Your Initials are Not A.T.M.

Parents who have children preparing to graduate from high school may either agree or be ordered to contribute to the child’s *reasonable* expenses for college.  Typical expenses that are divided may include tuition, room and board, mandatory fees (such as technology, course/lab and parking fees), books, travel expenses (such as a vehicle for the child and vehicle insurance), cellular phone expenses, and health insurance.  Further provisions in agreements or court orders may include limitations on how long parents are responsible, such as for four years or when the child obtains an undergraduate degree, whichever first occurs.  Or that the child must attend a public in-state college, such as Indiana University or Purdue.  Or even that the child must maintain a certain grade point average, to keep the child focused and studying.

So what happens if a child decides he wants to transfer to a more expensive school and decides it’s too far to walk to use the campus meal plan?  If both parents agree that this is appropriate, then there is no issue.  However, if parents do not want to chip in for the groceries and the additional cost of the new school, then that is on the student to make up the difference.

What about study abroad programs?  While these may be once in lifetime opportunities and may actually be part of the child’s major, the cost can be substantial.  As such, these are typically not a requirement for graduation and would be more of a “perk” rather than a reasonable expense.  Again, if both parents agree to fund the opportunity, they can, but if the child can achieve his or her degree without the program, it is okay to say no.

What if the child wants to join a fraternity or sorority?  Again, this is not a must on every campus; however, for many schools, if a child moves into Greek housing, this is a cost that replaces their room and board and may in some cases actually be less expensive than paying campus room and board.  The other “hidden” costs may include everything from membership dues and parlor fees, to the costs of specific events and sportswear that the student may elect to purchase, or not.  These fees can be easily pushed to the child and should be seriously considered before the student becomes a pledge.

A carefully worded agreement regarding the child’s college expenses and the parents’ expectations can help head off any potential disagreements before they begin, and help set expectations for the student.  If you don’t already have detailed college expense language in your court order, consider contacting Wanzer Edwards before your child graduates from high school.

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