Should parents finance grad school?
May 26, 2007 6:20 AM   Subscribe

Should parents help their children pay for grad school if they can afford it? My parents are divorced, but both are in households considered in the top 1% of the US in terms of income and net worth. After limited financial assistance from them during undergrad, I am getting no help at all for grad school. Am I out of line to expect that I should?

I am transitioning from undergrad to grad school (after taking a couple months off), and am now faced with footing $60K in tuition and living expenses over the course of the program. While I realize there are a number of funding options – like private loans, which I will be taking – I have developed an unhealthy resentment towards my parents due to a combination of their significant financial status/holdings and concurrent unwillingness to help me offset the cost of my education. I have given an elaboration on the relationships with my parents below. Do I have irrational expectations? If you could please offer your take on the situation or even general insight on how I can get the hell over the resentment, I would be most appreciative.

My mom is technically remarried, though not by ceremony. She and my “stepfather” (with whom I have an awkwardly disconnected, though very polite relationship) have lived as “man and wife” for 15+ years. They try to maintain something close to a balanced partnership, e.g. they own their house 50/50. Over the years, his success has become disproportionately greater: while my mom makes a bit over $100K/yr, my stepfather pulls $400K+ and recently sold his share of his company for somewhere between $7-10M in cash. Concerning school, my mom helped with exactly half of my undergrad expenses (disqualified from Federal financial aid and reluctant to take loans, I worked to make up most the difference). However, she is adamant that I should not expect any monetary help from her (or my stepfather) going into grad school.

My father runs a sizeable company (it has $50M in assets, limited debt, and he has a majority holding). On a weekly basis I watch him squander hundreds to thousands of dollars on, what seems to me, useless shit (nondurable goods and services). This has gone on for years. I have asked him repeatedly for even meager financial assistance, which he often promises, but has constantly failed/fails to deliver, despite his otherwise seemingly frivolous spending.

Additionally, I guess it doesn’t help that neither of my parents agree with my chosen career path. While I don’t think my particular field is important for this post, I’m going to a moderate-to-highly ranked school and the program will lead to a $55-75K/yr job when I am done (based on for average starting salaries for past grads). I also have one younger sibling who is in college.


I’ve also set up a throwaway e-mail: mefi.is.a.sugardaddy.of.wisdom@gmail.com . Thank you very much for your time and consideration.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (126 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Do I have irrational expectations?

Yes.

If this post wasn't about grad school, then it would be about your first post-mom-and-dad-paid-for-grad-school home purchase. There's a point where you're on your own. It should be after undergrad, at the latest.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 6:28 AM on May 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Well, they should pay for your graduate school based on the premise that they are family and family needs to help family out.

However, they also have no obligation to pay anything because you're your own person and you have your own responsibility to get your own shit in order.

So although they should, they probably won't and there's really not anything that you can do about this. And it sucks.
posted by mustcatchmooseandsquirrel at 6:36 AM on May 26, 2007


No, I don't see any obligation for parents to foot their adult children's bills. Your parents earned their own money and are entitled to do whatever they like with it. Now you get to do the same.
posted by emilyw at 6:37 AM on May 26, 2007 [3 favorites]


As a rule of thumb, grad school should be at least partially self-financing. If they're not offering you scholarships, teaching assistantships or tuition waivers, you may want to reconsider doing it. The question is therefore moot.
posted by mcwetboy at 6:37 AM on May 26, 2007


Speaking only for myself, I think you're a little fixated on this money issue. Whether or not parents pay for grad schoo, or any school really, has more to do with your familial and larger culture and less to do with exactly what your parents have in terms of dollar amounts.

For my personal anecdote: my folks are somewhat well off now. They weren't when we were all younger. They paid for college and I was on my own for grad school. It was always the expectation that this is how school would work. Their assumption/decision was that paying for college was sort of a right in my family but that grad school was my own decision and paying for it was my own responsibility. Both me and my sister paid our own way through grad school. I decided to go to a state school, take a long time to finish and didn't take out loans. My sister went to a private school and took out loans. If I got into a bus accident and needed hospital care, they would help me out if I was in a jam, for elective further education, they think it's my own choice and responsibility financially.

Every family does this sort of thing differently and while I wouldn't call you out of line, I do think that unless your parents somehow led you to believe that they were going to pay for grad school -- whcih it doesn't sound like -- then they are totally within reasonableness to not pay. This is a personal priorities issue, not a cash-on-hand issue. If they are telling you it's a cash-on-hand issue, they are likely fudging the truth a little (or a lot) but at the end of the day it seems that they've been clear that they're not paying.

Now your Dad making financial promises he's not keeping is another matter entirely and deserves its own attention, but this is, again, not unusual for parents and at some point you have to find a way to make this situation with them work FOR YOU. If you can't change your parents, and you often can't, you'll have to live with what they are offering, whatever that is.

So, it all comes down to culture. I sometimes have the sneaking suspicion that if I had gone down a more fmailiar path, lived closer to home, been a little less independent, I might have received more financial support from my family, even accidentally. I found this irksome at the time, because no one likes having money worries and concerns when other family members are in a positionto help and then don't, but my later realization was that this sort of interdependece in my family came at a price and with the perspective of some time and distance, I realized quite clearly that it wasn't one I was willing to pay.

So, you don't really respect your family's financial choices and decisions and it's possible they feel the same about you. This is a great time for your financial lives to diverge and you to start moving away from what you call [and what obviously looks like] this "unhealthy resentment"
posted by jessamyn at 6:39 AM on May 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


If you mean grad school in the arts and sciences fields (as opposed to medical or law or business, etc.), *no one* should pay for grad school. If you can't gain funded admission to a top program, you're kidding yourself (usually) about the prospects for a career in academia, at least. It's a wasted investment with huge opportunity costs for many students who spend out of pocket to get a PhD.

Granted, the funding is never enough so there will always be costs over and above to consider. But if you're sure it's a good investment, why not ask your family for a *loan* and pay it back?
posted by spitbull at 6:42 AM on May 26, 2007


It was always understood that I would be on my own financially after graduating from undergrad, even though my folks were pretty well-off. I struggled through and never once resented them for not helping out. They'd take me out to dinner when they visited once in awhile, but at that point we were all "adults". When my kids are out of college I'm looking forward to cutting the strings. I always figured that anything after 18 or so was a gift and entirely conditional anyway.
posted by monkeymadness at 6:49 AM on May 26, 2007


If your parents plan to leave you money upon their death, then they should pay for expenses now so that they can avoid the inheritance taxes later. They have no obligation to pay for your school. Perhaps the benefit of going to grad school for a $75k job is outweighed by the financial costs of it. Sometimes education just ain't worth it.

For what its worth, like the previous poster, I too had my college funded by my parents. When it came to grad school, I insisted on paying myself because it gave me the independence I wanted and I appreciated it a LOT more. My grades in grad school where a full point on the 4.0 grade scale higher than in undergrad because I directly saw the expense of it an took it a lot more seriously. Somehow, my parents were able to turn a sense of entitlement about college education into the reverse for continued education. I insisted on paying, even declining help from my Dad.

Confronting the cost of the grad school head on is certainly a pretty damn good qualifier for how much yo want to go and how worth it is the program.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:50 AM on May 26, 2007


My personal experience pretty much reflects what's been said already: my parents paid for my brother and I to complete our undergraduate degrees and we were left to fend for ourselves for post-graduate study. We've each done (and are both still doing) subsequent post-grad study that is self-funded.

In Australia, you are able (or used to be able) to pay a smaller amount up front or defer payment. If you defer, the government takes what it wants from your pay when it decides that you're earning enough to start paying them back. So, that our parents paid for both of us up front was a life saver in the long run (i.e. entering the workforce with no debt). But we were all pretty clear on where the obligation ended.

(Having said that, my impression is that here our post-school education is cheaper than overseas. Scratch that, it used to be cheaper (my undergrad cost about $5,500 upfront about 12 years ago) but is significantly more expensive now due to reduced government assistance. Even so, it may be easier to be self-funded here than overseas).
posted by prettypretty at 7:14 AM on May 26, 2007


From a reasonably moral point of view, I'd say no, there is no moral reason for them to have to give you any money at all.

From a family / relationship point of view, I'd say that if they understood your scenario and were genuinely supportive, that they would at least contribute a token amount.
posted by wackybrit at 7:14 AM on May 26, 2007


No.
posted by unixrat at 7:21 AM on May 26, 2007


They don't owe you anything. My parents partially funded my undergrad education (a bit of financial investment, but also through smart education savings plans). This was well known in my family as the final big gift - then it's off into the world for you. Grad school is your own choice. Just because they are smart and wealthy doesn't mean you're entitled to any of it.

That said, they seem like smart people. Why not approach your dad with a written plan? Write it like a proposal. If you have time/any skills that could be of use to his company, offer them. You could try to negotiate a long-term low interest loan, or perhaps just a one-time donation. Include a schedule of when key events would happen, this may combat his talk-but-no-action. Follow up politely as needed to make him follow through on his words.
posted by Meagan at 7:23 AM on May 26, 2007


You could try to negotiate a long-term low interest loan
I think that's a good idea if the relationship is in good standing and you are both reasonable about expectations. It depends partly, though, on why he's not helping. If it's about anon learning to do things on his own then it might fly. If it's about not wanting to part with money (not making any judgments here--there are lots of reasons for this) then it's a bad investment on dad's part. The relationship has to be rock solid and everything in writing, and I'm getting the impression that this sort of thing won't work with this family. Sorry to get all religious (not really popular around here) but our general principal is to always pay back loans and never expect them to be paid back. That presupposes that the relationship is more valuable than money. That doesn't seem to be the case for either party here.
posted by monkeymadness at 7:30 AM on May 26, 2007


No.
posted by LarryC at 7:31 AM on May 26, 2007


no.
posted by unknowncommand at 7:32 AM on May 26, 2007


My parents insisted on claiming me as a dependent for my last year in college (all 5 months of it) so that I couldn't get decent financial aid. I'm still paying off my loans (I defaulted 5 years out), 20 years later. It did serious harm to our relationship and I didn't speak with them much for about 10 years. But by gum, I sure the hell am financially independent, which is what they wanted, and they can take their damn wills and shove 'em. I love my parents, but I don't ever want to discuss anything financial with them ever again.
posted by DenOfSizer at 7:33 AM on May 26, 2007


All I can offer is my own family's philosophy on the subject. My parents have said that as soon as I was born, it was their obligation to provide the very best that they could for me. When I wanted to go on to do a PhD, they saw this as part of this obligation and therefore paid my tuition. They used to quote that line from Guess Who's Coming To Dinner. That scene where Sidney Poitier is arguing with his father and his father says something to the effect of, "How could you to do to us? After everything we have done for you - paid for medical school and supported you through all of that." And Poitier replies, "When you decided to have children, all of this became your duty and I will do the same for my children." Paraphrasing, obviously, but that was the gist of it.
posted by meerkatty at 7:33 AM on May 26, 2007 [7 favorites]


My parents paid for undergrad for me and my sisters in full. But it has always been my understanding that if any of us wanted to pursue a graduate degree, it was on own on head to finance it. My parents could certainly afford it but I would never in a million years even think to consider asking them for tuition. The only thing I have asked for, from time to time, is assistance with a big chunk of money upfront - e.g., I owed $600 in state taxes this year and my dad paid it upfront while I've been paying him back over the last couple of months.

I don't think it would hurt to ask your dad for some help, but I wouldn't expect any. Maybe you can work part-time for him in exchange, or something like that. But I think expecting your parents to pay for grad school, regardless of their income, is a bit much.
posted by sutel at 7:33 AM on May 26, 2007


^ couldn't get decent financial aid for grad school.
posted by DenOfSizer at 7:33 AM on May 26, 2007


No.

Count your blessings. Then get a job.
posted by pompomtom at 7:33 AM on May 26, 2007 [6 favorites]


It's too bad your parents weren't upfront with you when you turned 18 about exactly what you could expect, but you need to shrug that off and accept that you're on your own now.

Your parents' money is their own. They can do whatever they like with it. You might not ever see another cent from them. It doesn't matter, to your eyes, how much extra they seem to have. Once you turned 18, they no longer had any obligation to financially support you, and you should feel grateful that your mother was generous enough to help out with undergrad.

The sooner you internalize and accept what I've written above, the better. Make your own way, you're an adult, that's what adults do.

I wouldn't usually be so harsh but I have witnessed some profoundly horrible experiences in my family which partly revolved around adult children (with children of their own) feeling entitled to their parents' money.
posted by Squeak Attack at 7:36 AM on May 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Also, do you think they would reconsider if you took some time off and supported yourself for a few years? So they don't think that you're all about taking their money and see grad school as an ambition/qualification worth supporting in the future? (This is what I did.)
posted by meerkatty at 7:45 AM on May 26, 2007


Everyone here seems to think they would be mighty stoic in the face of such family hypocrisy. Good for them I guess.

Of course your parents aren't really obligated to help you. But the fact that their lives seem so financially effortless and yet they would let you founder right under their noses is really disturbing. You've demonstrated your ability to work hard and your desire to continue to do so, andeven if they weren't outright paying your tuition, I would expect them to be interested in what this expense will do to your lifestyle and future, and to offer support where possible.

Of course it's clear they aren't going to offer help, so you'll have to ask for it directly. When you visit your dad, tell him you could use some help looking over your finances for the upcoming year, since he's the expert. Sit down with him and lay the whole picture out before him on paper. Have a Starbuck's application mixed in with the other forms, halfway filled out. After you've gone over everything, gently remind him that at times he's said he would help, and if he really plan to keep his word, that this is the time when you need it most.

Whether he gives you the money, loans it, or says no, at least there is a clear swift answer there and your resentment can either vanish or at least crystallize into a firm place to launch new plans from.
posted by hermitosis at 7:48 AM on May 26, 2007


I don't see where "should" enters into it. Some parents want to support their children up to a certain extent; others don't. That's up to them and their views of parenthood. (I was financially independent at 18, which affected both my undergraduate and graduate school decisions.) How much control parents exercise over the money they issue their children is also up to them--if they think the grad school is a bad idea, it's certainly within their rights to say they're not going to finance it. And whether or not you want to be resentful about it is also up to you.

Dad breaking promises he's capable of keeping is uncool, but that's true whether or not he's a millionaire.

And stepdad owes you absolutely nothing just because he's shtupping your mom.

I agree with the other posters who say that if graduate school is a financial burden, there's a good chance that it's a mistake: reputable graduate programs worth their salt are much more obviously self-financing in the short or long run.
posted by commander_cool at 7:48 AM on May 26, 2007


Obligation? Absolutely not. It would be nice, and frankly most parents in such situation would help out. They may just want you to learn some responsibility. Whatever, just make your own way. You will be a stronger person for it in the end.
posted by caddis at 7:48 AM on May 26, 2007


No.

My parents paid for most of me and my sister's undergrad degrees. I always worked and paid for a lot of it, especially at the end.

I thought it was strange and stingy that my husband's family didn't pay for his undergrad degree. They let him live "rent free" while he attended college, and that's about it. He fronted his entire education bill, and paid for it in cash. My husband is incredibly responsible and smart with money, and now we have plenty of it.

I wouldn't expect, or feel resentful that your parents aren't willing to pay for grad school. I agree with above posters: Make your own way.
posted by LoriFLA at 7:50 AM on May 26, 2007


My dad(barely breaks 6 figures, but is financially savvy) told me he almost fell off his chair the first time I picked up the check at dinner, and I think that was a turning point in our relationship. We used to always be tense around one another, but now I wouldn't trade the relationship I have with my parents for all the money in the world, and I think it mostly has to do with him being no longer worried about having to support me or bail me out of something.

The important thing here, to me, would be to try to work towards a position of mutual respect between myself and my parents, and it's hard to do that when you have your hand out or seem dependent on them.

Incidentally, he just told me last week that there was some money left over in a savings account he had set up to pay for my college, which I didn't spend all of because I got a scholarship.

So forget the money. Either borrow it, or, even better, get into a program where you can get a tuition waiver or stipend. Make it happen on your own, and maybe you can enjoy a more comfortable relationship with your parents.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 7:53 AM on May 26, 2007


I don't think your parents are obligated to do anything-that obligation ended when you turned 18. You are lucky they helped you with your undergrad. I paid for my undergrad, and am doing all that I can to pay for my grad program. Find a program that offers a teaching assistantship, get a job on the weekends. And I'm sorry, but loans are a reality for so many of us in grad programs.

I'm proud that I have paid for everything myself. I think that having to work my ass off for everything has helped me to better appreciate what I have. Good luck.
posted by bolognius maximus at 7:53 AM on May 26, 2007


Your parents earned their own money

You don't know that.

Do your parents have an obligation to you? No. Are they being stingy if they don't help you out and keep you from subsisting on ramen for the forseeable future? Absolutely.
posted by oaf at 7:55 AM on May 26, 2007


I don't know anything about you or the school you are attending, but in my experiance, graduate school should cost you much less than undergrad because its usually A) less time commitment (2 yrs MS or 4 phd) and B) at least partially funded by the school, grants, or scholarships.

If you aren't getting funding from external sources than you should question the program you are taking.

Unless... you are going to be a doctor or lawyer, then you are on your own because society deems that you stand to make a tidy sum throughout the course of your life and you'll be able to pay all your loans back.
posted by maxpower at 7:57 AM on May 26, 2007


But the fact that their lives seem so financially effortless and yet they would let you founder right under their noses is really disturbing.

Financially effortless? It sounds to me like they've both spent their lives busting their asses to become successful. Financial success does not equal financial effortlessness.

Have a Starbuck's application mixed in with the other forms, halfway filled out. After you've gone over everything, gently remind him that at times he's said he would help, and if he really plan to keep his word, that this is the time when you need it most.

If my child ever did that to me, after I had raised them and paid for their undergraduate education, I would offer to help by filling out the Starbucks application for them.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 8:00 AM on May 26, 2007 [2 favorites]


You shouldn't expect it, and you certainly aren't entitled to it, but there's definitely no harm in asking them for either a grant or a loan. We should all have been so lucky to have such funds available to us. The well ran dry for me halfway through college, but I was fortunate to get as much assistance as I did. I wouldn't begrudge anyone else for it.
posted by psmealey at 8:01 AM on May 26, 2007


I don't think your parents owe you anything, but I mean, they'd be pretty tight not to help you out if you're seriously broke ass. That said, there is a certain satisfaction that comes from not being financially dependent on other people. If you think your grad school is worth 60K, then get a loan, or work for a year.
posted by chunking express at 8:02 AM on May 26, 2007


Going to grad school is an adult choice, isn't it? I mean, everyone's parents seem to expect you to go to college, but after that, I think you're on your own. I chose grad school immediately after undergrad and self-financed the whole thing, knowing I'd come out of it 40 grand in the hole, but I also knew my prospects would be better and I'd feel more "educated" if I pushed myself for another two years in grad school (undergrad was too easy for me and felt like I just memorized a bunch of crap for tests).

Your parents are under no obligation to pay, grad school is pretty much an adult choice these days, so suck it up and take the loans and try it on your own.
posted by mathowie at 8:18 AM on May 26, 2007


I see where you're coming from on this, as far as resentment. But I think the way to go with this is to see the independence as a challenge and a gift. They don't appreciate your career path? Your best revenge is to become successful within it; even better, redefine success away from their definition of it (to include, perhaps, having children whom you would unquestioningly support through school in their chosen paths).

The good thing about taking it on yourself is that you can shed an entire set of responsibilities and expectations that you might have thought existed on your end. Family values that redefine "me and mine" as entirely individualistic are family values that wouldn't require you, for instance, to help out your dad when he has squandered his fortune on hookers and blow; or to take in your mom when your stepdad gets jailed for tax evasion and all their assets are seized.

Make your own way--considering, even, the possibility that grad school isn't necessary, or at least right now. If they've rejected your notions of family, reject theirs. Show up to their wedding anniversary in drag. Give them bad homemade string art for Xmas. Proudly stand next to them at an important public function and then proceed to pee yourself. You know, make it fun.
posted by troybob at 8:24 AM on May 26, 2007


I would like to give a view somewhat counter to the prevailing "they don't owe you anything, get a job, get loans, or don't bother" sentiment posted so far.

I would also like to begin by noting that the extended adolescence is becoming even more extended as opportunities for post-graduate education become more available and society becomes even more specialized. True, you are (presumably) over 18 and your parents owe you nothing, legally. But to argue that they therefore owe you no moral duty of assistance or that they should not owe you anything does not follow at all. To the extent that parents should wish their children success and should help them achieve that success, your parents should assist you. Perhaps they do not owe you a full ride, perhaps it should even be a token gesture just to show that they do, in fact, support your decision to attend grad-school (i.e., amounting to no more than a few thousand dollars). But to suggest that they owe you nothing whatsoever is to suggest an extremely callous "let them eat cake" sort of parenting.

Class mobility in America today is roughly on par with Dickens-era England. It is substantially worse than modern-day Europe. While post-graduate education can certainly help, a lack of debt and the assistance of wealthy family probably helps more.

To the extent that your parents wish to see you succeed, they should see the money as an investment in your future prosperity. From the perspective of their own self-interest, having a wealthy child is a substantial buffer against the possibility of entering their old age unable to afford the sort of medical care and living arrangements that they probably expect to have, given their current status.

Furthermore, to the extent that you are unable to overcome the resentment their unwillingness to assist you is causing, you will be less likely to visit and care for them. Certainly having more financial independence would give you the time and financial wherewithal to do so. It sounds like you are an only child, which suggests that this is something they should take very seriously, depending on the tenor of your relationship with them.

As for the resentment itself, I can suggest two things: taking the moral highroad or removing yourself from the source of the resentment. By convincing yourself that, even though your parents did not support you through this difficult time, you would still support them emotionally--or even financially, if necessary--you may be able to turn resentment into feeling good about yourself and your own character. This is a difficult tightrope to walk, however, and runs the risk of breeding yet more resentment.

Alternatively, once you are fully convinced that your parents will not help you, you may consider distancing yourself from them to the extent necessary to avoid confrontation or undue stress induced by restraining yourself.

Those aren't very satisfying answers, I know. I will say that I sympathize: when faced with such gross inequality between their means and your needs, it's fully understandable that you would resent them for not assisting you, even in some relatively token way (e.g., paying the deposit on your apartment, giving you a little money to keep you from resorting to a diet of ramen and free pizza, etc).
posted by jedicus at 8:33 AM on May 26, 2007 [4 favorites]


If they didn't give you much help in undergrad why on earth would you think they would suddenly start helping now? It is their money. It would be nice if they would share it with you, but you're an adult now and they don't have to do so.

Nthing the fact that if you aren't getting funding to cover most of graduate school you might want to rethink your career path.
posted by winna at 8:36 AM on May 26, 2007


Just echoing what others have said. Grad school seems like an adult choice and not something your parents are obligated to pay for. Personally, my parents paid for undergrad and I'm now in grad school, working full-time, and taking out loans. However, my parents are great and help me a ton financially in other ways (i.e. when I bought my condo). But they're certainly not obligated to and I don't expect it - I feel lucky.

I have some friends with very wealthy parents who paid for undergrad, but not grad school. Their parents were very upfront about it, always. I think maybe that's the biggest part with your parents--if you knew where they stood and why, maybe you wouldn't resent them as much.
posted by jdl at 8:37 AM on May 26, 2007


Let me tell you a story. Recently my husband and I were looking at houses so we could get out of our horrible renting situation. We looked and looked and realized we couldn't afford anything in a safe neighborhood. I sadly told my parents that my husband and I would be postponing home ownership for a few years.

Soon after that my dad cashed in one of his stocks and bought a brand-new Harley Davidson.

My friends were horrified that my dad would do that when he could have given us money for a house, and frankly, that attitude amazes me. Your parents owe you NOTHING. In fact, people from our generation seem to want to immediately have everything their parents have now, after their parents have worked for it for 20 or 30 years. Your parents might look at your hardscrabble existance and think, Yep, that's about right for a guy in his mid-twenties. Just pay your dues and learn from it.

By the way, I paid for my own graduate school through hard work and loans. I'll pay for my house the same way. Suck it up and call Financial Aid.
posted by christinetheslp at 8:38 AM on May 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Due to my mother's disability I had to pay for the last 2 years of my own High School education (The public school was a joke).

Start learning to support yourself now, it's not to late.
posted by Mick at 8:42 AM on May 26, 2007


I think you aren't hearing anything about why your folks won't help you pay for grad school, so you have no framework to think about it. And you have some built up resentment about the fact that they have a lot of money and you have only a little.

You could be really honest and ask your dad for a lump sum since he tends to be great on promises and not so great on delivery. It's a crap shoot, but might pan out.

The, get beyond it. Whether or not they should, they won't. Spend some time reading about really poor people. Look at the people in your classes whose family can't/don't contribute. You're luckier than you realize, and I don't say that in a moralistic sense. It feels better to see how lucky you are than to look at how lucky you aren't.

Develop your own financial plan that doesn't depend on the family. Look at contributions from the family as lottery winnings. Really great, but not something you can count on.

My family paid for my undergrad. Dad died while I was in college, and Social Security helped. Mom helped some sibs with grad school. Mom loaned me money to help me start a business. I paid the loan back on schedule, and she was so pleased she'd probably lend me money for just about anything. It was a big plus in our relationship that she was willing to lend, and a big plus that I repaid. She has gifted us all at various times, which has been really nice.

One sib is really cranky about it and feels that Mom should have paid for more, and diminishes the actual help received. This sib is unhappy in general and has an unhealthy relationship with Mom. So I do agree with the advice to be independent, in a very practical way. It will make you feel better.
posted by theora55 at 8:44 AM on May 26, 2007


Well, at the expense of exposing myself, my parents are also in a similar situation (without the divorce/step father thing). I received absolutely no help for undergrad and have received, including gifts, probably under $1000 since I turned 18. It is completely, amazingly frustrating to see parents spend money on expensive toys (including sports cars), conspicuous purses and other things that are really nothing more than status symbols. It is also completely frustrating to be worrying about whether you should go out for fast food tonight rather than a crappy meal at home while you know your parents are spending more than on a single bottle of wine for dinner.

I still am not over it. What makes it worse is that if you are like me, your friends are probably similarly well off and their parents throw shit at them. They're going to Europe or always vacationing or have a new car. You can't do things with them simply because you can't afford it. And then that compounds the feelings of resentment.

I would urge you to ignore most of the people here. This is one of those things where if you aren't in the situation people can't understand it and they feel that you're living on easy street. The only worse thing than being poor and in your 20s is to have rich parents and being poor and in your 20s. I think what a lot of people here also don't seem to grasp is that your social network probably is getting all their bills footed? What a lot of people don't seem to know about is that among that set, the children are always taken care of until they can lead their life with their own money, if that happens before inheritance.

Money and family screws things up. Do what you want and pretend your family is gone. Try to see them as little as possible. Nothing sends you back into a depression and feelings of guilt more than going home on a weekend and listening to what color the interior of their new Jaguar should be. Or where they are going to summer. Also don't let them manipulate you into seeking a career that they want. They will try to play you off your siblings by giving them all sorts of things and shrug and tell you that you can have it to when you stop fooling around. The best thing I did was stop communicating with my parents unless it is socially required of me (holidays, etc.) and limit my contact with my friends. Even the hipster friends you have that claim to be slumming it. That apartment? Paid for. The meals? Paid for. They don't understand and it is really, really hard to be around those of a different tax bracket when you're scraping by in grad school.

I'm guessing you got some money funneled to you in undergrad. Be thankful for that and completely ignore them. Those false promises of your dad to help? It is manipulation. In fact unless they give you money with no strings attached it is manipulation. All my friends are becoming doctors, lawyers, art appraisers, etc. All sorts of boring careers deemed acceptable by the establishment. (don't even get me started about the weird French fourth republic thing they have about having a career in investing, etc. as that is too much money, and frankly reeks of antisemitism).

There's not too many people complaining about this as a lot of people just suck it up and do what their parents want and lead an easy life. And of course, everyone else totally is going to resent you for being broke when your parents are loaded. There's no easy answer, the best I've found is to completely ditch my family until I'm comfortable enough in my career and in finances that I can be around them. This sounds harsh and I don't think your parents (or mine) really mean to be such assholes. I just think money fucks things up and people just don't realize how much it fucks things up.
posted by geoff. at 8:47 AM on May 26, 2007 [10 favorites]


my parents paid for three years of undergrad, with the stipulation that i would pay for the fourth year. not because they couldn't afford it, but because they felt it was important i know the value of an education, and the value of shouldering responsibility for my future.

this is the same lesson your parents are trying to teach you now. it's an important one - so listen up and stop whinging about what you think you're entitled to. life owes you nothing, and if you haven't figured that out by now, then you need the lesson even more.
posted by wayward vagabond at 8:48 AM on May 26, 2007


"The only worse thing than being poor and in your 20s is to have rich parents and being poor and in your 20s."

How about being poor not just in your 20s, but your whole life? I'm sorry, I just don't have a lick of sympathy for this "But we're rich, and the rich are different" horseshit. So your friends get money from their parents— so what? So Paris Hilton's rich for no goddamned reason. So what?
I can tell you, from the other side of it, that while you might resent your parents, other people will resent you if you get the effortless layup. Further, people who know what real poverty looks like, not just living on ramen for a couple years in your 20s, will realize what a colossal ass you are for complaining about shit like this.
About the only fairness that comes out of this is that both you and the Asker are complaining of bitterness and discomfort based on flawed expectations— your unhappiness over this IS the rare cosmic come-uppance. Either learn to enjoy your life without money or be the engine of your own suffering.
posted by klangklangston at 8:57 AM on May 26, 2007 [11 favorites]


Seconding geoff. that most of the suck-it-uppers here probably can't relate to being in such close proximity to fortunes being blown on toys when one's own life- and career-making options rest on scant dollars and cents.

This is a more complicated family issue than people are allowing it to be here.
posted by hermitosis at 9:00 AM on May 26, 2007


This is a more complicated family issue than people are allowing it to be here.
I disagree. It's pretty simple. I've been poor through my 20s and don't plan to stop being poor until my kids are through college. If my kids expect me to take care of them through their 20s then I'm going to be poor even longer. If my folks were taking care of me after college I would have been a moocher. My dad worked his butt off to get to relax a little the last few years of his life. It was his money. Get a job and/or suck it up. You're not going to die of hunger going to grad school. So, no, it's not complicated.
posted by monkeymadness at 9:07 AM on May 26, 2007


Growing up in a world without a phone, the electricity and water being disconnected every few months, and told to make do for the school year with two pairs of pants, I can report that the notion that parents would be able to provide their children with opportunity and choose not to, or that one person in the family has enough to feed every selfish whim while another goes without and yet still refer to themselves collectively as a family--notwithstanding the self-serving cliff-huxtablish notion of "teaching an important lesson' that, conveniently, extends minimally to those lessons that are non-monetary--is incredibly offensive.
posted by troybob at 9:11 AM on May 26, 2007 [11 favorites]


Everyone here has given the essential advice (i.e., you can only make a few more diplomatic efforts to get your parents to help, and otherwise just make the best of it and explore the different educational and financial options you have), so I'll just add a few things.

Is part-time education an option? I got my B.A. that way, and paid for it all myself without ever incurring any debt.

I have a friend whose parents have been somewhat stingy with her despite their being comfortably well off and able to help her. I do shake my head over parents who could but won't help their kids out. BUT, to be honest, I find her my friend's attitude equally offputting. She has made as much or more than I have, and gotten as much or more help as I have (i.e., we both paid our own way through school; I paid for my own braces while her parents paid for hers.) I own a house; she has nothing but debts. If she'd concentrated on being responsible with the money she had, she'd be doing just fine now. Instead she tries to live at the level she thinks she deserves and then blames her parents for not helping her out more. This kind of attitude is very unbecoming to a thirtysomething, to say the least. A sense of entitlement is incredibly unattractive.

I'm not saying you're like my friend, of course. And it sucks to have parents who won't help you.

But since they won't, let it go, and concentrate on making sure you do everything you can to make the best of your financial situation.
posted by orange swan at 9:12 AM on May 26, 2007


Add another one to the list of people who paid for their own grad/professional school even though their parents could comfortably help out. In fact, add two. Both my sister and I are (still) paying for our graduate degrees. There comes a point when you need to cut the apron strings and get on with your own life. Why not after you graduate college?
posted by the christopher hundreds at 9:15 AM on May 26, 2007


They paid for college and I was on my own for grad school. It was always the expectation that this is how school would work.

Same here, and that's the way it should be.

most of the suck-it-uppers here probably can't relate to being in such close proximity to fortunes being blown on toys when one's own life- and career-making options rest on scant dollars and cents.

Jesus Christ. Why should we relate to that? Cry me a river. I guess this is why rich people only hang out with each other; when they hang out with normal people, they complain about how daddy didn't buy them the Porsche they wanted (and all their friends have!) and they don't get any sympathy.
posted by languagehat at 9:17 AM on May 26, 2007 [2 favorites]


I understand your resentment, but here's the thing: they don't agree with your chosen profession, so you're going this one alone. If your parents feel your area of study is a mistake, I don't think you can expect them to pay for it. It sucks, but if you can, choose to be proud of your decision rather than resentful. You're making a brave choice. No revenge could possibly be sweeter than for you to end up successful and happy.
posted by xammerboy at 9:18 AM on May 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


I think they should help. I think you're right to resent their not helping. They're your parents--not random strangers.

If they suddenly became broke and asked you for money, would it be right to deny them? If you decided to help them out, should you stop after 18 years because then we're all even? That's rubbish. Families help each other. Debt free. That's the difference between families and banks.
posted by who squared at 9:23 AM on May 26, 2007 [4 favorites]


You're an adult now. Good luck to you!
posted by Nelson at 9:23 AM on May 26, 2007


If they suddenly became broke and asked you for money, would it be right to deny them?

You don't seem to understand the difference between being broke (aka needing help) and not being able to afford something expensive you'd like (aka get a job and earn the money, dude).
posted by languagehat at 9:25 AM on May 26, 2007


Your parents owe you nothing, regardless of their means. Fending for yourself builds character.
posted by The Deej at 9:39 AM on May 26, 2007


Geoff thinks no one who is poor with wealthy family would disagree with you. Hi, I suggested, as a joke, that my parents name their latest boat "Cornell" after the school I got into and couldn't afford. But, see, that was a joke. Normal people joke about stuff like that, but don't actually EXPECT to be supported well into adulthood by their parents. My parents have worked their asses off every single day of their lives for what they have. I remember when mom worked three jobs just to make ends meet. And after that lifetime of work I'd rather seem them taking it easy in their 50s, and know they'll be set when they retire (god knows I can't help them!), then expect they support me as an adult simply because the money is there.

Which may, in fact, be the dividing line. I wasn't born into wealth, so I don't feel entitled to it.

To be completely honest, you sound like someone who has been handed many things in life without a lot of struggle or hardship. That, in and of itself, is not a fault (if only we could all be so fortunate!). However, the attitude you seem to have developed as a result of it is. You come across as though you feel entitled to your parents money. Shoot, you sound like you feel entitled to your mom's boyfriend's money.
Perhaps they're closing the purse strings at this point to try and stop that mindset in its tracks, and teach you the benefit of earning something through your own hard work?

The fact that you mention their incomes and your potential future earnings based on your field makes me also wonder if they worry this will be a lifelong issue. Help you now, and you'll be forever asking them for a little more so you can maintain the lifestyle you grew up with despite making far less than they did since, after all, they're rich and spend money on themselves all the time.

Yes, your parents are wealthy. You, however, are not, and have chosen a field where you most likely never will be. There's nothing wrong with that, I'm in the same boat myself, but it is something you need to come to terms with. No one owes you anything. I don't know a single person who had their folks pay for grad school, and yet, there they live and breathe, fully functioning adults with MAs and PhDs, having neither starved to death nor died in unfortunate milk steamer related accidents while slinging coffee to pay their way through school.

Be grateful for what you have now. So many people finish undergrad buried in debt, and get no help from their parents. Shoot, many families simply can't afford to help even though the loan folks say they can. Your mother paid for half. You have NO STUDENT LOAN DEBT! That's freaking amazing! It means that, even if you do take out loans now, you'll still be in a much better position than most people once you finish school.

And hey, worst case scenario... work a couple years. Once you hit 25 or so universities no longer look at your parents' income to determine aid, just your own. (working is a good idea in general, I know too many people who went straight into grad school and had trouble finding work after because employers wanted someone with some amount of experience, and not just a degree)
posted by Kellydamnit at 9:50 AM on May 26, 2007 [6 favorites]


I'm guessing your parents financial situation hasn't changed so much over the course of your undergrad career that they couldn't have provided more than limited financial assistance then, and yet they didn't.

So, the writing has been on the wall for a while. It sucks that they didn't do a better job of setting expectations, and it sucks that they won't help you out, but that's that.

Given their limited support when you were younger, it doesn't sound like things are suddenly going to go the other way now. Your mother & her husband aren't going to decide to help you out, and your dad isn't going to get his shit together and make good on his promises.

From a strictly practical standpoint, it's time to set out on your own. Nursing these unrealistic (given your family) expectations and resentments isn't going to do you any favors. We have a friend who's mother jerked her around over money for school, living and grad school for fifteen years. She even renegged on the terms of a business deal my friend totally met her end on because she decided my friend wouldn't handle the money responsibly. This provided my friend with a fair amount of misery that she's finally getting past now that she's achieved on her own. Her half-sister, on the other hand, has been well supported: an expensive private arts education, expensive professional training, a Manhattan apartment, etc. The flip side of this is that she's still her mother's increasingly thread worn puppet.

I hate to say this, but money is in no way a proxy or substitute for love. Time to remove it from the relationship with your parents all together.
posted by Good Brain at 9:51 AM on May 26, 2007


I don't think it is a matter of whether the parents "owe" anything. I think the question is more: If you have more than enough to spend on feeding your every casual whim, and yet you say you cannot help me out with maximizing my own opportunities (it's not as if he's asking to sit back and do nothing and be supported), then on what basis do we define ourselves, together, as family? It reminds me of married people who keep their incomes and bank accounts separate, as if success and wealth were purely individual. If family is not mutual support, the idea that we're in this together, then it's little more than sentimental formality.
posted by troybob at 9:59 AM on May 26, 2007 [3 favorites]


If you needed medical treatment that you couldn't afford, and they wouldn't help you, that would be wrong.

You aren't.

You're making an adult, elective choice to pursue further education. It looks like part of that education will be learning how to pay for the things you want by yourself.

IMHO That may be the most valuable lesson you will get
from grad school.

Your parents' money is theirs, not yours. If you decided you wanted to experience Europe for 6 months, would you expect them to fund that too? That would be educational.
posted by mazienh at 10:02 AM on May 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


I've been poor through my 20s and don't plan to stop being poor until my kids are through college. If my kids expect me to take care of them through their 20s then I'm going to be poor even longer.

Sort of proves my point that you aren't able to see outside of your own experience and take the problem at face value.

If this user is 24 or under, then he/she can't get adequate financial aid because until that age you must still report your parents' income, whether or not they will be actually helping you. So the poster's family wealth is already a roadblock to getting many forms of financial assistance.

And this isn't about crying for poor rich kids who can't get nice things. In fact, I'm sort of surprised to find such classist knee-jerk reactions coming from people when the poster has demonstrated that s/he put him/herself through the second half of and is generally getting by all alone. This a family problem, in which a certain expectation has been allowed to flourish and is now being denied. Whether or not you can relate because of the zeroes ahead of the decimal point, it is a big problem for the poster.

All suffering is not ennobling, so just because yours may have been doesn't mean that will help the poster. The truth is, it is very difficult to adjust to any radical economic shift, no matter how far one may be from the bottom of the barrel, and such a shift can be made all the crueler when the people one looks to for emotional support are unsympathetic or totally (and even willfully oblivious).

My parents were unable to pay to put me through college, which they found galling and humiliating, because to a poor family that seems like the only way out for your kids. You can bet your ass that if I had demonstrated a willingness to work hard and a degree of financial responsibility, and had they been able to afford it, they would have offered all the support they could, hands down. So as long as we're projecting our own stories onto the poster's, as well as our envy or contempt, we might as well also keep in mind that we are here to help if possible, not to judge, and if you can't do one or refrain from the other, then why comment at all?
posted by hermitosis at 10:04 AM on May 26, 2007 [8 favorites]


I would like to state that I am totally on board with klangklangston and languagehat. Your position is the equivalent of complaining about a 33 foot boat or a 36 foot boat. Not a bad problem to have. The problem is that your parents are manipulating you with money and will continue to. Either ignore them ore not, and the emotional toll will be real no matter how many people mock you. You cannot be caught thinking whether they should or not, that's completely irrelevant.
posted by geoff. at 10:16 AM on May 26, 2007


If this user is 24 or under, then he/she can't get adequate financial aid because until that age you must still report your parents' income, whether or not they will be actually helping you. So the poster's family wealth is already a roadblock to getting many forms of financial assistance.

This is a good point. As someone who has parents who don't make a whole lot of money and has gotten financial aid, I can only imagine how hard it must be to have no financial aid or contribution from parents. I think your parents should help you pay for something, but I don't think you can force them. Maybe try to reason with them. Let them know how bad things are.
posted by j-urb at 10:22 AM on May 26, 2007


Hermitosis, college is not graduate school and I never implied that "suffering is ennobling". Financial aid is provided for many graduate programs regardless of family situation. If he can't afford the program on his own, then he can choose a different one that pays for itself. Mom an dad aren't under any obligation to pay for anything they don't fully support at this point in the game.

Sort of proves my point that you aren't able to see outside of your own experience
Isn't the point of asking here to gain perspective from people who have been through different circumstances?
posted by monkeymadness at 10:30 AM on May 26, 2007


I got nothing from the day I was 18 and graduated high school. Now, 12 years of higher education later and $250,000 in school loans I'm actually pretty ok with it. I grieved over it for like my first 6 months of college when I worked more hours than I went to classes and ate microwave popcorn for dinner for months. But once I got over the fact that life wasn't fair, my parents were selfish pricks when it came to money, that I was an adult now and if I wanted to make something of my life, it was up to ME. It's a pretty liberating experience and when I look back on where I am now, it's because *I* fucking did it and no in my family told me what do with my life. I am still close with my parents personally but we have taken money entirely out of the equation. Geoff above is right that money really changes your family relations, and not in a positive way. In fact, when we have dealings over money now (family property, wedding expenses, vacations) things get personal and resentful and it's just places distance between us.

Interestingly, My wife went through the same schooling as me but got a full ride from her parents. Now I see that her parents have far different expectations from her than my parents do for me. In many ways she is still their child at age 35; they still send her money for incidentals like clothing but they also expect that she do things like fly cross country so she can go with her mother to her doctor's appointment and she has a difficult time saying no.

There are all different family dynamics that exist out there and the way a family deals with money reflects those dynamics much more than it reflects how much money they actually have to spend. No, it's not unreasonable to expect your wealthy parents help you out more but they haven't yet and I'm not sure it's healthy to try and force the issue. Millions of grad students before you have figured out how to do this on their own and you can too.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:38 AM on May 26, 2007 [2 favorites]


Your parents are jerks, welcome to the club.
posted by Grod at 10:47 AM on May 26, 2007


Student loans are just numbers on paper. I lived comfortably and ate well in grad school, I live well and eat well now. I still have choices where I can live and the work I do. When I chose to stop working for a while, I took an economic hardship forebearance on my loan payments. Yes, I'd really rather have *no* debt, but given the constraints of the real world, things worked out fine with student loans.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:48 AM on May 26, 2007


No.

However, if you're under 24, and their financials are adversely impacting your ability to get a loan or other scholarship/assistance (because of the way the forms work, where they make you put down your parents' income regardless), then I think it might be fair to ask them for a loan. But I think you should put the terms in writing (when you'll pay it back, etc.), and understand that it's not "free money."

You're on your own now.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:53 AM on May 26, 2007


I would think along the lines of "if my parents were not ridiculously wealthy, would I expect them to bust their asses to pay for my grad school?"

If you wouldn't want them to help you out if they were poor, then you shouldn't expect them to help you out if they are wealthy. It seems superficial.

Plus, if you do make it through grad school, you always have the pride of doing it on your own. That's a big deal.
posted by thehmmhmm at 10:53 AM on May 26, 2007


There was a comparable situation in my family some years ago. Impoverished student ended up dropping out for solely financial reasons near the end of a degree; wealthy parent nearby refused to help in the least.

Parent and child didn't speak for over a decade. I did not blame the offspring in the least. There was eventual reconciliation and some regret over time lost, but. It struck me as the dignified thing to do; probably beat the two of them squabbling. You might want to consider a less dramatic break from your family, for a much shorter period.

Your father's being a jerk. I think a lot of people here don't have a good handle on your situation at all.

I am not suggesting that parents are obligated or expected to fork over for grad school -- just that it's rather sad when your family won't -- not can't -- help you when you need help; much worse, and probably very embittering, if they repeatedly promise to but don't follow through. It's a lousy way to have to define "family."

One feels, I think, rather embarassed to be eating ramen when one's parents are well-off.
posted by kmennie at 10:54 AM on May 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


I just re-read your question and realized that you are not asking whether you should try to extract money from your parents, just whether it's wrong to feel resentful about the lack of support. No, it's not wrong. You've cut your financial umbilical cord and that's a life event worth grieving over.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:54 AM on May 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Obviously, all families are different in this regard, but... seriously? At what point are you going to say "Well, now I'm an adult, now my parents have zero financial obligations toward me"?

After they've paid for your graduate education? Your wedding? Your new car? Your condo?

Your question makes me feel impatient and irritated, and I mention that because I'm guessing that the way you approach your parents about this makes them feel impatient and irritated, as well. They do NOT owe you anything, at this point. It's kind and generous of them to help you out, but you're not owed it. That's a totally different dynamic, and if you're coming into the conversation like that, you're going to make them testy.

So no, I don't think they're obligated to help you. But I think, if your parents are well-off, it's fair of you to draw up a very specific proposal - and not one that goes "Please foot the entire cost of my education, thank you!" - as to what kind of financial support you would like. Ask for something fair and reasonable. If you're asking for a no- or low-interest loan, suggest terms. If you're asking for a gift, say so. If you're asking for a monthly stipend, say so.

But you have to go into that knowing that they have the absolute right to say no.

I was totally financially retarded for most of my twenties, and even I can't really imagine going "Mom, Dad, I'd like you to buy me a 200k education as a gift! You owe it to me, because... well, you just do!"

So I imagine that you've got your money stuff tied up with some other stuff, stuff that won't get fixed by Daddy writing you a check. You know what I mean?
posted by thehmsbeagle at 10:54 AM on May 26, 2007


Your parents are what they are, and there's really no benefit to you from resenting them over this. If you're sure that what they are doing is a mistake, try to see it as the result of weakness. Remember that even though they might have a lot more money and experience than you they are still fundamentally human and fallible.

Also, when your studies seem frustrating, unpleasant and boring you will draw strength from the fact that you're doing it all yourself. When someone else is footing the bill it just adds to the feeling of worthlessness when you're having a hard time motivating yourself.
posted by teleskiving at 11:01 AM on May 26, 2007


[a few comments removed. if you can't resist the urge to say fuck you to the OP or call them a whiny bitch, take that unpleasantness to METATALK and stop crapping in the thread here, thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 11:01 AM on May 26, 2007


It sounds like your parents have traditionally (those first 18 years of your life are very formative here) used money as their way of expressing love and support. At a certain point parents necessarily start privileging their monetary needs and desires over those of their children. If there isn't a loving relationship that continues despite that shift, resentment builds.

Though it will mean more expenditure on your part, I think now' is probably a good time to get yourself some therapy. Find new ways to understand and live your relationship with your parents.
posted by wemayfreeze at 11:07 AM on May 26, 2007


Hold off on grad school until you're 25 so that your parents' income doesn't count against you when applying for aid.

And no, they have no obligation to help you.
posted by k8t at 11:25 AM on May 26, 2007


I see I am in the minority, but I would say not helping family members when you can do so is messed up and I don't blame you for being resentful. I also wouldn't blame you for wanting to kick all the people keening, "This is a lesson in adulthood." My mom, who was super poor when I was little and makes high five figures now, paid for high school, paid what college she could, and then paid off one of my loans after college, because she felt bad I had to take out so much. She helped me buy a condo. Why? Because I am her kid and she wants what is best for me. And you know what? I still value hard work and my education and am profoundly thankful and blah blah blah. I am especially thankful I have a family that acts like one and doesn't create suffering to "teach a lesson" or whatever other sick explanations people come up with for an overactive punitive drive. I am sorry your parents are jerks.
posted by dame at 11:29 AM on May 26, 2007 [10 favorites]


Fascinating thread. I have nothing more to offer the conversation in terms of whether or not your parents morally should help you pay for graduate school. But, one point you might consider is whether, financial hardship aside, it really is going to be best for you to have them pay for it. I'm not talking about the make-your-way, "build character" argument, but in terms of whether you really want to have those kinds of family financial strings tangled up in your ability to make sense of your graduate school career and life choices beyond that. As Emerson said, "Money often costs too much." Grad school can be great time for some people, quite painful and miserable for others. Most people I know in grad school have questioned their choices at least once, and I know that I contemplated quitting many-a time. I didn't, but I'm glad that I could have without having to deal with the weird baggage of worrying whether my parents would feel I'd "wasted" their money. The ultimate satisfaction is that the choices were mine, not conflated with others' expectations or my obligations to them. Plenty of others have gone through grad school, only to realize that the career they trained for and thought they wanted wasn't for them. So...I'd consider whether your parents are the types to claim some sense of ownership over your choices by virtue of the money they give you to help you act on them. If so, you might be best off without their help: you'll owe the bank perhaps (assuming you can't get by with TAs/RAs, etc.), but own your own soul.
posted by shelbaroo at 11:30 AM on May 26, 2007 [2 favorites]


whoops, on preview teleskiving said it just as well and more concisely to boot.
posted by shelbaroo at 11:33 AM on May 26, 2007


I don't think parents are obliged to pay for college or grad school, but I do think they are obliged to disclose to their children what to expect as a minimum. I've known students who completely swung in the breeze financially because their parents' word meant exactly nothing, and that's a pretty brutal lesson to learn as a fledgling grownup.

Looking over your question, it would appear that your mother is telling you what to expect and delivering on that, and your father isn't. I would tuck that knowledge about them away so that you can calibrate your expectations later (unfortunately, this probably will come up again in other forms), and get on with making your way through life.

There will always be people your age who have more money/get better breaks/look nicer/smell better. That doesn't change. Your perception of how much it matters can, though.
posted by gnomeloaf at 11:48 AM on May 26, 2007


Most people I know in grad school have questioned their choices at least once, and I know that I contemplated quitting many a time. I didn't, but I'm glad that I could have without having to deal with the weird baggage of worrying whether my parents would feel I'd "wasted" their money.

Exactly. I was telling my wife about this thread at lunch, and the same point occurred to me. I felt bad enough about bailing out of grad school when it just meant wasting my own time and money; if my parents had invested money in the hope of helping me to achieve the academic career I thought I wanted, I would have felt truly horrible—in fact, I might not have been able to bring myself to leave, which would have been really bad. Do it yourself and have only yourself to worry about.
posted by languagehat at 11:52 AM on May 26, 2007


Think of it another way: if you (anon) were the one with all the money and your parents posted a question to AskMe, what would you think? Assume they felt they were entitled to have you pay for their move to an active lifestyle retirement community as an investment in their enjoyment and comfort in their future on earth. Assume also that you didn't support the move to that community for one reason or another, and that they have other options that wouldn't leave them out in the cold.

Are they entitled to make this decision unilaterally and send you the bill because they're your family and you're well to do? Or does your expectation of support from them really stem from your clinging to your role as their child?

Geoff and hermitosis, please print out this thread and send it to your parents. I bet they'll smack their foreheads and try to figure out where they went wrong. To articulate the argument that your parents should be compelled to pay for your adult development because all the other kids' parents shower them with toys and money is to regress back to adolescence.
posted by nadise at 11:52 AM on May 26, 2007


Also--what kind of graduate program are you looking at that is going to cost $60k and doesn't offer funding? If it is in the humanities and you are hoping to become a college professor, back out now.
posted by LarryC at 11:56 AM on May 26, 2007


I think that your parents' not approving of your career path means that you pretty much have to take out the loans. My own folks, God bless 'em, supported me monetarily through all my professional schooling, but they agreed that that profession was in general a worthwhile thing to do if a person had the interest and the aptitude to do it.

If they had thought it was a stupid thing to do, I guess I couldn't have expected that kind of support.

I wonder why your folks don't approve of your choice. You didn't say much about that here, but it's probably important. You don't say much about them either but they sound like people who know what it takes to be successful, money-wise at least, and maybe in other ways as well; they supported two kids through college, for instance.

I hope that you can carefully consider all their advice and cautions; I'd guess that in the end, that advice will be worth way more than $60K to you.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:18 PM on May 26, 2007


To articulate the argument that your parents should be compelled to pay for your adult development because all the other kids' parents shower them with toys and money is to regress back to adolescence.

To articulate the argument that parents are completely justified in arbitrarily cutting off support and think they're acting like good family members is pretty crass. I'm not sure where you come from that family members don't help one another out if one really needs it and the other can afford it, but I'm glad I'm not from the same place.
posted by oaf at 12:21 PM on May 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Most of you people are forgetting one really, really BIG thing: you can't take the money with you.

Therefore, what's the point in dying with it in the bank while your kids struggle? Does that really make sense?
posted by who squared at 12:30 PM on May 26, 2007 [3 favorites]


Your parents are miserably short-sighted, at best.

Right now they have better things to do with their money than help you; in fifteen or twenty years, when they are ill and confronting their mortality, and long for just a few words, you will have better things to do with your time.
posted by jamjam at 12:35 PM on May 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


I think it's natural to feel resentment, and I agree with the people here who say families should help each other out. However, I think there's an unhealthy dynamic created when parents continue to offer significant financial support to their children past college, which seems to be the natural cut off for most of the commenters here (and mine). (I'm not talking about paying for your cancer-ridden adult child's chemo, but about paying for a kid's expensive choice.)

People are getting heated up in this thread, saying the parents are causing their child to suffer. It sucks that they could help but won't, but is it really suffering to have to pay for your own graduate education (or first home, or wedding, etc.)? Of course not--it just means delaying gratification (go part time or work a few years first) and earning something on your own. These are not bad things, and your parents are not forcing you into horrible suffering for having to do them.

I would say, stew about it and let yourself resent them for awhile. Then move on and realize that you'll probably be better off w/o their help.
posted by Mavri at 12:57 PM on May 26, 2007


People keep saying that you have to report your parents finances on financial aid applications if you're under 25. Can someone point to a source on this?

In section 2 of the FAFSA worksheet here, it asks "At the beginning of the 2007-2008 school year, will you be working on a master's or doctorate program (such as an MA, MBA, MD, JD, PhD, EdD or graduate certificate, etc.)? (Q49)".

Then at the bottom of that section it says "If you answered 'yes' to ANY of the previous questions, you do not have to provide parental information".

Also, have you asked your parents why they don't want to give you their money? Maybe they feel the need to teach you a life lesson or something.
posted by chndrcks at 12:57 PM on May 26, 2007


chndrcks--I don't think it's the FAFSA, but other financial aid apps that require this, like private loans. I started law school at age 29 and NYU required my parents' financial info, which royally pissed them off (not b/c they were horrible selfish people but b/c of the implication that they should still be financially supporting someone approaching 30).
posted by Mavri at 1:02 PM on May 26, 2007


What about looking at the question another way? I mean, whether or not your "should" feel resentful (or even whether you're justified in feeling resentful), the fact is, you do feel resentful.

Given that, how do you proceed?

I would suggest doing a cost-benefit analysis of resentment itself. Examine very closely what feeling resentful actually gains you. Does it gain you the funding you want? Does it gain you the relationship with your parents that you want? Does it bring peace of mind? It sounds like the answer is "no" on all counts. But the resentment likely serves some other purpose. Only you can really say what that is.

Now consider what the process of letting go of resentment might bring you. It will probably spell the end of your expectations of your parents, as well as your expectations of your immediate (and perhaps long-term) goals. But it might also spell the opportunity for a more reality-based relationship with your parents, as well as more responsible (and ultimately satisfying) ways to take charge of your own future by starting to live life on your own terms and solely through your own efforts, without being tied to their money and the family drama that necessarily omes with it.

In other words: you probably can't change the situation. But you can certainly start to change your response to it.
posted by scody at 1:04 PM on May 26, 2007 [3 favorites]


Also a lot of scholarships are need-based, or were when I was looking. NYU is something of an anomaly, in my somewhat limited experience. When I was looking to go there they flat out said that the ability for parents to pay was considered in the application process.
posted by geoff. at 1:04 PM on May 26, 2007


My parents, who are not well off, refused to help with my university costs. They earned slightly more than the cut-off amount for student loans/aid, so I was not even able to qualify for the bursaries and loans that other people had available. As a result, I lived in poverty throughout university. I lived in nasty situations, worked throughout school, had no time (or money) for a social life, and had to maintain top marks so that I could have scholarships. I missed out on networking opportunities, especially because I could not socialize with the students (and prods) most likely to gain middle class positions upon graduation. It took me six years to do my undergrad. To this day, employers grill me about why I took so long, even though my resume clearly shows that I worked throughout school. My parents could not have afforded to pay for my entire education, but they surely could have found a way to pay for something. I had to live on less money than kids who got student loans. The only upshot is that I graduated without debt. But it was a lot harder to get a good job when I graduated and I lacked the social connections to move around. Fortunately, I worked hard and was eventually able to move up fairly quickly.

I worked for a couple of years, then went back for a (privatized) MBA. I had to put myself through that too. I missed out on networking opportunities again, because I couldn't afford to blow $50 on dinner or $20 on beer. Meanwhile, my classmates entered the real estate market. By the time I graduated, housing prices had doubled.

Again, my parents were not in the position of the original poster. But there seems to be this idea among some parents that putting yourself through school builds character. The problem is that society is not set up to accommodate or reward this. You miss out on loads, aid, volunteer time, the best internships (because you have to make decisions based on money), networking and even connecting with profs who can refer you to grad school. You have more pressure to get good grades, so you can maintain scholarships. In a world where everyone is in this boat, it would be okay.

So, although I can't understand coming from wealth, I can understand how frustrating it is to lack financial support. It's not just the need to make money and budget accordingly. You miss out on far, far more than that. In my case, it probably took till I was 30 to catch up on the social capital...but, even then, your career is still behind and probably always will be.
posted by acoutu at 1:11 PM on May 26, 2007 [6 favorites]


I was in a similar situation 20 years ago with my parents, in that they were stingy to a fault for years before the grad school situation. They had plenty of money, but disliked spending it on my sisters and I. So, like you, there was plenty of resentment built up even before grad school. That, I think, is the crux of the matter here: if your parents had been generous up to this point, the grad school decision would be far easier to swallow, but your relationship was already going sour.

Here's the thing: it was ultimately very liberating to not have to be "grateful" to my parents for anything - I paid for everything (including undergrad) with loans and work. In fact, my father forced me to pay him back with sizable interest for my first (used, rundown) car that I needed for working to pay for the above mentioned jobs. I couldn't get a loan on my own, and he wouldn't cosign.

I eventually became very successful and it was the best feeling in the world to feel absolutely no obligation
to the people who had been so stingy to me.

So, yes it's okay to feel resentment of the way you've been treated up to this point, but frankly, it's time to set aside those feelings, step off on your own, and make your own way.
posted by Flakypastry at 1:22 PM on May 26, 2007


Man up: you're an adult, responsible for your own life. If they choose to assist you, that's great and you should be properly appreciative. If they choose not to help you - for whatever reason - you have no right to feel angry, sad, upset, etc. As parents, they have done what they are obligated to do - anything beyond that is pure gravy and NOT to be expected.

If you can't shake the negative feelings, you need to do some more introspection (such as this AskMe question - good for you). Counseling? Possibly.

Be grateful for you have, what you've received so far, and then take charge of your life.
posted by davidmsc at 1:23 PM on May 26, 2007


I support myself most of the time teaching English abroad, but I don't make much money doing this (so little, in fact, that I haven't had to start paying my student loans back yet), and my family has been gracious enough to offer me assistance when I've needed it with no questions asked. By federal definition, I am poor when my income is turned back into dollars. There's no way I can afford to rent an apartment or own a car here in the US on what I make overseas.

My parents understand this, but are frankly ecstatic that I'm doing something I love, which they were never able to do at my age, and are willing to help me make my dreams happen, even if they don't fit within someone else's definition of success.

They aren't rich by any means of the word - they make just about 100% of the median income for our ZIP code - but when I'm between "real" jobs like I am now, or transitioning to something new, they're happy to have me around for a few months on their dime, especially given that I might go a year without seeing them face to face.

So: are you right to feel resentful that they won't help you at all? Of course! To be cut off, at whatever income level, is a painful emotional experience, especially if you weren't planning on it. It's almost like grieving, really - it takes a while to work through, and until you get yourself sorted out with loans, grants, and other funding arrangements you'll probably feel this way. It might be worth talking to your school's counseling department about making it through this in a healthy way.

Congrats on getting into grad school, and best of luck.
posted by mdonley at 1:57 PM on May 26, 2007


I'm not sure where you come from that family members don't help one another out if one really needs it and the other can afford it

I'm not sure you understand the meaning of "really needs." Why don't you calculate the percentage of the population that's in grad school, and then decide how the vast majority of the population is managing despite lacking this vital experience.

To be cut off, at whatever income level, is a painful emotional experience... It's almost like grieving, really...

And yet some of us managed to leap right over the whole "grieving" experience to "acceptance" so fast we didn't even notice the pain! If only someone had told me I should be resenting my parents all those years ago...
posted by languagehat at 2:09 PM on May 26, 2007


I don't understand why so many people seem to think it's expected for parents to pay for undergrad but not grad school. Why should undergrad be any different?
posted by Violet Hour at 2:19 PM on May 26, 2007


Late to the party, but here's my two cents - I think you’re absolutely right to have your feelings. There’s nothing irrational about them - they’re your feelings, not rational decisions you’ve made after careful deliberation. You can’t control how you feel, only how you choose to act given how you feel. In fact, getting wrapped up in how much you resent your parents for controlling you through withholding financial assistance is allowing them to control you on yet another level. Well, screw that.

To hell with them, I say. Have no expectations of them. Quietly tell them to get bent, and take out loans and/or seek out any scholarships available to you. Then, resolve that you will have a monthly re-payment to make for many years hence.

One of the proudest days of my adult life was receiving one of my student loan promissory notes stamped “Paid in Full” in the mail after ten years of monthly bills which I and I alone paid. I’m still paying off the other, but have, in the course of these many years since graduating from college, paid off over three-quarters of that one, too.

As for how how to deal with your resentment: Find a counselor, a therapy group, take up running, lift weights or hit the heavy bag a few times a week to work out your resentment - you'll sleep better, feel better, and get healthier in many ways.

I wish my parents had been paragons of selflessness, unconditional love and support, nurturance, the whole bit. They aren’t and weren’t. And here I am, happy in spite of it, almost debt free, well educated in my chosen field, and I don’t owe them a thing. It’s pretty great. Best of luck.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 2:46 PM on May 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


There are a lot of really hard-ass answers on here. What's up with this "push 'em out of the nest young, so they learn to fly" attitude?

Obviously I'm not a member of your family, so there is a lot I can't see in terms of dynamics. But if my folks were buying sappphire-encrusted beanies with mechanized propellors, or paying a trainer several million dollars to teach their Maltese pilates, and letting me languish on skid row while I scraped together the nickles to make myself franks n' beans after tuition time, yeah, I'd be pissed. I don't blame you.

I'm sure they think they are teaching you some good old-fashioned American values. Pull up your bootstraps, Horatio Alger, if you work hard enough, you'll appreciate what you get. If it's handed to you, you'll be like those horrible children on My Super Sweet Sixteen. But I do think there's a solution that lies somewhere in between.

Good luck.
posted by Lieber Frau at 3:04 PM on May 26, 2007 [2 favorites]


that most of the suck-it-uppers here probably can't relate to being in such close proximity to fortunes being blown on toys when one's own life- and career-making options rest on scant dollars and cents.

I don't think this is true at all -- I think most of the suck-it-uppers here probably paid their way through grad school, or actually, secured funding. If it is a PhD program, you just shouldn't be doing it if you can't secure funding. If you can't secure funding somehow, you probably won't do that well in the program, and you certainly won't be competitive on the academic job market (if that is the goal). A PhD is neither necessary nor sufficient for making a life or career, though it may perhaps seem otherwise from the outside. (I realize that law/med/b-school are different, but it doesn't sound like that's what the poster has in mind.)

In fact, most of the people responding this way probably decided on their own to be independent around this time in their life (resulting in the disconnect with the poster's perspective, and the annoyance at the apparent sense of entitlement).
posted by advil at 3:21 PM on May 26, 2007


I think there are so many suck it up answers partly from the early emphasis in the thread on "obligation." Frankly, most parents in this situation do pay for such schooling, fully, and at the very least help out. I completely think the resentment is normal, but the poster needs to move beyond that. In the end he/she will be stronger for this experience, and then sometime later, will inherit much of what is sorely missed now.
posted by caddis at 3:42 PM on May 26, 2007


Late to the party, but solidly in the "no" crowd. Really, you should be happy you're parents are well off and can reasonably retire without putting a financial burden on you later on. That alone is worth the 60k a year. Really, you have a pretty good situation - your future earning are going to stay yours - so go out and get some future earnings.....
posted by elwoodwiles at 5:19 PM on May 26, 2007


Will the suck-it-uppers be as strident in telling your parents that they should not expect help from you as they become aged and infirm? After all your parents are ADULTS right? Fully responsible for themselves, right?
posted by turbojav at 5:37 PM on May 26, 2007 [4 favorites]


I don't see this as an issue of money at all - it's one of love. It's disturbing that your relationship with your parents sucks so much that you are in this situation. If you followed an approved career path, would they give you money? If so, they are trying to manipulate you - you don't want their money. Do they really not care what your circumstances are? If so, they're selfish & self-absorbed, and you don't want their money.

What is/was your family life like? Why don't your parents care?

We have one child. We'll pay for her undergraduate degree. We can, we've planned for it, and frankly, I consider it the responsiblity of any parent in today's society. Don't have children you can't afford to educate. We waited a decade to have our first - and only - child for that reason.

I don't feel any obligation at all to pay for her graduate degree. We might help. We don't want her living in an unsafe environment. We don't want her eating garbage. We would certainly prefer that she support herself, but her health and safety will always be paramount.

As a parent, I don't understand your parents. I do think what they're telling you is, you don't matter much to them, and you don't owe them much in return. Remember that. Then try to do better than they have done.

In the end, cars, money, prestige don't count for much. Your social status is an illusion, one way or the other. If you have a job you want to do, and that job is not high-paying, your social status has already changed. You are moving to a level of income/debt appropriate for your new status. You need to make that mental adjustment.

I think your family should help you, but they are in no way obligated to do so. A lot of parents suck. Remember that - learn from it - do better.
posted by clarkstonian at 5:47 PM on May 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Although you start off with the question and title "Should parents finance grad school?" I think (as several posters pointed out) that the core of the matter now is how to deal with them saying no. At this point, don't count on changing their minds, no matter if it is a perceived injustice or not. The thing to think about is how to deal with the resentment you wrote about and what sort of relationship you want to have with your parents in the future.

I read your post, but I missed the part where you said that you had talked about your feelings with your parents or what they said when you did that. Yes, they disapprove of your chosen career path. Does that mean that they disapprove of you? Or (more likely) is this a more complex dynamic?

Something to think about also is that your feelings are just that: feelings. What really counts is how you choose to deal with them. Although it's healthy to express them and make sure your parents understand, your feelings don't have to control your words or actions.

You've taken a big step in asking for advice. I suggest that you work now not on getting your parents to pay for grad school, but rather on deciding what sort of relationship you want to have with them in the future.
posted by Robert Angelo at 6:04 PM on May 26, 2007


What the hell is money *for* if not to help your children have the best chance in life? This is not a wedding or a fancy car, this is 40 years of working life, and fucking GOODWILL towards one's family member (which, incidentally, one CHOSE to bring into this world). It's downright stingy when they are as rich as in this poster's question. You have every right to be resentful, but of course dealing with that resentment can be tricky.

I can understand a middle-class family not bending over backwards and eating ramen themselves to provide their kids with grad school, but these parents are loaded. (That said, forget about mom's boyfriend's money). It costs them little in the grand scheme of things to help the poster.

And even considering all that, I don't know much about grad school but I'd seriously consider what many respondents in this thread are saying about how it can be (at least largely?) self-financed.

If I had the money, there would be zero question about me supporting my child. I can't think of a better investment of my money than my own flesh and blood, embarking on her future and working to live her dreams. If I can better enable that, then I would be grateful for the opportunity.
posted by marble at 7:49 PM on May 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


The idea of having parents pay for even an undergrad degree just seems so foreign to me. I'll be starting my undergrad next year and I never once even considered my parents paying my way.
posted by PuGZ at 9:42 PM on May 26, 2007


This thread is swimming in 'shoulds'. That's not a particularly useful word. Your expectations are causing you some pain. If you can let go of them, you just might find some relief.

Everybody's opinion here on whether you should be feeling resentment or not is just noise. You aren't going to find some correct opinion. Allow yourself to have the feeling. Accept it. Lose interest in whether the feeling is 'right'. Stay focused on the future.
posted by BigSky at 9:51 PM on May 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Here's some perspective no one's mentioned yet:

You are resentful for your parents passively hindering your opportunities through their inaction and unwillingness to help, which is understandable on both sides.

However, I suggest you be thankful that they're not the type of parents who ACTIVELY hinder you opportunities. I know people who's lives have been damn neared destroyed by toxic, thieving, lying parents. At least they're the type of parents who allow you to go your own way and don't break into your apartment looking for money to buy crack.
posted by milarepa at 10:10 PM on May 26, 2007


Do I have irrational expectations?

Yes. Be grateful that they paid for part of your undergrad. Say thank you, and then act like a grownup and start paying your own way.
posted by meghanmiller at 11:04 PM on May 26, 2007


marble: What the hell is money *for*...

That's each individual's decision; you may think it's to give you the best possible start in life, but that's just one view. Some people live simply and accumulate wealth just so they can give it all away to charity when they die; some people loose it all on the horses -- if it's their money, it's their choice.

The one thing I haven't seen mentioned is the source of the wealth.

If your parents are affluent because of family money or inheritance, then the expectation that that advantage should flow to the next generation isn't unreasonable. On the other hand, if their money was accumulated through their own hard work you have no claim on it, no matter how much you wish they would give it to you. It's entirely reasonable to resent their apparent stinginess, but you should see your resentment for what it is -- your own problem, not theirs. It's like so much of the mental baggage that weighs us down: jettison it, or otherwise get past it, for the sake of your own sanity.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 11:32 PM on May 26, 2007


*tsk tsk*, silly Americans and their oft bizarre hypocritical, egalitarian view of class. (Oops, did I just say something unmentionable in polite conversation?).

The basic problem is that we, as a society, are all so poor that we gleefully choose to inflict restriction and deprivation on each other, rather than be kind and generous. Meanwhile, the ultra-rich exist in insular, invisible bubbles doing whatever they want, and since most of us never even see it we feel no sense of outrage. America seems to exhibit this paradox more than any other culture, due to the enormous wealth gaps, and even more paradoxically, it doesn't seem to bother us very much. But it should.

Yet if someone announces that their parents could pay for their grad school, oh man, watch out, the mob of poor people who think they are "middle-class" will assemble with pitchforks and torches, and prevent a moral outrage from occuring! This mob is rather comparable to protesters who stalk abortion clinic entry ways.

What I see here in the comments is a lot of people who's anecdotal advice is obviously the bitter result of having to go through varying degrees of hardship and sacrifice in order to achieve particular rungs on that venerable simulation we call the University hierarchy.

Then if someone else who has a more fortunate opportunity complains, well you should just "STFU" and "like it" too, because "I worked a dozen jobs and sacrificed myself entirely in order to avoid leeching off of anybody else", which then leads to the bizarre world view which is easily exploited by the ultra-rich Republican-Fascists where "I don't owe the world a damn thing", and anyone who expects assistance for such luxuries as education is a "goddamed socialist lazy bum".

I think this all is very much the weak attitude of peasants, to blame and fight each other rather than to coordinate against and ultimately change the larger social structure in play--the very structure that
determines who even gets a shot at being successful.

I think it's a wrong world we live in when only the very rich are able to go to grad school. Americans are renowned for their ignorance of other countries and cultures, so I'll just note that this is not how it is at all in many other countries.

Why does a fucking PhD in anything even cost 60k per year? Why has the government, the business sector and the intelligentsia colluded to impose such a shortage of educational supply which leads to absurd competition and irrationally high prices(and a not so well educated graduate)?
Why has our culture become so selfish, materialistic
and deluded by the notion that we have an automatic entitlement to accumulate as much as possible, waste it on meaningless, conspicuous consumption that we are now blinded to the ancient human tendencies of sharing and generosity?

No man is an island, and no matter how much anyone has personally earned whatever their lot in life is, they still must share it to some degree with the people whom they have relationships with. To not do so is just inhuman, cruel and tyrannical. So the timeless and unanswerable problem becomes to what extent is anyone obligated to share their possessions?

I think if one's parents have millions of dollars, and you have a good relationship with them, then it seems very weird for them to not be sharing in a way that is natural for their temperament and situation.
posted by archae at 12:13 AM on May 27, 2007 [6 favorites]


If your dream were to become a movie star, I don't think anyone would say that your parents should be obligated to support you financially until you make it big in Hollywood. We certainly wouldn't say they're turning their back on you or failing as parents if they didn't pay your rent or pay for acting classes or give you enough money so that you didn't have to wait tables while you auditioned for movies.

While many of us here would probably say that your educational and career goals are more worthy of support than that one, your parents apparently disagree. They think that you're making a poor choice, and it's not one that they want to support financially. They're not abandoning you in a time of need, they're not leaving you impoverished or destitute. They're just saying that you're going to have to pursue this particular career path without their financial support.
posted by decathecting at 12:17 AM on May 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


I think that you have justifiable reasons for feeling upset - however, its in your best interest not to waste your energy resenting your parents. The majority of people out there don't have parents with millions in assets and won't be able to relate to your reasoning, plus bitterness tends to only breed more bitterness, not satisfaction in life. You can't change your parents attitudes, but you can change your own.

Also, you parents may have reasons not made clear on this thread for not supporting you - maybe they know something you don't (ie you won't be happy in the program/profession) They have no obligation to support you.

As for geoff. - being poor all your life is way worse than just being poor in your 20's. You have been provided the tools and connections to make more money, but have not made the decisions/sacrifices to make it. That's okay, it's great to follow your dreams, but you can't pretend you're worse off than someone who never had a chance to be a doctor/lawyer due to poverty.

archae - phd programs are usually open to all social classes (that can make it through undergrad obviously) because they should either pay for your expenses or prepare your for a very high paying job. I don't think its some sort of a "peasant mentality" to want pay your way through grad school, its how grad school is designed. Grad schools that actually prepare you for a job aren't only for the super rich (I'm sure there are grad schools that don't prepare you for anything that are though) They are designed to take people who are paying for themselves, and if you can't pay, its a sign you shouldn't be there.
posted by fermezporte at 6:11 AM on May 27, 2007


and if you can't pay, its a sign you shouldn't be there.

phrased wrong - if they don't pay you/provide you with opportunities for a high income in the future, its a sign you shouldn't be there
posted by fermezporte at 6:13 AM on May 27, 2007


I think it's a wrong world we live in when only the very rich are able to go to grad school. Americans are renowned for their ignorance of other countries and cultures, so I'll just note that this is not how it is at all in many other countries.

Why does a fucking PhD in anything even cost 60k per year? Why has the government, the business sector and the intelligentsia colluded to impose such a shortage of educational supply which leads to absurd competition and irrationally high prices(and a not so well educated graduate)?


I think your understanding of grad school is drastically wrong. It doesn't (or at least shouldn't) cost anything, which is why so many people are telling the OP to reconsider. Many (most? practically all?) reasonable programs don't actually admit anyone who isn't partly or fully funded -- and someone who is fully funded is actually getting paid, not paying. Granted they are getting paid at the poverty line, but that is enough to get by while in grad school. (In fact, in terms of income, grad students typically _are_ "peasants", right down there with full-time fast food employees.)
posted by advil at 1:47 PM on May 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


I am a 21 year old about to enter in to graduate school. I was not required on any forms at any of the schools I considered to give my parent's financial information. YMMV.

Also, to those of you saying that if the grad school won't fund the OP s/he should back out, this only really counts if it is a doctoral program. Masters programs are much harder to find funding in.

To the OP: Do you have the right to feel resentful? Sure. Everybody has that right. But it'll probably only make you miserable in the long run.
posted by rosethorn at 3:12 PM on May 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


I grew up poor and worked hard to put myself through undergrad on scholarships, grants, and loans. I am now $90,000 in debt from law school. Part of the reason I have taken on so much financial debt is so that I can provide more for my children than my parents provided for me. Isn't this the American Dream?
posted by gokart4xmas at 5:26 PM on May 27, 2007


I can't stop thinking about this question. It's been a sharp one throughout my life. My parents divorced when I was two. I spent my childhood with my mother's family and a brief bit of adolescence with my father's, with almost no interaction between the two. Their family philosophies could not have been more different. My mother's parents came to the US in their childhoods and were very poor. Through hard work they achieved the upper end of the working class. Once elderly, they slipped back into poverty. My father's parents were very poor during the Depression but achieved solid middle class status soon after. My grandfather had his own prosperous business, which my father inherited.

Soon after giving birth to me my mother became chronically ill, and she and I returned to live with her parents. We received welfare and food stamps but my grandparents provided the cushion when they didn't go far enough --which was every damn month. They took care of me when she was in the hospital. My grandmother made me clothes. My grandfather quietly socked away as much money as he could every month for my future education. Once they were gone, I went to live with my father.

Although by then he was financially comfortable, the tacit understanding was that any money I got was at his pleasure. There was nothing like a college fund. He helped out briefly when I was an undergrad, but I paid for the bulk of it with grants, scholarships, loans, and the small bequest my maternal grandfather provided at such great sacrifice. I never considered even applying to the Ivies. I know without question that had my grandparents had my father's money -- to say nothing if they were wealthy enough to buy boats and other toys for themselves -- the idea that I would not attend the best schools in lieu of their own pleasures (no matter how hard won) would be unthinkable. Actually, that's not strong enough: it would have been deeply immoral to them.

One of the major challenges of my life has been to experience these two very different versions of family -- to be taught at the earliest age that one's whole life was spent making sure your child's life would be superior to your own at no matter what sacrifice, versus my later introduction to the sink or swim method. I made it through undergraduate and graduate school. My father and I are friends now, and he has even helped me in adulthood when I got into some tight financial spots now that I have satisfactorily paid those dues. The peace between us happened once I made a firm decision about how I intended to live my own life. I believe strongly in helping those I care about. Of course, that's family and friends, but it's also all people. People are more important than toys. I don't give a damn if it sounds impossibly starry-eyed: leaving the world a better place is more important than gratifying yourself. That's the only refuge I've been able find from the otherwise unbearable chaos and pain of life and I cling to it with all my strength.

I won't at all pretend to be perfect at this. I still struggle with our past, but mostly I wish that I could find a way to tell my father, without smugness or blame, that I think beliefs like his impoverish the spirit. To echo what archae posted so passionately: I believe this spiritual poverty deforms our national character, and is part and parcel of our grotesque obsession with personal perfection as opposed to mercy, with consumption and class status as opposed to living in balance, with celebrity as opposed to true achievement, with ephemera as opposed to legacy. I love beautiful things and the idea of a life permanently free of the constant worry about money. But I love myself and other people more. That's how I found my imperfect peace.
posted by melissa may at 12:15 AM on May 28, 2007 [11 favorites]


I know I'm late to the party, and that everyone has probably moved on, but I wanted to throw in a piece of advice from financial experts. In The Millionaire Next Door, authors Stanley and Danko argue vigorously that it's important for parents to provide as little "economic outpatient care" as possible. The authors provide statistics that demonstrate that when parents provide financial support to their adult children — and they include funding graduate school as an example — the results are negative for everyone involved. The parents have less wealth, and the children ultimately accumulate less wealth.

Essentially, Stanley and Danko believe that such assistance creates a sort of financial dependancy that prevents the adult child from becoming self-sufficient. Obviously this is not true in all cases, but in most cases it is, they say.

From my own experience, I know that of my handful of friends who have received this sort of assistance from their parents, only one has broken the ties. The other three are still reliant on the Bank of Mom. Though a small sample, these numbers are exactly in line with those shared in The Millionaire Next Door.

My own opinion is that yes, you have unrealistic expectations. It's not your money. It's your parents' money. You are an adult. You are responsible — financially and otherwise — for the choices you make. If you want to attend grad school, accept the consequences. If your parents help you, great. If not, then don't lose sleep over it.
posted by jdroth at 11:22 AM on May 28, 2007


p.s. I can't believe that for once I agree with klangklangston, particularly: "either learn to enjoy your life without money or be the engine of your own suffering."
posted by jdroth at 11:30 AM on May 28, 2007


I just went back and re-read the relevant chapter in The Millionaire Next Door. Actually, the authors are keen on parental assitance with tuition, but it's one of the only times they believe it's reasonable for the wealthy to give money to their children. (They really hate loaning for a down payment.)
posted by jdroth at 11:58 AM on May 28, 2007


JD, what other times do they suggest are okay?
posted by acoutu at 7:43 PM on May 28, 2007


I bought my second car ever from my dad, and had to borrow a few thousand from him to do it. Over the next few years, I ran into high medical costs (no insurance, I was young and a part-timer) and borrowed a few more thousand. A few years later, I paid it off.

Meanwhile, I put myself through two and a half years of community college, because my parents didn't have money to spare. Never finished college, though, because I ran out of money and got burnt out (had two jobs plus school, car broke down and I couldn't afford to fix it, decided "f this, I'll quit school and get a full-time job" and did so.)

Now I'm in my 30s, I have a six-figure income in a respectable field at a good company with a future, a house, a family...and never took a student loan, never borrowed more than I could easily pay back, and when the money ran out for nonessentials (or, in some cases essentials) I sucked it up and moved on.

So don't worry. Even if you end up not going to graduate school, it's still possible for you to do well -- you're just going to have to spend less time thinking about what others can do for you, and get out there to do 'em yourself.
posted by davejay at 6:41 PM on June 1, 2007


The key here is to navigate your own situation with as little reference to obligation and principle as possible. Forget about right and wrong, responsibility and just desert, and try to figure out what works: think in terms of strategies, not morality or fairness.

Others have written eloquently about resentment, and they're right. You should try for the money as you would for any, more official scholarship.... Pretend your father serves on the board of a very exclusive fund, which gives only to candidates exactly like you, but maybe not even then. If you get it, great! Don't feel bad that you're eligible for the Rich Dad scholarship but your colleagues weren't. Serious success is as much luck as it is work and merit.

If you don't get it, you shouldn't feel betrayed or cheated. Move on. Stick to figuring out your own situation. Ignore what your classmates and peers have received. Enjoy your education!
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:05 PM on June 1, 2007


Looking at things from another perspective... my husband and I were very poor when our children were growing up. We did without much to give them some advantages. They all went to good colleges with whatever help we could give them, plus grants, scholarships, and student loans. When we could, we helped pay off their undergrad student loans, but all were responsible for their own advanced degrees.

While we did offer advice, we didn't try to strong arm their career choices, job locations, or relationships. Consequently they had roots and they had wings. Some cherish both gifts, while others wanted only the wings.

For the most part, parents do their best to raise healthy, well adjusted, independent, caring, responsible children. But parents are real people, with real problems and difficulties. Some are better at raising children than others. Some are better at making money than others. Some are more nurturing, some are more distant...just like the population at large. It's a wide mix, and we all get dropped in randomly. Make the best of it.

At some point, adult children (anyone over 23!) need to realize that they bear the brunt of their own decisions, disappointments, and destinies. Peace, satisfaction, and happiness come from within, not from someone else's wallet.
posted by 2lostsoles at 10:49 AM on June 6, 2007


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