'No College Fund': Internet Applauds Mom For Not Paying Stepson's Tuition

Members of a popular internet forum offered stern advice to one mother who detailed her hesitancy to front thousands of dollars for her stepson's college tuition.

In a viral Reddit post published on r/AmITheA**hole, Redditor u/tuitionloan (otherwise referred to as the original poster, or OP) said her husband asked for a substantial loan to cover his 18-year-old son's first college payments and explained why she refused to oblige.

Titled, "[Am I the a**hole] for not giving my 18[-year-old] stepson my 4[-year-old] daughter's money?" the post has received more than 5,500 votes and 900 comments in the last day.

Writing that she and her husband have been married for the last five years, the original poster said she has two stepchildren and one 4-year-old daughter. The original poster also said that the couple keeps separate finances—for a reason.

"My oldest stepson graduated a couple weeks ago...he's only ever wanted to go to one school which happens to be a very specialized and hence very expensive university out of state," OP wrote. "My husband's company went under a couple of years ago...so paying out of pocket for his son's tuition is simply not an option."

"Unfortunately for stepson, his focus here lately has been on his new girlfriend and not his academics and scholarships," OP continued. "After dodging financial conversations and scholarship conversations...he finally came out and asked his dad how he was going to be paying for the tuition."

"Husband 'broke it' to him that there is no college fund set aside," OP added. "Now the whole family is up in arms that my stepson may not be able to go to the school of his choice."

After breaking the news to his son, however, the original poster said her husband came to her for the money with a promise of repayment.

"It's come up that our four-year-old daughter has a college fund and investment account," OP wrote. "Because of how badly this whole tuition and university situation has exploded, my husband now thinks we should pay for my stepson's stuff with my daughter's money and he will pay me back."

"The problem is, I've already given my husband a pile of money for other things and I've never gotten it back so I said no," OP added.

Although the original poster specified that her stepson's yearly tuition is roughly $25,000 per year, the cost of tuition alone does not equal the total cost for a year away at college.

Currently in the United States, an average out-of-state student will pay $27,023 in tuition, according to the Education Data Initiative. However, the average cost of a year at college, including books, supplies and other daily living expenses is more than $35,000.

Multiplied across four (or more) years, this can be a massive financial undertaking for parents, biological or not.

A stepparent's responsibility to contribute to their stepchild's secondary education is a widely-debated topic on the internet.

While some parents in forums like StepTalk have asserted that they knew they'd need to help pay for their stepchild's college, and also that they rose to the occasion, other stepparents have echoed the original poster's hesitancy to do so.

Earlier this year, Slate published an advice column responding to one stepmother nervous about her legal obligation to contribute to college funds for both of her stepchildren.

Noting that many financial aid applications, like FAFSA, consider all household incomes when allotting aid to hopeful students, the stepmother said she never expected to pay for two additional college educations.

Responding to the concerned stepmother, Slate's financial advice columnist Elizabeth Spiers explained that some colleges and universities offer customized financial aid packages which don't account for non-custodial parents—even when they live in the same household as the applying student.

Beyond legal obligations, Spiers also explained that, despite the pressure to contribute, there is a perfectly-ethical explanation for keeping finances separate, especially when it comes to putting a stepchild through college.

"I don't believe you have an ethical obligation to pay for your stepkids' schooling," Spiers wrote. "There's no shame in being concerned about this, or needing to take care of yourself under the circumstances."

Couple fighting over son's college fund
Members of Reddit's r/AmITheA**hole forum showed support for one mother who refused to let her husband use their daughter's college fund to cover his son's upcoming tuition bills. Drazen Zigic/iStock / Getty Images Plus

Throughout the comment section of the original poster's viral thread, many Redditors offered a similar perspective and pointed at her husband's financial track record as justification.

"You have given your husband a lot of money that he never paid back," Redditor u/Whitestaunton commented, receiving nearly 2,000 votes. "There is your answer, if you give this money over you will never see it again."

"Your husband hasn't sorted out the college fund for his older children," they added. "Why would you trust him to be responsible for your daughter's college fund [?]"

In the post's top comment, which has received nearly 10,000 votes, Redditor u/BuildABeaver took a more aggressive approach.

"Protect that money at all costs," they wrote. "Change whatever passwords you need to, call the bank and ensure that you're the only one who can access it."

Newsweek reached out to u/tuitionloan for comment.