College Selection & The SUNY Cap

Recently a NYC judge, over the father's objection, ordered him to pay 40% of private college expenses for his child. The father's share will cost approximately $21,200.

Many parents who divorce negotiate that their obligation to pay for college will be limited to the charges of a SUNY school including tuition, room, board, books, lab fees and reasonable transportation to and from home to school. The reason for the provision is to prevent one parent who perhaps might be either more able or less able from forcing the other parent to incur an expense that they cannot afford. If private college costs hover around $50,000 or more per year, the parent with a small proportionate share to pay could choose a private school and otherwise obligate the other parent to incur a tremendous expense. The reverse could be true as well since a parent who has greater resources, but not necessarily greater income might also force the parent with no savings to incur a large expense solely based on a comparison of salary.

In this very recent case, the court found that since both parents had income slightly in excess of $100,000 and substantial retirement resources the father could not mandate a state school education when his child had a clear preference for a smaller private college for a variety of reasons. The court's decision was 19 pages long and carefully reviewed existing case law as well as the unique facts of the case including the point that both parents were attorneys and had attended private schools themselves.

Since the divorce agreement of the parties did not contain a college expense limitation clause, nor did it contain a provision requiring the mutual consent of the parents to the college choice, the judge made a determination based upon the unique circumstances of the case.

If you have questions about upcoming college expenses, please contact my office so we may advise you and protect your interests.