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Dave Says: A Degree Isn't Power, Knowledge Is Power

AUGUST 14, 2023

Dear Dave,
I’ve heard you talk about paying for college for your kids. Why is this a requirement? I’m not trying to shirk my responsibility, but I worked my way through college and so did my parents. My wife and I have talked about paying for their books and maybe rent. Am I missing something here?
— Thomas

Dear Thomas,
First, I don’t believe it’s a requirement that all parents pay for college for their kids. It’s not a moral issue, and you’re not an immoral person if you don’t or can’t do it. I’ve told plenty of single moms, single dads and parents who don’t earn a big income that their kids need to apply for as many scholarships as possible, learn how to work, and choose an inexpensive school if they want to continue their education.

As a parent, one of your biggest jobs is to give your kids a moral compass and the tools they’ll need to succeed in the real world. And one of the keys to being a successful adult is engaging in a lifetime of learning. If the last time you read a book was when you were in high school or college, and you’ve never done training of any other kind since, you’re probably not very successful. Never. Stop. Learning. If I’d stopped learning after getting my bachelor’s degree, do you think I would’ve been able to build Ramsey Solutions? Absolutely not!

Do you see where I’m going with this, Thomas? As an adult, learning is your job. An entire lifetime of learning is your job. And if you can encourage that in your kids with some level of help, financial or otherwise, then it’s your obligation to help them. You can’t expect a 17-year-old to figure it all out. They don’t have the tools yet.

The point is this: You don’t have a moral responsibility to pay for your kids’ college education. You do, however, have a moral responsibility to highlight the importance of knowledge, share what you have, and show them how to get more. If you can’t afford to help with money, do everything else you can. There are plenty of more important things than cash. If you want to help financially, that’s fine too.

Just don’t use debt to make it happen!
— Dave

* Dave Ramsey is an eight-time national bestselling author, personal finance expert and host of “The Ramsey Show.” He has appeared on “Good Morning America,” “CBS This Morning,” “Today,” Fox News, CNN, Fox Business and many more. Since 1992, Dave has helped people take control of their money, build wealth and enhance their lives. He also serves as CEO for the company Ramsey Solutions.