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Publication #FM1092

College Students and Financial Support from Parents: What’s Best?1

Carol Church2

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When young adults start college, most parents hope their offspring will spend their evenings studying, not partying. After all, education is an expensive investment.

But is there anything parents can do to help make sure students use this time productively? New research in the Journal of Adult Development suggests that the amount of financial support parents supply may play a role. About four hundred undergraduates and their parents were surveyed about the amount of financial support parents provided. Students also indicated how seriously they had thought about their career path, how many hours a week they worked, how much alcohol they drank, and whether they used marijuana. Finally, both parents and students were asked their opinions as to whether the student had achieved adulthood (Padilla-Walker, Nelson, & Carroll, 2012).

College students whose parents provided the least financial support worked more hours, were less likely to drink, and had a stronger sense of their occupational goals. They also felt more like adults, and their parents considered them more adult. Meanwhile, students whose parents supported them entirely drank the most and had the least sense of their future goals (Padilla-Walker, Nelson, & Carroll, 2012).

While these results might seem to indicate that the best course is to provide little financial support to college students, the authors caution that this may carry other risks, such as increased stress, which could affect students’ progress towards their degree or their long-term persistence in finishing school. They suggest that providing some support, while also requiring students to cover a significant portion of their costs, may strike the best balance (Padilla-Walker, Nelson, & Carroll, 2012).

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Padilla-Walker, L. M., Nelson, L. J., Carroll, J. S. (2012). Affording emerging adulthood: parental financial assistance of their college-aged children. Journal of Adult Development, 19, 50-58. doi: 10.1007/s10804-011-9134-y.



This document is FAR1621, one of a series of the Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original broadcast date April 24, 2012, as program 1924. Published on EDIS March 2013. In the interest of time and/or clarity, the broadcast version of this script may have been modified. Visit the EDIS website at


Carol Church, writer, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.