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Parental financial support linked to lower GPAs, study suggests

College students who receive financial support from their parents tend to have lower grade point averages but higher graduation rates, according to a recent study, which Boston University faculty said reflects a greater sense of responsibility resulting from financial independence.

The study, conducted by Laura Hamilton a professor University of California, Merced, will appear in the February issue of the American Sociological Review, according to a Tuesday Merced press release.

The GPA portion of the study surveyed about 12,000 undergraduates and found those who received some portion of aid from their parents had lower GPAs than those who did not.

“Although the effect is not linear, and, ironically, the most harm comes from initial aid, increasing investments provide a gradual drag on student GPA,” the study stated.

The study also found students with no parental aid have a 56.4 percent predicted probability of graduating, whereas students who receive $4,000 in parental aid have a 62 percent predicted probability of graduating.

“I think that when people don’t do well in their courses, they start to wonder ‘maybe it’s not for me,’ if they’re paying for it for themselves,” said Jessica Griffin, School of Education manager of financial assistance. “But if someone else is paying for it, it’s not the same connection or investment, mentally and financially.”

Griffin said financially independent students might have a more personal understanding regarding whether the college experience is right for them.

“I have graduate students and almost all of my students are paying for their education themselves,” she said. “They push themselves very hard to make sure they’re doing well.”

SED professor Joel Scott said he is not surprised by the results of the study.

“This is something that they [students] are going to have to work on and accept, and for those that have too much parental support, it maybe takes them longer to understand that this is their journey,” Scott said. “Maybe their GPAs reflect that, versus the students that immediately know that they’ve worked hard to get to this place.”

Scott said while the study’s results were believable, they might not represent every student individually.

“Every student is unique,” he said. “That’s what I don’t like about these types of surveys of engagement, because it sometimes glosses over the complex nature of each student.”

Yi Feng, a College of Arts and Sciences junior, said paying for college might provide students with an incentive to succeed.

“If you are paying for your education, then you try harder because it’s your money,” she said.

Katie Griswold, a CAS freshman, said she is a scholarship student and, as such, must maintain a certain grade point average in order to remain a BU student.

“Part of it is internal motivation, and part of it is external motivation because I realize that I can’t be here if I can’t keep up a 3.2 GPA,” Griswold said.

School of Management junior Rahat Bathija s said the survey is logical but not necessarily accurate since there could be outside circumstances that need to be considered.

“It makes sense, but I don’t think it’s entirely true,” Bathija said. “I think there are more factors to take into account – it depends on the individual and family situation.”

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