On the face of it, and as general guidance in a low interest rate environment as we are at the moment, paying off debt may deliver a better return for most people than using the same money for investment.
Obviously this decision is one to be made individually and to reflect individual circumstances, needs and attitude to risk. However, in the case of student loans, there may also be other wider considerations and sometimes decisions are made for emotional reasons, not just financial ones. As a mother of a son in his second year of university I can confirm I have had many discussions around this with my son and other parents and there are many and wide ranging views!
Would the cash be better being held (and invested) to help the student towards a mortgage deposit? Building up a pot of cash is not easy and so having one at the ready to help your son/ daughter with their first home deposit may be a preferred option to paying down the student debt.
Some parents may not want their daughter/son entering the real world with a huge debt hanging over them and so want to help them start with a clean slate.
Some parents see it as a lesson: wanting their son/ daughter to understand that education has a cost and their son/ daughter paying for that is part of the value/ cost lesson.
Some believe that the student paying the loan from their salary is a lesson in budgeting and personal financial management and so are happy to let them do that.
Some parents think that parental financial support stops on graduation/ on receipt of the first pay slip and so leave their daughter/ son to start their financial independence.
Some parents are actively banking on the fact that their son's/ daughter's debt will be written off in the future and so why would they waste their money paying it down?
From a financial planning perspective an adviser would be able to make a recommendation to each individual based on what would be most suitable for their needs, circumstances and risk tolerance. However, all advisers will also have many examples of clients who understand the recommendation made and still make the emotional decision over the financial one.
'Should I pay off my son's student loan - or is there a better use for my cash?'