Should I keep paying my stepson's tuition?

I have been married for 3 years. My stepson, who lives with us, was 17 when we got married. Because my husband ws in bankruptcy purgatory from a few years before he met me, and for some other reasons, we keep all of our finances totally separate. Since I make more $$ than he does, I have been paying my stepson’s tuition. He is in a small private college. He was never a good student in high school, but he’s been at this college for a year and has a 4.0 average. This is the first semester that he’s taken a “full-time” (12-hour) load.
Last semester, he had trouble with a class and dropped it. Tonight he told us that he wants to drop one this semester. Too late for refunds of any kind. While I have no problem paying his tuition, I do have a problem paying for classes that he’s not taking. This will make about $1000 in wasted tuition if he drops this class.
I don’t want to guilt trip him about the money, and I don’t want to force him to stay in a class that he obviously hates and probably won’t do well in (and he will undoubted blame it on me if he flunks it). On the other hand, I don’t want to let him think that it’s OK to quit when things get hard or when he’s not going to get an “A”. Maybe I should just let it go and gently remind him of this next semester when he’s doing his schedule, or tell him that he’ll have to pay for any classes he drops too late for a refund.
Suggestions? Anyone?

First off this kid is lucky to have someone help pay his tuition he should realize that, but I think you shouldn’t be hard on him for dropping a class. I myself am a college student and I find myself taking only 12 credit hours a semester. It isn’t that he necessarily dropping it because it is easier for him it might be that more classes are hard for him. Not everyone learns at the same pace and can take the same # of classes per semester. I know kids taking 21 hours of class and others that are taking 10. It’s not about how smart you are it’s the pace you can learn at. They really taught us about this over orientation when I came here. They told us about a dad that pushed his kid to take the maximum # of classes possible so he wouldn’t “waste” money. The kid failed out of college after the first year. It wasn’t that he was dumb he just didn’t learn as fast as everyone else. Maybe just point out next semester that he should take the same # of classes that he has now and take it easy. College is more than just schoolwork it’s a life experience. Hopefully this helps!

I vote for telling him he’ll have to repay you for classes he drops late, but letting him defer payment (with interest) for a while. You could take a cut out of his summer job, if he has one. While you want to help him and you want him to excel in school, doing so by dropping classes isn’t the way to do it. A similar option is to tell him you’ll only pay for a normal 4-year program, and he’s on his own if it takes longer than that to graduate (as long as he can still manage that goal given his current situation). Then do help him pick his classes for next term, and talk about what he can and can’t handle.

I think he should be penalized in some way so he grows a little and makes the right choices next semester. Depending on his finances, perhaps you should tell him you’ll cover $500 (or $200 or $800) of the dropped class cost, but you won’t cover the whole amount since he didn’t follow through on it. Even if there’s a good reason, he made a bad choice, there’s a price to pay, and he should carry at least some (if not all) of that price.

Also, I think the penalty should be immediate, not some debt he owes in 4 years. If he has a job now, take some of that.

katie, being a mom, also with a college son [wish I’d started saving before he was born!] I totally empathize with your situation.

However, I can’t help wondering if something else isn’t going on here. Do you see what I mean, you put in he is your step son, he was seventeen when ya’ll got married, and that your husband was not a financial wizard and that you make more money than he does. None of which has anything to do with your son dropping classes, and costing you additional monies.

THAT aside, we had this problem with DJ two years ago, and while I think he was just feeling overwhelmed with everything he had to do for himself plus the class load, he ended up failing one class and dropping another WITHOUT saying anything. Needless to say, I hit the roof when I found out.

I explained that not only were we out the money, but he is out the hours that it takes to graduate, and they have to be made up, and since he decided to hide the fact, then it’s up to HIM to make up the money to pay for the time. NOT because he failed, but because he hid the information. Your son needs to learn responsibility, and if you are more capable at financial areas than his dad [as it could be, even if this was your natural son] then set up some boundaries that he is answerable for, or he has to pay his tuition for those classes on some kind of installment plan.

But, TALK to your husband about this, and please think why you put the question the way you did. Maybe ya’ll could do with some counseling.

Take care, and good luck.

What Bill H. said.

At 20(?) years old, your stepson should be willing to shoulder the responsibility of his own bad decisions. It’s the adult thing to do. (This from someone who was paying 100% of her own expenses at 17 years old. It was a valuable lesson.)

What does your husband say? This really needs to be a unified decision. You don’t need to look like the evil stepmother! I sympathise. I’ve been in a similar situation, and it’s a fine line to walk.

Is he willing to keep the class, work his hardest, and settle for less than an A? It’s not the end of the world. If he’s not working a second job, being supported by you, and 12 credits is too much of a load, IMO he doesn’t deserve a 4.0. If that’s the case, he’ll be in for a rude awakening at some point…better it be with the support of his family and not when he has an inflated sense of his own worth.

If he has decided to drop the class this semester, it doesn’t seem reasonable to me to punish him for it. However you may want to sit down and explain that the next time he drops a class after the drop/add date he’ll be on the hook for the whole thing and at that time you will rethink how much you’re paying for tuition and there are many fine state schools etc. Good Luck

Personally, as an adult kid with a step-mother…here’s what I see.

Okay, first off, the money I used when I went to college what rightfully mine as it was willed to me when my mother died. So, my step-mom could have input but no final decision as to where or how my money was spent. Different story but bear with me here.

I know for a fact that if my step-mom was in your position, she would not have confronted me directly on repayment of a dropped class but would have had my father do so. Basically, and if you and your husband had discussed this with your step-son (big no-no as it’s none of his business with regards to your husbands financial status) then he should see that the money going to his tuition is your money as a couple. With that in mind, since step-son is wasting $1000 a semester, his father should confront him and tell him that if he chooses to drop a class, for whatever reason, he will be required to pay you both back.

I see nothing wrong with that at all. He is getting a “free” ride and all A’s in the book don’t account for anything if your step-son is making the wrong decisions on what classes he is taking. If it were his money he would think twice about this would he not? If he knew that his entire college education had to be repaid he would carefully decide where to spend his tuition and there are a lot of kids out there that have to take out thousands of dollars in loans and don’t have what he has to get through college.

So, I say, YES, he should be required to repay classes he drops because his poor decision should not be your problem. That $1000 could go to help pay down your mortgage, towards your retirement account, to finalize that car payment you have been wanting to pay off for two years. I think it’s awesome that you are willing to step up to the plate to help your husband’s son but at the same time you are not there to catch all those that fall. Again, your willingness to help steps across many boundries that many wont, but if said kid can’t make the right decisions, that should not be your financial cross to bear.

< such is my opinion >

Anti Pro wrote

ditto. You should probably look inside and figure out what’s really up here.

Give him this choice:

He can drop out and repay you the tuition.
Continue with the class and make an sincere effort and you’ll pay, pass or fail. But he must attend every class, take every exam, and do all the course work.

Then it’s his choice, and he learns something, either way, pass or fail, and not necessarily about the course material.


First, and foremost.

You, are one Awesome person. I applaud you for paying your (step) son’s tuition.

Second, Do talk to him about it, but I would not invoke a penalty of any sort at this time if he’s already got/maintaining a 4.0 average. Unless he’s taking all easy courses, that in itself indicates that he is working his butt off.

Now, instituting a penalty in the future, when he’s aware that’s part of the program? Definitely, yes.

My parents (also awesome people in this regard) did indeed pay my full tuition for my full college career, which took a summer more than 4 years. They never mentioned a thing when I droped a class on occasion (I think two over my college career) and until you mentioned it, I never even thought about the money that was wasting. He might not have thought about that aspect either.