Thanks, Mom and Dad

Chapman students enjoy a private education without paying the price

Mike Young, who pays for his daughter, Samantha Young’s, tuition and other expenses, believes the parent’s job is to be a “safety net.” Photo by Rachel Ledesma


After a four-hour shift at her work-study job, Maddy Kimmell arrives home to a full mailbox consisting of the usual: spam and bills for electricity, gas, water, heat, rent and tuition. She ignores them all. Her parents don’t. Several states away, they cover each and every cost. 

“It’s crazy to think about how my parents practically pay for all my life in California, but I feel better about it because I know I’m not the only one here at Chapman who relies completely on their parents,” Kimmell, a junior screenwriting major, said. 

At Chapman University, it’s become nearly impossible for students to get through college without financial support from the people most college kids hope to escape: their parents. Parental money has become these students’ lifeline and the ultimate privilege, alleviating them from the consequences of financial independence and student debt. However, their immunity from the financial realities of adulthood has prolonged their dependence on their parents and delayed the “cutting of the cord.” 

Despite being over 2,000 miles away in South Bend, Indiana, Maddy Kimmell’s parents pay the rent, $1,000 a month, for her house in Orange, California. Photo by Rachel Ledesma

“Because they’re far away and I never see them, money has become a substitute,” said Kimmell. “For them it’s like, ‘I don’t get to see you anymore, but I can at least help you live your life, even though I can’t be a part of it,’” Kimmell, a junior screenwriting major said.

With tuition currently at $52,340 (not including housing), up $2,000 from last year, and the expenses of daily living, complete financial independence at Chapman has become a rarity. Only 240 Chapman students are registered as “financially independent” through the FAFSA, according to David Carnevale, Director of Undergraduate Financial Aid. 

The number’s not surprising to Kimmell, who doesn’t know a single student who doesn’t receive some sort of financial support from their parents. In fact, she believes financial dependence is inherent for students attending Chapman. 

That’s not the case nationwide, where just over half of all U.S. college students are financially independent (51 percent), according to a 2012 report made by The Institute For Women’s Policy Research. 

The students who do receive financial assistance from their parents are only receiving partial amounts, averaging at 34 percent according to a 2017 Sallie Mae report.

But at Chapman, most parents foot the entire bill. 

Kamil Żegleń, a sophomore film production major, has his tuition and housing completely paid for by his father, Ted Żegleń, an entrepreneur and business owner. As a result, Kamil Żegleń hasn’t taken out a single loan and doesn’t plan on doing so anytime during his college career. He’ll walk away from Chapman completely debt free. 

Kamil Żegleń’s situation isn’t anything new at Chapman. Last year less than 3,000 students borrowed from the federal Direct Loan program at Chapman for an average student loan debt of $20,938, according to Carnevale. 

But at private schools like Chapman, 75 percent of students graduate with student loans averaging a debt of $32,300 or higher, according to The Institute for College Access and Success. 

So what accounts for the discrepancy at Chapman? 

To parent Mike Young, it’s the community of well-off families Chapman attracts. 

The median family income of a student from Chapman is $149,800 and 64 percent of Chapman students come from the top 20 percent, according to The New York Times. For families like these where money is not a major concern, parents paying their child’s entire educational costs is a give-in. 

Parents want to help out their kids as much as they can, Mike Young said. If they can afford to shield their children from financial hardships, why wouldn’t they, he said.  

Mike Young is confident that his daughter, Samantha Young, will find a job after college and be able to financially support herself. At the same time, he expects she may need financial help along the way. Photo by Rachel Ledesma

Mike Young and his wife, Marianna Young, pay for the entirety of their daughter, Samantha Young’s, tuition. Using their salaries from their careers in insurance claims and reserved college savings, Mike and Marianna Young will support their daughter through college until she finds a job. Why? They want their daughter to focus on her academic career instead of stressing over her financial situation, Mike Young said. 

Plus, Samantha Young said she wouldn’t be able to make it on her own. Without financial assistance from her parents, she most likely wouldn’t be able to attend Chapman. That’s why, before even applying to Chapman, she decided with her parents that they would cover the financial costs.

“With Chapman, it’s so expensive parents are going to have to help out,” said Mike Young. “Back in the day, college wasn’t that expensive. It’s a whole different thing now.” 

The same goes for Ted Żegleń, who covers the cost of his son’s education so he doesn’t have to worry about getting a job and being distracted from his studies. He said he never wants his son to be stressed about money. 

“Parent financial support provides an important material safety net that helps young people avoid financial stress,” said Monica Kirkpatrick Johnson, Professor of Sociology and Department Chair at the University of Minnesota, in her study of the impact of parental financial assistance on young adults’ relationships.

But that doesn’t mean some aren’t worried. 

Though Kamil Żegleń’s financial concerns are taken care of, he feels guilty using his father’s money to go to Chapman. “As soon as I get a job, I want to pay my father back for all my schooling. One of my goals in life is to give him a check,” he said. It’s a check his father isn’t expecting. 

Kamil Żegleń works various side jobs to have his own personal spending money, separate from the money he receives from his father, most of which he spends on skincare. Photo by Rachel Ledesma

“Money for him is a universal language. It’s his way of supporting my dreams and passion projects so I can define my craftsmanship,” Kamil Żegleń said. 

Oftentimes, both parents and child view financial assistance as helping the child succeed, which can be mutually beneficial and a normal part of the parent-child dynamic, Johnson said. 

Kamil Żegleń views his father’s money as another means of motivation to make a successful career for himself, because he feels his father can’t give him advice relevant to the film industry he is pursuing. 

“I want to show my father I can make a career out of art. I want to show him his money didn’t go to waste. I want to make him proud,” he said.  

When a child receives money from parents, it reinforces that parents are always there for their child, improving well-being and parent-child relationships, Johnson said. Moreover, financial dependency often leads to a closer relationship between the child and their parents.

Because Samantha Young still lives at home, a decision she made with her parents to save money, she communicates with her parents daily, maintaining a relationship similar to when she was in high school. 

But for college students who don’t live at home, communication with their parents is difficult to maintain. Due to busy schedules on both ends, Żegleń’s communication with his father is infrequent and hard to predict, though his father’s tuition payments are always reliable. 

Kimmell doesn’t want to feel coddled. At the same time, she doesn’t want to lose the healthy relationship she has with her parents. 

“I talk with them whenever I can, but it’s not like I have to give check-ins. They don’t control my life even though they pay for a majority of it,” Kimmell said. 

True adult status, however, is defined by financial independence, according to Johnson, and continued financial support may violate either the parent’s or young adult’s sense that the young adult should be able to do it on their own. 

Yet most students aren’t aware when they will be cut off from their parents’ funds. 

Kimmell assumes she’ll receive financial support from her parents until she graduates from college or finds a job. But because of a competitive job market and the possibility of pursuing a master’s degree, she isn’t sure when she’ll be financially independent. 

“I would hope [to be financially independent] by the time I’m 23, but who knows, I may need more money,” Kimmell said. 

She’s not alone. One in three adults said they don’t believe they will achieve financial independence until they’re at least 25, according to to research from Country Financial.

That’s why parents are slow to cut off their children as well. Mike Young said he has not imposed a deadline on his daughter. “We’ll support her as long as she finds a job and can afford everything herself. Hopefully that’s sooner rather than later,” he said. 

However, financial independence is being pushed back farther and farther, past the early twenties and into the early thirties. In the U.S., 59 percent of parents provide financial support to their adult children who are no longer in school, according to an online poll by ForbesWoman.

As a result of delayed financial independence, children’s relationship with their parents has become an “assistance bump,” a temporary delay for children on their way to adulthood in which their parents still fund them, Johnson said. 

But the helpful financial boost is starting to become permanent, dramatically slowing if not halting the child’s transition into adulthood. The effects of which, as noted by Johnson, undermine both the child and parent alike. 

If Kimmell was to return back home after college and continue to live off her parents’ income, she’d feel like a disappointment. Her parents would have difficulty adjusting, too. “No parent wants their kid back at home when they’ve invested money in their education and career,” she said. 

Kamil Żegleń works various side jobs to have his own personal spending money, separate from the money he receives from his father, most of which he spends on skincare. Photo by Rachel Ledesma

Her parent’s investment has left Kimmell feeling obligated to take care of her parents when they retire, especially due to the fact that they took out a mortgage on their family home to send her to college. Though her parents have saved for their retirement, they’re planning on future financial support from their children. But Kimmell says she can’t even imagine supporting herself let alone her parents. 

That’s why some parents are taking the necessary steps now to ensure they’ll have finances to support themselves once they’ve finished supporting their child. 

“From a parent’s standpoint, you want to make sure you save your money and have enough in your retirement. You have to have enough for yourself,” Mike Young said. That’s why he and his wife both work and earmark money for their 401(k) plans. 

But some children like Julien Khvang don’t want to put their parents in that tough spot or any distressing financial situation at all. A former undecided sophomore at Chapman, Khvang paid for his rent, tuition, bills and daily expenses so his mother wouldn’t have to pay. At the end of sophomore year, however, Khvang completely ran out of his savings and was no longer able to support himself or his education. He dropped out of Chapman and moved back in with his mother. It devastated him. 

Khvang has since started working various manual labor jobs to build up his savings again and plans on returning back to Chapman by fall of 2019. He won’t be taking a cent from his mother. But Khvang knows his worry over the funds in his bank account won’t disappear.

According to a 2016 GoBankingRates survey, 41 percent of young millennials who have less than $1,000 in their savings accounts. 

With $2,000 in her bank account, Kimmell is constantly worried she’ll fall into a financial disaster and have to empty out her bank account, but also knows her parents would most likely loan her the money. 

During college or down the line in her career, Samantha Young knows her parents will help her out of any financial situation. She sees herself as one of the fortunate ones, whose parents are in the position to support them as long as necessary. 

“I feel incredibly grateful. Beyond grateful, really. I’ll never be able to pay them back for their sacrifice,” Samantha said. 

When the time finally comes for children to be cut off from their parents’ funding, however, the consequences of parental financial support will reveal itself. Some will require further assistance, others will feel like failures because they can’t financially support themselves and parents may feel the need to help out again, Johnson said. 

But for those graduating without debt, their financial future doesn’t look as daunting. 

Kamil Żegleń says he’ll only have to worry about paying rent and finding a well-paying job after graduating from Chapman.

“I know I’ll get there. That’s why I’m stressing and working hard in college, because I want to be financially independent. I want that freedom,” Żegleń said.

Others aren’t as optimistic. 

“I try not to even think about my financial future. I don’t know what’s going to happen to me or my generation. We’re all pursuing things that can only be accomplished with our parents’ money. What’s going to happen when we have to grow up and move on?” Kimmell said. 

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