Dear Roadie: My Daughter Keeps Failing Classes. Should I Keep Paying for Them?

Money flying away against a white backdrop

Dear Roadie: My Daughter Keeps Failing Classes. Should I Keep Paying for Them?

Published on June 7, 2024

Money flying away against a white backdrop

Dear Roadie, 

My husband and I do not qualify for anything through FAFSA. We always said we would pay for four years of college for our kids, and if they can’t graduate in that time, they’d need to figure out how to pay for the rest. We paid for our daughter’s first year out-of-pocket. She had a great time but didn’t study and didn’t pass all of her classes. She will be on academic probation in the fall. We are at our wits’ end with this child. We don’t want to keep paying for her college since she didn’t take it seriously and threw our money away. We want her to take out loans, so she has some stake in her education. If she has a successful year, we will pay off the loans, and she can use that money for the following year, and we’ll pay it off again if she’s once again successful. Is she able to get loans as a 19-year-old? We don’t want to co-sign for her, but I don’t want her to take out more than she needs. Please help!
–The Jig Is Up

Dear The Jig is Up, 

I don’t blame you for placing guardrails on the money you’re flowing for your child’s education. If she doesn’t hold up her end of the bargain, which is to get decent grades and pass her classes (at a minimum), why should anyone invest their hard-earned dollars in her, least of all you? It’s hard for parents to come to this point sometimes because we have a natural tendency to help our children. But there is such a thing as too much help, especially if it robs them of critical life lessons they’ll need to succeed in life.

The only crinkle in your plan is that your daughter will find it nearly impossible to get a loan without your involvement. Teens have little to no credit to speak of, so loan companies turn to their parents to establish some sort of assurance and ask them to cosign loans.  

The only way for her to go it alone is to declare herself an independent, which has implications of its own and will still require you to submit your financial data when she fills out the FAFSA. If she were abused or ran away from home, she might be able to declare a special circumstance, but it sounds like it’s the partying that led her here. 

She can apply for an unsubsidized federal loan, but she’ll need you to sign a statement on her behalf, and it’s ultimately up to her school’s financial aid office to determine if she gets it. Some private lenders, such as Ascent and Edly, offer loans without cosigner requirements but without an established credit history, most will require a cosigner, even if it’s not a parent. 

Can she take a year off and work to save money, proving she’s ready to go back to school? If there’s any part of you that thinks she can pull it together and you decide to cosign the loan, at least be sure to have a contingency plan for what happens if she fails again, preferably one that explains how she’ll repay you. 

It’s hard to be hard on our kids but sometimes it is the best thing we can do for them ⸺ and us.

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