Preventing Your Daughter from Going to College

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on October 1, 2014.

Pastor Karl Heitman recently wrote a blog post titled “2 Reasons Why My Daughter Will Not Go to College.

I pledged to myself that I will not sacrifice my daughter on *the altar of men* by sending her out of my home, care, and protection at age 18 just so that she can get a degree and achieve some worldly status. I will count those years as a precious time for my wife and me to prepare her for the wonderful task that’s ahead. The job of being a wife and mother is a high calling and I would argue is the most important job under the sun.

The first thing that occurred to me is that this isn’t Heitman’s decision, it’s his daughter Annalise’s decision (Annalise is only five at the moment). Whether Heitman likes it or not, when Annalise turns 18 she will be a legal adult and he will have no control over her decisions. Or will he?

Our current system of paying for college is messed up—including our financial aid system. If Heitman’s daughter wants to file a FAFSA to apply for financial aid, she will have to have a parent’s signature. If Heitman refuses to sign her FAFSA, Annalise is out of luck where financial aid is concerned—unless, of course, she can prove that she was abused. But I’ve seen that process, and it can be complicated, because you have to present supporting evidence. And besides, what if she isn’t abused, at least in any legal sense of the term?

But of course, even this presumes Annalise qualifies for financial aid. She might not. The general assumption is that when a young adult’s parents make too much money for her to qualify for financial aid, her parents will pitch in and help pay for her college. After all, the system is set up specifically to help young adults whose parentscan’t afford to pay for their college.

If Heitman makes enough money, Annalise may not qualify for financial aid.

So, Heitman could deprive Annalise of financial aid, and it’s possible that she might not qualify anyway. What then? It’s very unlikely that Annalise will have money to pay for college herself, especially given the rising expense. She might have a family member—an aunt or grandparent—who could help her out, but chances are her only other option would be a loan. And guess what? Someone has to cosign a loan. What if Heitman refuses to cosign a loan? Annalise might be able to find an uncle or cousin to cosign, but that’s uncertain.

Our current college financing system presumes that parents—whether poor or rich—want their children to be able to go to college. It assumes that parents of young adults—and we’re talking anyone between 18 and 24—will help pay for their children’s college if they can afford it, and that those who can’t afford it will sign their children’s FAFSAs so that they can get financial aid. But these assumptions are not always accurate, and when they’re not, it’s the young adult who is left holding the bag.

Our economic system is set up such that some of the greatest financial burdens an individual will bear occur at the very beginning of adulthood. Unfortunately, when a young adult’s parents don’t help them out—by signing a FAFSA, helping out financially, or cosigning loans—their futures and options may be severely curtailed. Yes, there may be other options—various trades, attending community college while working—but some doors are simply closed.

What of Heitman’s plan for Annalise to spend her adult years as a wife and mother? The trouble is that during the years parents—usually mothers—spend as homemakers and caregivers, they aren’t accruing social security benefits, they don’t make money, and they don’t acquire career skills or work experience. Now yes, there are things that matter more than money. But the trouble is that, in the system we currently have, a mother who stays at home (and it is usually the mother) is incredibly dependent on her husband. She’s dependent not only in a current sense (financially) but also in a future sense (social security benefits) and in a sense that increases over time (as the gap on the resume widens).

This is especially true if a woman did not attend college or gain work experience before transitioning to life as a stay-at-home mother.

As for me, I was lucky. My parents taught me that my role in life was to be a wife and mother, and absolutely not to have a career, but they still sent me to college. They told me they wanted me to have a backup plan, and options available if I didn’t marry immediately or if my husband someday were to lose his job or die. They also said that college-educated men generally want to marry college-educated women, for the intellectual compatibility. In fact, they described the money they paid for my college as my “dowry.” Of course, college graduates marrying college graduates is likely more about social homogeneity than intellectual compatibility and college is not always necessary to ensure that a young woman is prepared to support herself.

But Heitman isn’t saying that he wants to prepare is daughter to support herself using avenues outside of college. He explicitly states that he doesn’t think his daughter should be prepared to support herself. I’d like to say that Heitman is unaware of just how dependent he plans to make his daughter on her future husband, but his words make it clear that that’s not true. He argues that it is right and natural for a woman to be dependent on her husband—and obedient to him. And of course, divorce is not seen as an option. A married woman is supposed to be shackled to her husband, for good or for bad.

And besides, what if Heitman’s daughter doesn’t marry straight out of high school, or until her thirties, or at all? What would Heitman have her do—live at home with him, waiting for her prince charming to appear?

Unfortunately, he answers this question with a resounding “yes.”

I’ve read a variety of commentary on Heitman’s article, and want to highlight this bit:

Better titled “Many numbered reasons your daughter will distance herself from you when she realizes she has been given free will and stops being afraid to use it.”

This father may not realize it, but his assumption that he can dictate his daughter’s life trajectory and make her adult decisions for her will likely come back to bite him in the end, especially if he deliberately sabotages her options. Again, I have watched this happen. I know young women who have found themselves in this position, with parents unwilling to sign a FAFSA or help out in any other way.

The young women generally make it through, with blood, sweat, and tears, but their relationships with their parents generally don’t.

14 comments

  • I didn’t do college, but went the military route instead. My mother classifies me as a “love the sinner but hate the sin” situation, and still believes that women shouldn’t be allowed to serve. Welp, I’m an NCO and just finished my 5th year of Active Duty, and have no contact with my mom. Her loss, not mine.

  • ….Or she could marry someone and make herself “independent” according to the FAFSA. That’s what I did, and thankfully the guy turned out to be pretty alright. Let’s just say that there are plenty of foreign men willing to marry an American woman. In my case it was a win-win for both involved. 😉 Nothing stops me from my dreams.

  • This is exactly what happened to me. I ran away at nineteen with the sole purpose of getting an education. Then I found I had no high school transcripts, no diploma, and I could not complete the FAFSA. I was able to find a kind young married couple who co-signed for a small student loan, just enough for a semester’s worth of tuition at the community college. The college refused the loan due to a policy that the FAFSA must be completed before outside loans can be accepted. This was in 2008… I didn’t qualify to file the FAFSA on my own until 2013. I have been killing myself working myself through on my own, working 40 hours a week to pay living expenses and tuition. By the time I qualified to file the FAFSA, I was too old for most of the “just out of highschool” scholarships. I am going to graduate from Iowa State in another year, but it has been one of the most impossible things ever. I have been depressed and overwhelmed for a long time now, but I just keep my head down and keep trying to scrape up money for textbooks.

    • I have been in the same situation (I’m actually starting at ISU in the spring!). Good for you for being determined and slogging through the unpleasantness that is making your own way.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    What of Heitman’s plan for Annalise to spend her adult years as a wife and mother? The trouble is that during the years parents—usually mothers—spend as homemakers and caregivers, they aren’t accruing social security benefits, they don’t make money, and they don’t acquire career skills or work experience.

    Problem is, with this crowd That’s a Feature, not a Bug.

    If Widdle Annawise has NO skills, NO work experience, NO safety net, she can’t very well leave Daddy/Hubby/Owner, can she?

  • This is the result of a false nostalgia that many Christians have been falling for in this century. A century ago, my great grandmother, a central Texas farm wife and mother of nine was fiercely aware of what could happen to she and her children if something would have happened to her husband and she determined to send her daughters to a nearby teachers college. Almost all of her daughters used that education to help support their families in the years to come. Educating daughters isn’t sacrificing them to something worldly, instead, it is a way to protect them and their future families from the uncertainties in this life.

  • I just wanted to throw out there that if you live in the state of Illinois and want some guidance about filing the FAFSA, getting into college, paying for college, etc., that is my job! You can get free help navigating this process in Illinois by contacting and ISACorps member such as myself. You can find my work Facebook page by searching Amanda Munoz – ISACorps. In the situation desribed above, it is hard to file the FAFSA, but not always impossible, so don’t stop trying.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Where did you get that illo at the top?
    Whoever the artist was, he looks like he was channeling Hieronymus Bosch.

  • A small note, and I only know this because I worked my way through CC and then went back for my BA later — you can fill out the FAFSA, parents or not, at 24. You’re still young, but not quite “traditional” college student — and you might be able to get scholarships for being a non-traditional student to boot. So. Yeah.

    This, of course, does not even touch my rage on the whole topic of “parents deliberately keeping their daughters ignorant and poor” — I fully believe that, as HUG said, it’s a feature of the entire thing. I think they know that if the daughters got outside interaction, there’s a very high chance that they’ll realize what’s wrong about … well, everything. Happened to me, yo.

  • On the other hand, with one in five women being sexually assaulted on campus, it is probably negligent endangerment to pay her tuition or sign her FAFSA so she can attend.

    • While rape is never a woman’s fault, I think that there are personal protective strategies that a young woman and her family can take in order to avoid not only rape but a lot of the other things that people within this conservative homeschooling movement seem to fear. For one thing, she can stay at home and commute to a college nearby and thus continue to be closely involved with her family and community while she attends college. Career choices can also be considered with a future family in mind. Many women choose careers in education, nursing, pharmacology, and medicine because one can flex these careers around a families needs.

    • A girl must not be expected to give up on her dreams to avoid a risk of sexual assault. This kind of “chilling effect” amplifies the power of sexual crimes as a way to control women. Particularly, a person can’t make this decision for another. Perhaps her dream is more important: even if a person is sexually assaulted (which is never their fault, so linking it to what they want to choose to do in life is also unfair-it is not because of her choice that she suffered this crime, but rather because of some criminal), would they rather they didn’t follow their dream at all? If a boy can join the army (and if he is injured during his service, society understands why he would still join up), why can’t a girl go to college?

    • So, don’t let your daughter go to college because she MIGHT be raped? Because rape NEVER, EVER happens to married women by their own husbands no less. Others might want to be civil in their responses to your asinine non-point, but I just can’t. Troll, get back under your bridge until you grow up. My situation is totally different, I was educated in public school, but my mother was a drunkard incapable of taking care of herself, much less children of any age. I had to hock my life just get out of poverty, but at least I can say I have my education – I just don’t have a relationship with my mother. My heart goes out to those of you struggling. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and you will get to the finish line.

  • **Raises hand: This is pretty much my story.
    I have paid for CC for 5 semesters with my own sweat and a scholarship I was lucky to get. First Pell grant this year had me in tears. Finally 24!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    The Other Side: You know MOST rapes and sexual abuse happen by the hand of people that the victim knows? Keeping her at home and in her own environment…THAT is endangerment. Further endangerment: keeping her ignorant and unemployable and making her permanently dependent on someone else.
    Logically, your argument fails.

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