Given that a college degree can easily cost a cool hundred thousand (or two), there are plenty of good reasons to fear having to save up that much money. But a fear of harming your kid’s odds of success probably didn’t make your list.
However, that’s the very conclusion that Laura Hamilton, assistant professor of sociology at the University of California, Merced, came to after writing her thesis, “More Is More or More Is Less? Parental Financial Investments During College,” which was recently published in the American Sociological Review.
After living in a dorm at a large, Midwestern university for a year to conduct research, and tracking the undergrads she was interviewing for a total of five years, Hamilton knows of what she speaks. In fact, she and her coauthor, Elizabeth A. Armstrong, recently published “Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality,” a book about how class issues impact students.
But before you drain your 529 account and head to Tahiti, read on because it turns out that there is a right and a wrong way to pay for college—and what you do today could impact your child’s future in a big way.
LearnVest: What was the biggest takeaway from your experience?
Laura Hamilton: The literature in education suggests that every dollar that a parent invests in their child’s education will give them a good return. It’s this notion that it’s the best investment, period. But I was seeing that a lot of parents weren’t getting what they thought they were getting with this investment.