How Does a Parent Going Back to School Affect the Family?


A parent may go back to school for a number of reasons, including new job opportunities, a career change or personal fulfillment, but heading back to college impacts all family members. With the effects of a parent college student in mind, you can decide if the move is the best option and lessen the negative impact on your spouse and kids.


  • A family's financial situation often shifts as a parent goes back to school. If the parent leaves a job behind to pursue the education, the family experiences a sudden loss in income, which changes the budget. The cost of taking college classes adds another expense to the family budget. Going back to school can put a financial strain on the family, depending on the remaining income and the amount of room in the budget. Financial aid helps offset the cost of going back to school. Student loans, grants and scholarships help cover the cost of college so it doesn't take away from other areas of the budget. If the parent is currently paying on student loans from a previous degree, becoming a student again may allow you to defer the payments on those loans. Your family may also qualify for tax breaks with a parent in school that helps the overall financial situation.

Family Time

  • The demands of college classes may affect the amount of time spent together as a family. If the parent goes back to school part-time in addition to keeping her job, she will likely miss out on family time in the evenings when she goes to class. Online classes offer more flexibility for when you attend class, but you'll still need to set aside time to complete the work. Studying outside of class hours also leaves less time to spend with the kids. A schedule that includes time spent with the family and study time helps maintain a balance between school and home life.

Household Responsibilities

  • The responsibility for household chores sometimes shifts as one parent goes back to school, especially if she was primarily responsible for keeping the household running. Between classes and study time, the student parent has less time to tend to cleaning, errands, child care and general household tasks. Families often need to plan out who will handle each chore with the new schedule. For example, if the parent attends night classes, her spouse may start cooking dinner for the family. If the kids are old enough, enlist their help in keeping the house neat.


  • In an ideal world, the family would cheer on the adult learner and fully support her as she goes back to school. In reality, your family may resent you going back to school. The time spent away from your spouse and kids may leave them feeling neglected. The parent going back to school may feel guilty for putting herself first. Talking about feelings related to a parent going back to school can help clear the air. Let your spouse know you aren't feeling supported. He may not even realize you feel that way.


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