Studies say yes. My college experience says yes too – unfortunately. The study entitled “More Is More or More Is Less?” by Laura Hamilton, an assistant professor in the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts at the University of California at Merced revealed that the more money a parent provided for a student’s college education the worse the student performed.
“The study found that the more money (in total and as a share of total college costs) that parents provide for higher education, the lower the grades their children earn. The findings – particularly grouped with other work by the researcher who made them – suggest that the students least likely to excel are those who receive essentially blank checks for college expenses.”
The study implies that those who have their college expenses paid for have less incentive to perform well because their financial comfort will provide them with a good life regardless if they perform well or not. Even though these financially fortunate kids got worse grades than their less privileged counterparts they will still go onto have more success. This is interesting to me because (totes humblebrag) I was summa cum laude at NYU and I grew up on welfare, whereas the many, many wealthy kids I went to school with would literally brag about how all they had to do was get at least a D- because they had jobs waiting for them at their parent’s very successful businesses. Their goal was just to graduate not to learn. They barely showed up for class. My friends and I worked jobs and internships and maintained the best grades possible, often sacrificing fun in hopes of securing a brighter, more socially mobile future. This is also articulated in the study:
“This finding backs the idea that parental financial support can act as a ‘moral hazard’ in that students make decisions about how seriously to take their studies without having personally made the investment of cash in their educations.”
I am not pooing on anyone who is better off than I was. We don’t get to pick our material position, we’re born into it. Someone being wealthy is just as arbitrary as someone being poor. Of course, sometimes it’s annoying to see people have what you don’t have take it for granted. It’s not really these students’ fault either. If you know you’re guaranteed a certain kind of life, if you don’t feel like it why would you try to excel? Sure, it’s the noble thing to do but when you are young that’s probably not your concern.
However, I think it’s worth thinking about the culture and kind of parental attitudes that allow for people who are ultimately less qualified to succeed, when there are others who have earned more success but just don’t have the resources to claim it.
“Hamilton explored the impact of parental financial support on a women’s floor of a dormitory of a Midwestern public university, tracking student grades and interviewing parents. She found the pattern confirmed by her national data: many parents provided high levels of support only to be shocked (and, she said, angry) that their daughters weren’t earning good grades. The lowest grades were earned by children whose parents essentially supported them without much discussion of student responsibilities. The problem is that most parents who give a lot of money are apparently less than demanding about expectations.”
It’s such a 1980s, cultural stereotype to see “rich kids” with parents who ignore them. Of course we know that “poor kids” and middle class kids have parents who ignore them too. In this case there seems to be a correlation between privileged kids and lowered expectations. Which is sort of a big old womp womp. Just like Lana Del Rey said, “Money is the anthem of success/So put on mascara and your party dress.” If money equates to power then the people who have it have power and if those people have low expectations for themselves and less than impressive resumes then we’re handing a lot of power over to some subpar people. No wonder this country is in a constant state of bummer. Poverty – it’s a vicious cycle and so is wealth, power and entitlement.
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