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College Expenses and Divorce: Are Students from Divorced Homes Getting the Fairest Deal?

College Expenses and Divorce: Are Students from Divorced Homes Getting the Fairest Deal?

By: M. Scott Gordon

In case you did not know, Illinois law (750 ILCS 5/513) can require parents to provide educational expenses for a non-minor child following a divorce. In other words, under Illinois law, child support obligations do not always end when a child reaches the age of majority.

According to an article in Inside Higher Ed, statutes like this one do not always result in a student who comes from a divorced home to have parents that contribute equally to his or her college expenses. While the statute does help to ensure that college students have some financial assistance from their parents after a divorce, studies suggest that college students with divorced parents end up paying more themselves than do students who come from intact homes.”

What Does the Statute Require Divorced Parents to Pay?

To be clear, divorced parents can be required to provide for reasonable college expenses up to the age of 23 or, in some cases, up to the age of 25. This “educational expenses” aspect of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) does not mean that a parent can be asked to pay all college expenses no matter what the cost might be. Rather, the statute clarifies that the “court may require either or both parties to provide funds for the child so as to pay for the cost of up to 5 college applications, the cost of 2 standardized college entrance examinations, and the cost of one standardized college entrance examination preparatory course.”

In addition, divorced parents can be required to provide “the actual cost of the child’s post-secondary expenses, including tuition and fees, provided that the cost for tuition and fees does not exceed the amount of in-state tuition and fees paid by a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for the same academic year,” along with medical expenses, reasonable housing expenses, and college books and supplies. Given that parents who are divorced and single tend to have less spending money than parents who are living together and sharing expenses, it may not come as a surprise that students from divorced homes tend to pay more of their own college expenses than students from intact households.

Study Says Students with Divorced Parents “Pay Twice the Share of Their College Education”

According to the article from Inside Higher Ed, a study addressing college expenses and divorce determined that “students from families with divorced or remarried parents pay twice the share of their college education as compared to their peers whose parents remain married to each other.” The results of that study, conducted by researchers at Rice University and Harvard University, were published in the Journal of Family Issues.

Is the college expenses aspect of the IMDMA failing to make an impact? When teens with divorced parents decide to attend school in-state in Illinois, they may end up paying an amount themselves that is equal to their peers who have parents that remain married. However, when students go outside the state or attend private colleges and universities, the difference in expenses can be drastic. In these cases, students with divorced parents often have parents who are on tighter budgets and cannot afford to help with college. And even if their divorced parents have remarried, the authors of the study suggest that stepparents are less likely to provide for a stepchild’s educational expenses than a legal parent or guardian.

Seek Advice from a Chicago College Expenses Lawyer

If you have questions about divorce and college expenses, a Chicago college expenses attorney can assist you. Contact M. Scott Gordon & Associates today.