College students who get significant financial support from parents might graduate faster, but they party more, work less and have a weaker vision of their future than their less-subsidized peers.
Researchers at Brigham Young University conducted in-depth surveys of 402 undergraduates and their parents, documenting how much support parents were providing and correlating that with how much time the kids spent working or partying, whether they had firm career goals and whether they felt like adults. In their study published in the Journal of Adult Development, the scholars conclude that a free ride isn’t necessarily the best option.
"There are clear differences in the way parents approach financial involvement with their kids. One set pays for everything, another set are joint providers and some don’t provide much of anything. It was clearly a function of income, but income wasn’t the sole function," said developmental psychologist Laura Padilla-Walker, who led the study. "There was no indication that the minimal providers had a weaker relationship with the child. That was encouraging."
The BYU team recruited college students between the ages of 18 and 26 from four universities to take the online survey in the 2007-08 academic year. One was a small private college in Maryland, and the others were large public universities: two in the Midwest and one in California. They deliberately avoided using a Utah school because they were concerned a preponderance of students from Mormon families would skew the results.