Paying For Kids' College? Don't Expect All A's Credit: College art via Shutterstock

Parents who pay for their children's higher education shouldn't be surprised that their grades show they aren't making the most of their opportunity, new research finds.

The study by Laura Hamilton, a professor at University of California, Merced, found that college students' grades went down as the amount of financial assistance they received from their parents went up.

"Regardless of class background, the toll parental aid takes on GPA is modest," Hamilton wrote. "Yet, any reduction in student GPA due to parental aid — which is typically offered with the best of intentions — is both surprising and important."

While they might not be studying hard, students who get financial aid from their parents are doing enough to get by. The research revealed that students who receive financial aid from their parents more likely to complete college and earn a degree.

Specifically, students with no parental aid in their first year of college had a 56.4 percent predicted probability of graduating, compared with 65.2 percent for students who received $12,000 in aid from their parents.

"Students with parental support are best described as staying out of serious academic trouble, but dialing down their academic efforts," Hamilton wrote in the study.

The same results were not true of other forms of student aid. The research shows that other funding sources, such as grants and scholarships, work-study, student employment and veterans' benefits, do not have the same negative effects on student GPA.

Hamilton cautions that the study's results do not mean parents should cut off financial support altogether, particularly given the importance of parental funds for getting a college degree. She said she does think, however, that it is important for parents to set standards for their college-bound kids, such as a required GPA that helps keep them accountable for their performance.

The study, which was based on two nationally representative datasets collected by the National Center for Educational Statistics, was supported by a grant from the American Educational Research Association. It is scheduled to appear in the February issue of the American Sociological Review.

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