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Why I Would Never Make My Kid Pay Back Their College Tuition

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Should I pay back my tuition to my parents?

Let me answer this from my perspective as a parent, a child, and a college student.

My daughter is 12. When she was born, I had the great opportunity to pay 4 years of tuition into a state plan at one time for my infant child because I sold my home and moved in with her father. He wanted to do other things with the money, but I was adamant.

As a younger person, I had struggled and worked 2 jobs while going to a 2-year college. I had always been a good student, but there were no savings or investments made to allow me to pick a better school. More than anything, what hurt me was how lonely that oversight felt — as if all my time on the Dean’s list and honor roll growing up made no impression, as if my potential was unimportant, and as if the very person who was supposed to want the best for me, my own mother, was indifferent or even jealous of opportunities for me to succeed.

I told my daughter’s father that my one job as a parent was to help my daughter go farther than me, in whatever direction she chose. It meant giving her more love, more attention, and more help than I had received, including financial help.

My one job as a parent was to help my daughter go farther than me, in whatever direction she chose.

Now, as an adult student working towards my BA in American Studies, I’m keenly aware of the costs and benefits of the educational future I have secured for her. Every day, she sees the value I place on education and we talk about her choices, the decisions she’ll get to make that were beyond my own means or understanding at her age. In this way, she has already begun paying me back.

Every time she dreams of something new she might become, my heart sings. I have been given the rare gift to know with certainty the difference in a child’s life having educational security can bring. My daughter knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that she has my confidence and respect.

I do not expect for her to pay me back by paying me off, but I would not be surprised if one day she chooses to celebrate her achievement in some wonderful way unique to her. Maybe she’ll design a building in the shape of my first initial or name a newly found bacteria for me. Maybe she’ll send me flowers from her laboratory every day for a year or fly me somewhere to see her accept an award for her work. And maybe, if I’m very lucky, sometime in the far future we’ll get to sit on her front porch and watch her children play as she tells me of their dreams she is working to make a reality.

Should you pay your parents back? What would that even look like?

Heather Donnelly is a writer who enjoys writing about family, relationships, and fashion. You can find more Quora posts here: