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Stressed Out by School Costs? You're Not the Only One, Report Finds

Parents are working more and making less time for fun to keep up with education costs


Published on: September 13, 2017

Merrimack College, School of Education

If you’ve ever felt like the primary adjective to describe American parents is “broke,” followed by “exhausted,” there may be a reason. We’re doing it to ourselves, and it’s all in the name of our kids’ education.

According to a new report on parent spending from HSBC, nearly a third of American parents have cut back on their own leisure activities to help pay for their kids’ education, and 20 percent admit they work longer hours to help foot the bill for their kid’s school. There’s even a chunk — about 14 percent — who have either gone back to work or taken on a second job to help pay the school bills. The report also found that American parents are spending an average of $58,464 on a child’s education from primary school through undergraduate university level. That’s more than $14,000 more than the global average.

Even more surprisingly, the report found that in order to support their child’s education, nearly a quarter of parents (24 percent) have forfeited "me time" and 17 percent have either drastically reduced or completely stopped leisure activities or holidays

If you’re thinking, “Okay, well, what’s the big deal? Education is important!” you’re in good company. Education is important.

But it could be argued that it’s equally important for kids to have parents who aren’t over-worked, exhausted and so stressed out that they snap at the slightest thing. Unfortunately, more than half of the working parents in America say work/life balance is impossible to achieve, and the researchers have found a pretty direct link between the struggle for work life balance and not enjoying being a parent.

In other words: Working extra hours and jobs just to pay for private school can take away the best parts of the parenting experience: The enjoyment of your kids.

Working extra hours and jobs just to pay for private school can take away the best parts of the parenting experience

Some studies even suggest that stressed out parents in the early years — which is when the HSBC study says most parents cut way back to save money for kids’ education — can end up seeing effects in their kids years down the road.

If that’s not reason enough to loosen the reins a little, some parents say all that sacrifice could backfire.

Issaquah mom Leslie Pleasants has a 9-year-old and an 11-year-old. She says her family doesn’t live a lavish lifestyle, and she makes it clear that school is a priority for her kids, including some savings that she and her husband have put away for their education. But she doesn’t let it change their family’s life drastically because she also wants her son and daughter to understand the monetary value of education.

“I’ve seen so many people go to college and either end up not doing what they went there for, drop out, have kids, etc.,” Pleasants says. “I’ve already told [my kids] that once in high school if they aren’t sure on a goal and if they don’t have a scholarship, then community college is where they will go."

“I want them to be motivated and not think it’s a free ride,” she says.

When you consider a Barnes & Noble and Money Magazine study found only a third of kids thought their parents were cutting back to help them pay their college bills — even though 60 percent of parents say that’s what they were doing — Pleasants may be on to something. Most American kids know very little about the cost of education, or why their parents are so stressed out.

“I want them to be motivated and not think it’s a free ride."

If we want them to learn, maybe we need to sacrifice less, and put more responsibility on them.

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