Folks use tuition to control college senior

Q: I’m nearly 22 and I will begin my senior year of college this fall. I recently moved back in with my parents for the summer and was offered a summer job that is related to my field and would be a great résumé builder.

The job is located an hour and a half away from my parents’ house, so I planned on moving in with my boyfriend of 2 1/2 years, who lives in the area. My parents do not approve.

My parents have supported me 100 percent financially through the last three years of college, for which I am grateful. However, they’ve threatened to withhold my last year of tuition if I accept the job.

I feel this job would be a great opportunity, and it would be a shame to decline it. My parents live in a rural community that offers no similar opportunities. The only alternative would be factory work, which I have done in the past.

I am sick of being treated like a child and having my parents hold financial leverage over me. Am I crazy to consider taking out student loans, so I can accept the job and have my freedom? Or should I suck it up and deal with it for one more year to graduate debt-free?

21 Going On 12

A: If I told you to take the job and the loans — or to suck it up and appease your parents for ooooone more summer — then I’d just be replacing your parents in the adult role. Time to do your own cost-benefit analysis.

How much would you have to borrow, have you missed any application deadlines, how much of a career advantage would this summer job give you, how much of your rationale is just a fig leaf for wanting to be with your boyfriend/out on your own (not that there’s anything wrong with either) and, most important, how much say in your life do you think this tuition money buys your parents?

Has that last answer changed since you were 18 and a freshman, or is the fact of their financial support the decisive one?

At your age it would be a problem if you weren’t sick of being treated like a child. I also disagree strongly with parents who hold tuition hostage to control their children. Make tuition contingent on doing schoolwork, yes, but moral puppetry is insulting and futile.

However, your parents are adults who get to use their money as insultingly and futilely as they choose. You, in turn, are an adult who gets to decide what course of action your integrity demands, including whether to accept a gift when you fundamentally object to the terms.

Email Carolyn Hax at, or chat with her online at noon each Friday at

Washington Post Writers Group