Paris Hilton Is Full Of Knowledge and 18-Year-Olds Are Autonomous — The Paying for College Cage Match, Part 2

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Our beloved cousin-bloggers, Penny and Rich, have been bickering over whether or not Rich’s “legacy plan” to pay for his kids’ college is just a form of helicopter parenting.

In Part 1 of this Blogchat Debate CAGE MATCH, they discussed controlling vs. planning, manual labor, learning for the sake of learning, and the value of a degree.

And NOW, Round 2 …

RICH is in blue, and PENNY is in red.  


i liked what you said about how there’s so much to learn in the world, but … that sounds like me! i’m the one that wants them to see the world and experience new cultures and ski in france and eat fresh mackerel in ireland. there’s just so much for them to see and learn.

Well, if all it took to acquire knowledge about the world was to travel and have different experiences, Paris Hilton would be one of the most knowledgeable people out there. Life and learning and education is about more than just that, and I think a person can have that anywhere. But, yes, seeing different parts of the world is part of that as well.

Paris hilton c’mon now.

Hey, she’s travelled all over! Her and the Kardashians must be geniuses by now!

Hmmm. Well Paris did work on a farm one summer with Nicole Richie, right?

It seems you’re having it both ways. You’re saying it’s not all about school and not all about experiences or travel. It’s easy to poke holes in my efforts. I’m saying it’s about school AND experiences AND all that life has to offer. I’m trying to at least expose them to all, and you are seemingly saying it doesn’t matter if we expose them to anything. So what is it about for you?

I can’t really think of much to respond here. What is about for me?

Yes, I’d like to know 🙂

… Hmm… I guess I agree with you? ///

My approach is I want them to see everything, and sometimes I think maybe you are projecting the fact that you do not feel the need to see everything that your kids will also not be “attracted” to lots of stuff or experiences or whatever, but maybe they will.

I’m okay with that. I used to love to travel, just don’t feel like it so much anymore. I’d be happy to see my kids travel, they can if they want. I dunno. I’m mucking up this question.

/// Ok. Nah you’re not, you’re figuring it out. It all goes back to options for me. I want them to have options.

Okay, I think the thought I was trying to express with this statement was that there is so much to learn in the world, right?

You took that in terms of having worldly experiences. I guess what I meant, in terms of All That There Is To Learn In The World, was more in line with things like: how to till a garden, how to sit with a dying person, how to harvest honey from bees, how to tell time by looking at the position of the sun, how to soothe a crying baby, how to cook a really good souffle, how to photograph a birth. Things that aren’t taught in schools that a person might be inclined to learn, if only their life wasn’t so busy with learning that slice of the pie that they are supposed to learn for school.

well i learned to till a garden and still went to college. this doesn’t need to be either/or. it does seem you have a real distaste for the system of college. where does that come from?

Good question. Maybe I just don’t have much of a tolerance for inefficient systems. Like, in thinking about the state of elementary schools today, and how public education is run for that age… it’s totally broken. I want no part of it, so we choose a different route. And, with colleges, although not facing the problems that public elementary education has, it has it’s own problems that I also disagree with (as spelled out in the Jennifer Fulwiler article). So, I guess I just harbor a desire for colleges to go back to being the places for people who really want to go there to learn, and not just because That Is Where They Need To Go To Get A Job. I think those things should be separated, so that way, like she says at the end of the article: If they do go to college, they will be able to enjoy a wonderful concept that has been almost entirely lost by our modern education system: To learn simply for the sake of learning.

i realize i’m looking at this practically and analytically (the system works like this so what should we do as parents to do well in the system) whereas i think you are looking at it more ideologically or philosophically (it shouldn’t be this way and i don’t / won’t support it or encourage it).

Yes, I think this is exactly what is happening. And I think this just points to a great difference in how our brains work. Granted, I do think “it shouldn’t be this way” and I “don’t want to support or encourage it”, but even I can admit that it is the only game in town right now. I have no doubt that it is what my children will (most likely) pursue. And I accept that. I don’t like it. But I accept it. Now, as far as paying for it, that doesn’t really have anything to do with this part of it one way or another. I’m not not paying for it because “I don’t want to support it”. I’m not paying for it for other reasons. So, let’s be sure not to confuse the two.

By other reasons you mean loss of autonomy, right?



i was thinking more about the idea of whether or not paying for college diminishes the autonomy of the accomplishment, because it wasn’t independently paid for.  so i thought of 4 types of people.


A:  Goes to college, all paid by parents. Low debt.

B:  Goes to college, paid by combination of scholarship, parents, some work, etc. Low debt.

C:  Goes to college, no help, all paid by loans and work. High debt.

D:  Does not go to college due to cost or personal preference. Low debt, low income.

I know people in all these examples. Here’s my experience when I see these students 10 years later in the workforce. Students A and B are equally fine getting their lives together rather quickly. Self sufficient. With low debt, they have options, and a good chance at getting a Master’s or other advanced degree, if they so choose.

Student C is fine but has high debt and pays a lot of interest, leaving less money for family or other priorities. Perhaps didn’t go to the school he/she wanted to because of limited options, and won’t pursue an advanced degree because of debt.

Student D is pumping gas and chain smoking.

Student D’s lovely office. He’s in back, smoking.

Well maybe not, but I can’t think of many people doing well in this position.

Bottom line: Student D is the worst case scenario that should be avoided at all costs. Helping my kids stay out of category D is the least i can do. what am i missing?????

Nothing. You’re practical and analytical mind has got this covered. I can still think that “everything is going to be okay” if I want to though, and that’s okay. I don’t want to have to control everything. I leave that up to a power much higher and much wiser than me.

actually i’m curious though — of the people we know, how many paid their own way and how many had loans and how many had their parents pay? i think what i’m getting at is this — is there any real proof that parents paying actually leads to less autonomy in a person’s life 10 years later? If that is your big issue (or big assumption), is there any evidence from personal experience or otherwise that this is true? If it is not true, then parents paying or significantly helping has only upside and no downside, whereas parents not helping at all has limited upside with clear downside. It’s the educational equivalent of Pascal’s wager.

I’m not aware of any proof (studies / statistics) on this, one way or another. I’m just going with my gut instinct on it.

My gut is there’s no real difference after 10 years, and maybe a benefit for those with no loans. Mrs. Rich, for example, went to a prestigious college and graduated with no debt because her parents paid. Having no debt allowed her to get a Master’s degree, increasing earning potential. She had $30K in grad school loans that we paid off in 3 years. You could argue that at age 18 she had less autonomy (financially dependent on parents), but by age 28 she had as much autonomy as anyone (financially self-sufficient) along with greater earning power and no debt.


This all leads me to wonder if an 18 year old is really ready to make these decisions on their own? Are they fully able to understand that forgoing education will limit their career options? Or, are they in a good position to take out the equivalent of a mortgage to fund the education they think they want?

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I’m not sure. Maybe? Maybe not? It probably depends a lot on the kid. I felt well-equipped to make decisions when I was 18 years old (granted, they are probably not decisions you would agree with…) And, heck, I got married when I was only 22. That’s a pretty major decision. But, I’ve read books about brain development (like, The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults), and I understand how the prefrontal cortex is not fully developed until age 25, thus making it harder for young people to make good judgements and think about long-term consequences… so, I don’t know. You’re right. It’s probably a good idea to guide them in making these decisions, but there is going to come a point where we will have to let them go, and to respect their decisions, whatever they might be.

For sure, I agree with letting them go, and once again i never said i wouldn’t respect their decisions. I just see ages 18-22 as more of a launching pad — preparing them for take off — than a push into the deep end of the pool.

There go Rich’s kids with their college degrees and no debt!

Mrs. Rich and I have talked about the value of a “gap year” to gain life experience between high school and college. What do you think of that concept?

I haven’t really thought about it. Seems like a nice idea. I don’t really care. If that’s something they want to do, sure, why not?

Stay tuned for the final round of the cage match in a few days! in the meantime, we’re curious what people think. Is an 18-year-old kid ready for autonomy? is there any proof that parents paying leads to less autonomy in a person’s life 10 years later? What would Paris Hilton think?


8 Replies to “Paris Hilton Is Full Of Knowledge and 18-Year-Olds Are Autonomous — The Paying for College Cage Match, Part 2”

  1. Great dialogue. As a parent of 2 little ones, this has got me thinking about which route my wife and I will take with their college. I imagine we’ll split the cost with them in one way or another. It would be interesting to know if there are any studies on this.


  2. Haha – I don’t think Paris Hilton cares about college…

    I’m in bucket B – I worked through college, had a few scholarships, and got some help from my parents. I finished up my undergrad and Masters with about 8k in debt and got a pretty good job.

    I’m 3 years from being 10 years out and I feel that I’m very autonomous – a lot of my friends are as well, either owning their own place, or living away from home.

  3. I’m in bracket C, but I did get an advanced degree (MBA), except I negotiated for my company to pick up the tab. I probably wouldn’t have paid for it myself.

    I think paying for a kid’s education is a good investment in their future (wether that’s college or trade school), and really the best way for a society as a whole to dig itself out of a tough situation.

    We’re about to get the most educated adults out there running the country over the next few decades. I guess we’ll see what that will look like as a result.
    Max Your Freedom recently posted…Dining Guide: Andalucía, SpainMy Profile

    1. Thanks Max — even if someone disagrees with a parent paying, I’m hard pressed to think of a good example where someone can skip post-high school education altogether in this day and age. Just my opinion but I think a college degree today is equivalent to a high school degree 50 years ago, and a Master’s (or other graduate work) is what college was 50 years ago, the new standard for achievement in higher ed.

      Even better if the company pays …
      Rich @ recently posted…Are Stocks In A Bubble? And Why Do Engineers Retire Early? — Rich’s RamblingsMy Profile

  4. I was lucky enough to have my parents pay for my tuition.
    Sure, I could have gotten a job in university or taken out student loans. But that would have been a big drain on my time, diverting my attention from other things. As a result, I was able to complete university a semester early by taking more classes per semester.

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