Rising College Expenses: More Greenbacks for Sheepskins

College expenses are increasing nationwide, but why has tuition at Illinois public universities doubled over the past ten years, and what effect does that increase have on child support orders?

The pension fund crisis has touched institutions of higher learning. In 2005, 20 percent of the higher education budget was earmarked for pensions; by 2015, that proportion was 53 percent. So, drastic tuition hikes were deemed necessary to keep facilities up to date and otherwise remain competitive. Moreover, state institutions of higher learning are hiring 50 percent more administrators than instructors, resulting in a payroll imbalance. According to one estimate, the University of Illinois' chancellor's salary could have funded more than 320 Monetary Award Program grants for low-income students.

Tuition and fees at the University of Illinois-Springfield are about 30 percent above the national average.

Paying for College After Divorce

In most cases, regular child support ends after the children turn 18. But college expenses are one of the most notable exceptions. And despite recent amendments to Section 513 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, including a cap on college expenses, a limit on the length of payments, minimum grade point requirements, and the inclusion of 529 plans and other assets, much of the law is highly discretionary.

Many of the likely areas of contention are in Section 513(d), which says that the parents may be ordered to divide the cost of:

  • Tuition and Fees: There is a significant difference between a year at a local community college and a year at the University of Illinois. Furthermore, what obligation (if any) does the student have to borrow money?
  • Housing Expenses: The amount is capped, in most cases at a double-occupancy dormitory room at the University of Illinois, but once again, the actual amount for housing can vary significantly, depending on both the location and type of housing.
  • Living Expenses: This category is vague as well. For example, “transportation” is included, but does that mean a new car with full insurance and a gas/maintenance stipend, a pair of one-way bus tickets to get from home to school and back again, or something in between?

The judge may award a reasonable amount based on the evidence and arguments of counsel, underscoring the need for thorough preparation and effective advocacy.

Division of college expenses is an oft-overlooked element of child support. For a confidential consultation, contact an experienced Naperville family law attorney. We routinely handle cases in DuPage County and nearby jurisdictions.


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