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Paying for college student to move in with girlfriend?

stepper47's picture

I used to be a frequent poster, but I have slowed down lately because...well...both of my stepkids are not currently residing in our home. SD16 moved out angrily in March (see prior blogs), and has not been back.  Just in the last few weeks the ground has been thawing and she and DH seem to be maintaining a relationship that is not based on her needing something.  So that is good, I hope it sticks.  DH had a son, 20, who is currently about 2 hours away at school, and I have a son, stb 21, who is living at home and commuting to a local school.  Both boys are in their junior year.

DH and I have agreed to a yearly amount we can help each of our kids with college.  My son has his tuition covered with scholarships, so he does not need the full amount we agreed to.  Instead, we help with gas and he lives here rent free - he eats with us maybe a couple times a week but he is busy with work and school and isn't home a whole lot.  He plans to move out when he graduates.

SS20 lived here his first year of college, attending a local community college on scholarship.  He decided to go to a larger state school his 2nd year, so we kicked in our part and he still had a student loan because he had to live on campus.  This year he moved off campus with some guys in an apartment, and was able to get scholarships to cover his tuition. DH and I decided we wanted to continue our commitment,  which is the amount of his rent.   Tonight SS texted to inform DH that he and his girlfriend (who attends the same school) plan to get an apartment together next year, and to "speak now or forever hold your peace".  DH called me upstairs and said he wasnt sure what he should say, so I told him to tell him they can talk about it Wednesday - SS is supposed to be coming home this weekend on a short break, and we are driving up Wednesday to pick him and his girlfriend up (they are high school sweethearts, she is from our town).

5 minutes later SS was calling. DH asked him what it was he was wanting from him, and SS said he wanted to make sure we were still going to be paying the money next year.  DH told him again they would talk about it when he is here but SS kept pushing, so DH told him he wasnt sure that he felt comfortable paying for SS to live with his girlfriend.  That "hurt SSs feelings", and he argued for a bit, but DH managed to smoothly end the call.  We are expecting to hear that SS found another way home for his break and will be staying with his mom because he is mad that DH didn't say ok right away, but we will see...

Anyways, I am curious about other opinions on this subject. My husband and I don't support living together outside of marriage, we aren't going to judge or get mad at our kids (or anyone) if they make that choice, but we also don't feel like funding something that goes against what we believe in.  I feel like if you want the freedom to make these adult decisions, then it's time to really be an adult and stop relying on your parents for financial help.  DH agrees, but he is torn because he has said he would help with school.  I am ok with helping with school also, but if his tuition and books are covered, then actually we are paying for him to live with his girlfriend.  I love his girlfriend, I am proud of both of them, but I just can't be ok with paying for them to live together.   Thoughts?

ndc's picture

I'd give him the rent money, but that's easy for me to say because I don't really have an issue with couples living together outside of marriage.  Especially a couple who has been together as long as these two have.  Would you rather he go further into debt?  Work a lot of extra hours and risk poor grades and losing his scholarship?  At least you know this girl and you like her.  You never know what you get with roommates, especially those you don't know really well.  I know kids who've ended up rooming with drug dealers, with kids who constantly partied, with kids who had a parade of opposite sex visitors for overnights . . . you get the picture.  And the bottom line is that he could live with a different roommate but still be essentially living with his girlfriend, with him staying at her place or her staying at his every single night - and you might never even know it.  Also, if he hadn't gotten a scholarship, you'd probably give him the money for tuition, and if he took out loans for his apartment, you'd be OK with that (you said you wouldn't judge or get mad about that, you just wouldn't fund it).  So in a way he's being punished for earning a scholarship.  

Sometimes kids don't share their parents' values.  Sure, parents can try to force a lifestyle that comports with their values by controlling the purse strings, but I think your husband would do better by sitting his son down, discussing the benefits of waiting until marriage to live together, discussing the risks of living with a girlfriend (what if they break up in the middle of the year??) and trying to influence him that way, rather than using the rent money to get him to do what you want.

I do understand your reluctance to fund something you don't approve of, but the goal of helping him out with college expenses is presumably to get him a degree, so I'd view it as that rather than thinking of it as funding him living with his girlfriend.

grace8205's picture

I would stick with your values. Myself I do not have issues with couples living together however if my own son made that adult decision then he can cover his own rent. I don’t pay for any young adult to play house with their gf or bf, if they are that grown up to make that choice they are enough of a grown up to pay their own bills.

MurphysLaw's picture


flmomma08's picture

I agree. Personally, I lived with an ex before marriage and THANK GOD I did because it was a huge disaster and I am forever grateful I realized how it would be BEFORE marrying him so I could avoid it. That said, its a grown up decision and if someone chooses to do it (whether or not you agree), the rent I believe should be on them.

BethAnne's picture

They are having sex wherever they live, they will live their lives how they want and not how you want. They probably already spend most of their time at one or other's place. All you are going to do by not paying the money is frustrate your SS and strain relations with him. He is not being reckless or foolish or hastily jumping into something, he is just progressing his established relationship in a slightly different order to the one that you would want for yourself. 

If it were me would continue to pay the same amount of money that rent has been this year or half the rent on the new place if it is less. I might ask the couple to come up with a plan as to how they would cope if they break up while they are living together and how rent would be covered or their lease broken if one of them wants to move out. 

Chances are this relationship will end at some point (few people end up with thier high school sweethearts long-term) but the relationship between you and your husband as parents and your step son will survive a life time. By turning your backs on him now and trying to dictate how he lives his life and attaching conditions to the money you are providing beyond the educational purpose it will put distance between you. It will show your step son that you two do not trust him to live his life and make his own decisions. He is an adult and either you want to support his educational goals or you do not. As long as he is still working towards his goals then who he lives with is secondary and for him to choose. 

It may all end in disaster, but it is his life journey to go on and learn from his choices. Your and your husband's choice is if you want to continue to support his education or you want to put a barrier in your relationship with him and make completing his course more difficult for him.

Curious Georgetta's picture

Is it simply cohabitation while not being married to which you object?

There is a reasonably good chance that both of your college age sons are sexually active, and yet both seem to be progressing as expected.

If it is not the sex but the cohabitation that you object to funding, that may be short sighted but you  are within your rights to determine the circumstances under which you wish to provide funding.

You do realize that most colleges have coed dorms, and many students live with  their partners in the dorm settings. They simply rearrange the room occupancy by agreement.

You should not be compelled to compromise your values, but you should  consider whether you want to create issues based upon  this kind  of situation.


futurobrillante99's picture

I would give him the agreed amount and not a cent more. If he chooses to spend it living with his girlfriend, that's on him. But it's with the understanding that YOU will not be subsidizing anything more, and if things go sour between them, it's 100% on him. There will be NO bailouts.

He's an adult. If you agreed to a certain amount, honor that agreement and don't remove it because of where he's living and with whom.

I'd rather my kids didn't shack up with a partner, but, in college, I would think she'd be a better influence on him (maybe) than living with a bunch of guys. Remains to be seen. If she's a nice, level headed, girl - it might be good for him.

ESMOD's picture

I'm not a huge fan of parents putting a lot of conditions on their support.  I mean, I might not want to pay for my kid's college if they decided to pursue a study in macrame and finger painting.. but this seems less dangerous.

While you may not 100% be on board with his decision to live with his girlfriend... I think you should consider the following.

1.  Whether they reside in the same apt or not.. that will not stop them from having "relations".  There is not likely any big difference in the chance for unplanned pregnancy etc...

2.  Your son was open and honest about his intentions, he is not trying to pull one over on you.

3. As others have pointed out.. he could end up with much worse situations with roomates.. deadbeats, drugs, parades of one night stands.. wanting to commit further with his LT GF doesn't seem so bad in comparison.

4.  He is an adult, and while I am sure that your support helps him to meet his goals right now, you, for the most part, have had your chance at raising him and instilling your values upon him.  Now, he has to make his own way in the "morality" of the world.  He has been influenced by your upbringing... but that doesn't mean that the same choices will be the right ones for him.

Since he is generally holding up his end of the bargain by getting scholarships.. working hard etc.. I might not be inclined to withhold the housing funds support... despite this not being the choice you would have made for your self.. it's a choice he is making as an adult.  You could say.. well adults can support themselves.. but you guys also understand that at that age.. it can be difficult to manage the full finances.. and that your DH wants to support him.

In any case.. he may find out that it is not so easy to live with a SO...  so let this be a learning lesson before too much is at stake.

juststressedbeyondbelief's picture


My parents didn't provide me with a cent post-high school, and I'm a better person for it.

I still love both of them exactly the same as if they were to fund my entire existence.

They just spent 18 years feeding, clothing, and providing for me. Why would I be as greedy as to expect more once I'm an adult?

3 kids in my family. 3 college grads, 3 people with careers. I'm not saying my way (mine and my parents' way) is the best, but it worked. It'll work for my kids too. I'd encourage people to prepare their kids for the real world, else you'll have a 25 year old with a philosophy degree living in your basement (as is common today).

I wouldn't go out and say "the job market was different" back then either. I'm 31, my sisters are 27 and 25. The job market isn't different, the kids are.

Gimlet's picture

Interesting.  I'm a bootstraps person too, out of necessity.  I'm neither proud nor ashamed of it, it's just the cards I was dealt for the most part and some of my own choices.  I also got some positive breaks, which is pretty much a necessity for success, but something many people downplay in their personal narrative.

While I believe in working hard for what you earn, I don't think there is some moral lesson to be learned from struggling.   Or maybe our definition of struggling is different.  

Did you move out the day of graduation and completely support yourself from that point forward? 

juststressedbeyondbelief's picture

My parents struggled when we were growing up. A lot. It was rough. By the time we were adults, my dad had a new job and had the means to pay for us all. By then, we didn't need it. We understood the value of what we were setting ourselves up with. We understood how to make it. We didn't want help. We wanted to help our parents. 

If that's not a value system you'd want in children, I don't know what is. I want to emulate that well for my own children. 

I was out at 18, my sister's before that. Now, my parents HELP, but not monetarily. By our choice. My dad will, say, help me build a deck in my backyard, but he isn't going to pay to have one installed, nor would I ask. 

I feel that a lot of people (like OP's kid) are self entitled brats deserving of nothing. If the parents are paying, then the son is still a child and doesn't get a choice. If he wants to put his big boy pants on, he can foot the bill.

tog redux's picture

My parents paid for college for all of us, and grad school for some of us, and helped me out while I was in school with other expenses. They also helped me with a down payment on a house. 

That worked for me, too. I've had a job since I was I was 14 and we are all financially independent.

Helping kids out as adults doesn't mean you will be crippling them, as long as expectations are placed on them, too.  It's about character, not about whether or not your parents helped you out as adults.


lieutenant_dad's picture

I'm split on this, so I can understand why you are, too. 

Yes, you don't agree, and I can totally understand not funding something you don't agree with.

BUT - will not funding it stop them from living together? Will it stop premarital sex? Will it push them to go get married hastily (and if they did, would you pay then)? Will it cause a rift in the relationship between DH and his son? Will it put them in the poor house or on the streets?

Additionally, have you all been pushing them to take their relationship to the next level, either directly or passively? If everyone around them has been saying "put a ring on it", but then gets upset with what most of society would consider the next logical step (living together), I could see how they/he would be upset.

Ultimately, you have to weigh the pros and cons, as does he. I'd at least hear him out before saying "no". What may end up happening if you all don't chat openly is that he'll get an apartment and she'll move in secretly. 

If your issue is that you'd be funding them to have a "sex den", you're already doing that. They are likely already sleeping together even with roommates. You're not stopping anything that hasn't already happened.

I'd probably feel differently if this were a new GF of 6 months or something, but this is someone established. If SS is a good kid, working, getting good grades, it does seem silly to pull money away now because the illusion that he isn't engaging in premarital sex will be shattered.

ETA: My parents paid my rent when I was in college and moved in with my XH, who was a high school sweetheart. It was cheaper to pay my rent than it was room and board, and XH and I got a sweet deal in a crappy house, so my portion of rent was <$200/mo. That came with the following expectations:

  • I kept a job.
  • I paid my own utilities and food.
  • I didn't ask for any additional cash.
  • I didn't get pregnant.
  • I maintained my status on the Dean's List 
  • I stayed in school and got my degree at the end of my 4th year

As soon as XH and I got married, all support from them stopped, minus sharing a phone plan with my mom and SF where we paid half the phone bill (which helped my parents). Their goal was to make sure I graduated, and I never purposefully took advantage of their generosity. Having set those expectations to help with my schooling at a time when I could have taken out loans helped keep me on the right path. I had too much to lose if I didn't comply with what they wanted, and I was smart enough to not look a gift horse in the mouth.

MissTexas's picture

aligns with you morally.

If the son wants to live the adult life with his girlfriend, then he will have to find a way to do that.

It's very simple:

Behind door 1-Grow up. And I mean GROW ALL THE WAY UP, not selectively. Repsonsible adults are responsible in ALL AREAS of their lives, not selectively. Being adult isn't just being able to vote, drive, drink, have sex, and do whatever you want. It also means supporting that lifestyle; get a job, and pay your own way. People do it all the time.

Behind door 2-If you want daddy and wife to help, you abide by their guidelines and in turn you get monetary help until you graduate. 

KISMIF-Keep it simple, make it fun!

ITB2012's picture

I had friends in college who lied to their parents about everything because of the parents beliefs. One girl dressed completely punk yet when her parents came to visit she had curly, feathered hair, had some flowery dress with a Peter Pan collar, and pink flats. It was WEIRD to see her looking like that. And she'd go around the night before begging everyone not to give away her usual attire and personality.

I'm sure you SS knows you and your DHs views. I give him credit for being upfront about it. He could have just said he's getting an apartment with one roommate and lied the entire time.

I get your DHs dilemma. XH and I have a set amount of money set aside for DS. I have no problem with him living with a girl. I do think living with a girl during college is too much additional pressure. I was thinking about what I would do/say. I already told DS there is a set amount of money for four years of college, anything beyond that is on him. I wouldn't rescind that. I would, however, tell him my opinion is that it's too much additional pressure and my advice is not to do it, but that it's his decision, and I wouldn't pay for any additional costs if the relationship goes south and he needs to change his housing situation.

Steppedonnomore's picture

I can see both sides of this issue.  When you and your DH told your sons that you were willing to put a certain amount toward their education did you mention any conditions at that time (certain grade average, keeping part-time job, etc.)? That might make the case that SS always knew the money was not unconditional.  The bottom line for me is, that you and your DH are on the same page.  It's YOUR money, the two of you make decisions on how it is spent.  

Rags's picture

I would suggest that your son get the full amount.  Since he has been responsible in obtaining and maintaining his scholarships and keeping costs low by living at home and commuting to a local college does not mean that he should have reduced support.

As for the SS.... I would suggest that his level of support be maintained regardless of where he chooses to live. He needs to eat any increase in costs beyond the support you and DH provide.  These are burgeoning adults who should be allowed to make their own decisions (within reason) and deal with the consequences of those choices.

Just my thoughts of course.

If SS pulls any hinky crap over having to discuss his choice to move into with his GF, he needs to understand that the support he gets will remain subject to his continued interface with his parents (and SParents).


stepper47's picture

Lots of great words and things to think about, I really appreciate everyone's input.

It's not about controlling or trying to force him to do what we want.  It's about being true to our values and feeling comfortable with what our money is going to .  We agreed to help support their education. Outside of our personal values, I feel like there is already a lot of stress and pressure trying to complete a degree.  Adding the stress and challenges of creating a new household with your significant other had a pretty good chance of becoming a distraction from the education.  And it goes back to adult decisions = adult responsibilities.  I totally get all the statements that they are probably staying together all the time anyway, they are going to have sex regardless, but that doesn't mean we have to give the seal of approval and send them money to do so.  

I wasn't involved in the conversation whenever DH talked to SS about what we can help with.  DH said it was back when SS first went away to school, and there were conditions like keep your grades up, don't get arrested, etc.   Moving in with a girlfriend was not a thought at the time.  Apparently DH did tell SS the amount we had set, which I had never intended to tell the boys.  My son and Iook at whatever expenses he may have each semester, then I talk to DH about it and let BS know what we can help with.  BS usually says he can take care of it, but I make him take the $ and he is grateful.  I thought our set amount was for DH and I to have in mind as our limit to where we can fill in expenses, but it appears that SS feels this is the amount we are supposed to give him each year.

I think that we have decided that our answer is that if SS decides to move in with his girlfriend, we respect his decision, but next year we will go back to paying the school for whatever out of pocket expenses there may be. DH said tonight that scholarships and grants do cover most of tuition, but there are still book fees and some other things, plus SS uses their meal plan which is not cheap.  I am not sure who is paying that right now, as we had decided this year our help would go to his rent.  We will also continue to pay for his cell phone, car insurance, and medical expenses like we always have.   Maybe we are fooling ourselves as this is still subsidizing his living situation, but it will make us feel better about it rather than cutting him a check every month.  We love him and want him to succeed, regardless of whether his choices line up with what we would want. I am hoping that he can respect where we are coming from and accept what we are offering.  We go to pick up him and his gf tomorrow evening, it might be a real long car ride.

stepper47's picture

Just something else I have been thinking dad and stepmom offered to pay for my college, and I had the invitation to live with them or my mom rent free.  I chose to live at home the first year, then the second year I decided it would be more fun to move into an apartment with a roommate.  My dad thought it was a bad idea but still paid my tuition.  He would have paid for a dorm if I had gone away to school, but never offered to pay my rent or any other expenses...and it never occcured to me that he would.  It was never "my" money, plus I was too busy trying to start my life and feeling cool and independent.  Ultimately I got too caught up in that, made some bad choices, got pregnant and quit school, but that's another story.  I don't think that outcome would have changed if my dad had been paying my bills, he would probably just have been out even more money.  I do believe that by him not paying, it prepared me to step up to my responsibilities when I had to.  I feel like he did pretty well with balancing supporting me without having to support all my decisions, and that's what I strive for with our kids 

Anonyn49's picture

I don't have a moral issue with cohabitation. However, I do have an issue with providing financial support to someone who feels they are entitled to all the benefits of adulthood. My answer would be basically that I am happy for him to have found someone and excited for this next chapter in his life...and that this represents a very adult decision with very adult concerns. As such, I will not get in the way of him adulting. I will, however, be here if things go south and he needs to move out, but if he wants to cohabitate with a significant other, that represents the crossing of an adult threshhold and is a firm step toward independence, which I will respect. Part of that respect is recognizing that he is able to find a way to pay his own rent.