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Buying Bad Grades: The More Your Parents Pay, the Lower Your GPA

The less money parents pony up for a student's college education, the better students do in school.


American college students get plenty of flack for being a pretty lazy lot. Research shows that many don't study as much as they should, they complain about professors asking them to actually think and participate, and they refuse to stop checking Facebook in class. Well, the latest research from University of California at Merced sociology professor Laura Hamilton, reveals that the less money parents pony up for a student's college education, the better students do in school.

Hamilton's paper, which appears in the latest issue of the American Sociological Review, tapped longitudinal data from three federal databases and analyzed the amount of money parents contributed to their child's education and the resulting grades. She found that students who had more financial support from their parents had lower GPAs than those with less support. Money coming in from other sources—like work-study jobs and financial aid—didn't have a negative impact.


So should parents cut students off entirely and let them figure out paying for college on their own? Not exactly. Hamilton says it seems contradictory but although GPAs go down when parents help out, students with financial support from their families are more likely to graduate than those without. Indeed, a student with no cash from mom and dad only has a 56.4 percent shot at getting their diploma, while those with at least $12,000 in help have a 65.2 percent chance.

What Hamilton recommends is that parents need to set clear expectations with their children: if grades start to fall because of too many late nights partying or skipping class, financial support might disappear.

Piggy bank with graduation cap photo via Shutterstock

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