Study: College Students' Grades Decline the More Parents Provide Financial Assistance
A new study finds that the more money 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 -- "More Is More or More Is Less?" -- conducted by Laura Hamilton, an assistant professor in the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts at the University of California at Merced, was published in the American Sociological Review.
Hamilton compared parental contributions and grades. Significantly, she also controlled for factors such as parental socioeconomic status. She argues in the paper that high wealth levels are associated with higher parental financial contributions, but also with other factors that contribute to academic performance (such as better high school educations, high aspirations for higher education, and so forth).
Hamilton found -- across all types of four-year institutions -- the greater parental contributions were, the lower the student grades were.
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.