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As Parents' Share of College Fees Rises, Students' GPAs Fall: Study

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 16 (HealthDay News) -- A new study offers up a cautionary tale for parents: College students who are well-funded by Mom and Dad actually get worse grades than students who aren't so fortunate.

On the other hand, students who received financial support from their parents were more likely to complete college and earn a degree than students without such resources, according to the study, which was published in the February issue of the journal American Sociological Review.

"Students with parental support are best described as staying out of serious academic trouble, but dialing down their academic efforts," study author Laura Hamilton, a sociology professor at the University of California, Merced, said in journal news release

Her findings stem from an analysis of data from the U.S. National Center for Educational Statistics.

As the authors noted, college tuition costs in the United States keep rising, forcing parents to shoulder more of the cost. But Hamilton cited one other study that finds that many students aren't spending most of their hours hitting the books. That research showed that the average college student spends 41 hours per week socializing, and just 28 hours per week in class or working on homework -- less than the time spent in classes in high school.

Hamilton's study found that when parents were footing more of the bill for college, their offspring tended to fare just a little worse academically.

"Regardless of class background, the toll parental aid takes on GPA is modest," Hamilton stressed. "Yet any reduction in student GPA due to parental aid -- which is typically offered with the best of intentions -- is both surprising and important."

Other sources of funding -- such as grants, scholarships, student employment, veteran benefits and work-study programs -- were not associated with a lower GPA.

Hamilton suggested that many students might be "satisficing," which means trying to be adequate in multiple areas rather than attempting to excel in just one.

The good news in the study was that parental financial support boosted a students' odds of graduating within five years. Students who received $12,000 from their parents in the first year of college had a 65.2 percent chance of graduating, compared with 56.4 percent for those who didn't get any money from their parents.

The findings suggest that it is important for parents to provide financial support to children who are in college. However, they need to set standards -- such as a target GPA -- and keep their children accountable for their school performance, Hamilton said.

More information

The Nemours Foundation offers advice for new college students.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Sociological Review, news release, Jan. 15, 2013

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