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Ask Dave

You Can Afford Law School Tuition

Jeri has a son in law school. Her husband wants their son to be responsible for law school. They can afford to pay his tuition. Dave gives Jeri a way to approach her husband.

QUESTION: Jeri in Los Angeles has a son in law school, and she and her husband paid for his undergraduate degree. Her husband wants their son to be responsible for his law school expenses. They can afford to pay his tuition and are worth at least $1 million in liquid assets and another $600,000 in non-liquid assets. Law school is $50,000 a year. Dave gives Jeri a way to approach her husband.

ANSWER: So we’re talking about $50,000 as our discussion. I think that’s what we need to talk about instead of law school and law school debt because we’re really two-thirds of the way through it. If we have $1 million liquid, why can we not put $50,000 in to lessen the burden of this? That’s your question. I think that’s reasonable for you to do that. I don’t think it’s unreasonable for you to not do it.

I see your husband’s wanting him to support himself and all those kinds of things. I think it’s reasonable because you have the money, and I don’t think you’re enabling him. He’s obviously a hard worker. You don’t get into law school, much less through the second year, without being a hard worker. There are no chumps in law school. This kid’s a worker. You just have to. The work ethic that’s required to do that—to run that routine—is pretty strong. So he’s not a bad guy. It’s not like you’ve got a kid who’s running around on drugs or something and you’re throwing money after that. Personally, I think I agree with you. I would probably put the $50,000 in, but I don’t think that’s a moral issue, and I don’t think your husband’s a bad guy if he doesn’t want to.

I think it would be okay to just say $50,000 out of $1 million is no big deal to you. That’s how I would propose it to your husband. He’s got to pay off a bunch of loans already, so he’s taking responsibility. Your husband taught him whatever lesson he wanted him to learn with that. Ask your husband to help him for you. I’ll bet your husband bites on it if you propose it that way. You guys need to talk it through, and your husband needs to realize that you’re not enabling bad behavior with your suggestion. You’re rewarding good behavior with your suggestion. He’s gotten his way, and his point has been made through part of the process here. Now it would be good if he took your input on this part of the process. It would be a nice compromise for the last year to be paid by you guys.

This is more of a marriage discussion. As long as you guys can get some kind of agreement between the two of you, I’m going to be fine with it either way. I’m not against parents making their kids pay for college, and I’m not against parents paying for their kids’ college as long as the kid is behaving while they’re going through school. We made our kids pay for other things, and we chose to pay for their college.