“No child is guaranteed a college education unless her parents are divorced.” 1
Guilderland, NY – While a child can sue a parent to pay for higher education2 , this rarely happens. However, when a family has split they will often agree on a sharing of future college costs, or a court can determine when a child is of college age what his parents should pay.
Courts and parents often limit a parent’s responsibility to a share of college with a “SUNY cap’’. This means that if SUNY costs $20,000 and a child attends a more expensive school, the parents’ obligation is still $20,000.
Now comes along the Excelsior Scholarship3. This provides a child whose family earns less than $100,000 with free tuition at a SUNY or CUNY school if the student is attending full time. The student needs to remain in New York after graduation for an equal amount of time that he received the scholarship for or the scholarship becomes a loan.
The intent of the legislation is to provide higher education to New York students, without the crushing financial costs to families. Hopefully, this will be successful.
- Issues that will need to be addressed by the regulations, parents and courts will be:
- If a child lives with one parent who earns below the qualifying dollar amount but the parents combined incomes are not, will the student still qualify for the scholarship (i.e., what is a family?)?
- If the child qualifies but chooses to attend a non SUNY school, do the parents have any responsibility to pay tuition?
- If the child receives the scholarship but then leaves New York after graduation, can the child compel the parents to pay the loan back?
Another thing to keep in mind is that the scholarship is limited to the cost for tuition. College also involves many other expenses- room and board; books; supplies; fees. If you have a SUNY cap and your child’s room and board costs exceed that of a SUNY school, there is no question that your responsibility is limited to the SUNY cost.
While I generally like to offer solutions in this article and not add to people’s problems, this situation is too new and undefined to give concrete answers.
The best time to start addressing these issues isn’t as junior is packing his bags for STATE, but in the planning stages. Both parents need to take an active role and participate in looking at the best options for their children, taking into account everyone’s financial situation.
I generally know when August has rolled around- not because of the sound of hooves up the Northway, but because my phone is ringing off the hook about disagreements concerning college costs and the payment is due. It is important when making decisions that will involve many thousands of dollars that you speak with an attorney who is knowledgeable in this area of law before a final commitment has been made.
1 Some other lawyer.
2 FCA §413