What to do if your parents are shouldering the cost of your education

If you’re Anna B. Martin or the employee who monitors Banner during registration, life has been rough recently. Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson would beat either of you in a popular election — and he won exactly 1 percent of the vote.

Still, Martin and that Banner employee don’t win the “most unpopular” vote on campus this fall. So who — or what — does?

Tuition hikes.

In any election, the key to success is sending a message that reaches a universal audience. For everyone who takes a class at the College of William and Mary, the cost of tuition directly affects you. Martin only affected those without the sense to own an umbrella, and the Banner employee’s unpopularity is short-lived.

Tuition hikes, however, are here to stay. Most of us complain, but many of us probably don’t feel the hikes in everyday life. Our wallets stay padded thanks to our benefactors.

Here’s looking at you, Mom and Dad.

Many of us simply forward the “tuition due” email to our parents and mumble “thanks” sometime later. Many of us only think of tuition as a check, a few more dollars gone from Dad’s vault. We don’t understand where the money comes from, only that Mom’s hair gets grayer every time the check is due.

It’s time to take a step back and appreciate what our parents do for us. While we fight hurricane-force winds and curse Banner, our parents search for ways to make ends meet. All with a smile on their faces.

That isn’t to say tuition hikes affect only those signing the dotted line; rather, we’re affected as students, too. Watching our parents keep us in school, despite a less-than-ideal economy and rising tuition costs, we wonder if the benefits of education are really worth the price.

While our parents feel the financial burden, we are burdened by guilt.

Too often, discussions of declaring majors and job openings revolve around one statistic: beginning salary. It makes sense — students have every incentive to make as much money as soon as possible since they want to pay back their loans so Mom and Dad have enough to live comfortably.

Quick money, unfortunately, is usually earned in a job or profession you hate. Quick money also brings about a vicious cycle: You work, pay off debts, have kids, then pay for their education. Then your kids go to school, work and pay off debts.

Working to pay off debt, only to put your kids in the same situation, doesn’t solve anything.

What does work? Graciously taking the opportunity your parents gave you to go to college and using it to find what you love. Your kids will learn from your example and do what they love. Suddenly, tuition hikes aren’t the most unpopular agenda on the ballot because now, they’re worth it.

Email Chris Weber at cmweber@email.wm.edu.


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