Ask the grumpies: Paying for family members’ education?

KGC asks:

I’m a newish follower and know you have written before about paying for higher ed for family members. Do you have a post you could link to where you explain more about that? (if you have explained more somewhere!) I have brought this up as a possibility to my spouse regarding two family members that I think could benefit from someone caring about their education but honestly – I don’t know where to start from a logistics standpoint or how to even potentially broach it with others. I’d love to read more about how this has worked for others. Thanks!

Well, nothing has actually worked. :(

The oldest dropped out of community college after getting pregnant after a year. The second (who turns out to be really bright and should have gone to the magnet school that DH and I went to, but we didn’t know) got pregnant in high school and never got additional education. The third got romantically entangled with a much older adult and barely graduated high school and has kind of disappeared (after getting accepted to a regional state university). The fourth is legally blind and doesn’t want to leave home to go to college even though he could. He’s now on disability. The fifth just dropped out three classes shy of an associates degree.

So basically all we’ve done is decreased the debt amounts of said kids. And it turns out we didn’t even really do that because the first kid took out a bunch of loans because she could.

I am certain that paying for school and making it known that you are willing to pay for school helps some kids. But we haven’t been successful about it.

My parents and aunts on my mom’s side have been more successful with a set of my cousins (these folks: https://nicoleandmaggie.wordpress.com/2011/06/15/my-catholic-relatives-arent-really-catholic-a-rant/ ) and they’ve gotten university degrees and some of them have separated from their horrible parents.

How to broach it will vary too. DH’s relative is only 2 years older than DH and probably would have had the kind of life DH had if he hadn’t instead gotten married at 16. So it’s really easy for them to talk and for DH to offer to help. Plus DH’s relative is always helping people who are worse off even though he can’t really afford to, so that helping and be helped culture is useful there. I assume we’ll offer to help DH’s sister’s kids when they get older if we’re still super wealthy at that time. I’d like to stealth contribute to 529 plans, but SIL only wants to open one for the oldest (a boy) and not any of the younger kids and that seems really unfair even though all money is fungible.

Grumpy Nation, have you had luck paying for relatives’ kids to get education?  What did you do?

5 Responses to “Ask the grumpies: Paying for family members’ education?”

  1. EB Says:

    Your willingness to help is what’s important. Hey, even when parents (or Pell grants) are footing the bill, many who enroll in college don’t finish. If they are not academically inclined, far fewer than half do. Our system of higher ed is corrupt in that it greedily convinces 18 year olds that they must enroll (or convince their parents/relatives that they must enroll) when there is only a payoff if they graduate (and not always then). You are to be commended for helping so many young people at least try college.

  2. First Gen American Says:

    We have two 529 accounts for niece and nephew but they are secret accounts that the family doesn’t know about. Have been saving small amounts since they were born. I want it to be a windfall for them if they decide to go to college. It won’t pay for much but it’s thousands so it is more than I could give as a regular graduation present without prior planning.

    • teresa Says:

      I want to know more about how you did this. One of my sisters has a 529 for her kid that I contribute to. My other sister has two kids and when I bring it up always says she *intends* to open 529s for both- and going to college is definitely expected and a priority for them- I think it’s just not top of mind so she never gets around to it. So I guess the question is what information do you need to set one up for someone else’s kid? SSN? Any idea whether if it weren’t a secret 529 the parents could contribute once established and get the usual tax benefits?

      • First Gen American Says:

        All I needed was their social security number. I am pretty sure the parents have their own 529s. Honestly it was a bit of laziness on my part. It was faster and easier to create a new one than it was to setup auto-contributions to theirs which required their permissions and approvals etc.

        Also I think there is some benefit with financial aid if it’s not in the parent’s name right? If they wait til the last year to cash out it’s like it doesn’t exist until you use it.

      • teresa Says:

        thank you!


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