to invest in children but to be smart in terms of their investments. Weigh the benefits of the experiences versus the cost. For example, it may cost money to support students while they’re working an unpaid internships, but they’ll receive a rich experience. It also costs money to send your student to Cancun with his or her friends for spring break, but will he or she receive the same rich experiences? Doubtful. Hamilton urges parents to stop “paying for the party” because it’s a waste, in terms of money, time and opportunities. While it’s probably not the most popular conversation to have, it’s important for parents and students alike to consider the pros and cons of different social experiences and the impacts they may have on a student’s grades. Not all social experiences hurt a student’s GPA; in fact, many students find that such experiences enhance their educational experience. What is right for you—or your student—is certainly to be decided on a situational basis. No one scenario or example is applicable to each individual. In the end, only students know what they are able to handle and what they value in terms of their own college experience. What parents are willing to pay for? Well, that’s a whole different story.

Do you think that parents paying for school is a mistake?

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