Nearly one-third of all undergraduate students in the US are paying for all their college-related expenses. If you are about to enter college and you don’t want to become a part of the statistics and hate the thought of turning to student loans either, you might be wondering if your folks should pay for your college.
Parents whose marriage remains intact are not legally obligated to pay for their child’s college. Parents who are divorced, meanwhile, may or may not be legally obligated to pay for their child’s education, depending on factors such as the state of residency and stipulations in the divorce settlement.
Refrain from assuming that getting admission into your dream school is the only thing you need to worry about during the college application process — you might also have to think about paying for a bachelor’s degree yourself!
Read on if it seems like your parents are giving hints that they won’t take care of your college costs.
Below, you will come across some of the most important things you need to know about the matter of who’s supposed to pay for college — a parent who is probably gearing up for retirement or still paying off educational debt and didn’t save enough or a child who should probably be looking for a full-time or part-time job just to be able to afford a degree?
What States Require Parents to Pay for College
The obligation of parents to financially support their kids ends upon the age of majority — age 18, 19, or 21. In some states, the courts may order non-custodial parents to pay for some form of college expenses until their kids reach a certain age. Divorced parents may agree to extend child support.
Some parents feel that it’s their moral obligation to send their kids to college. While some of their family and friends may frown if they refuse to do so, they will not go to prison.
But being divorced is a complete game-changer.
Different states have different family laws. And in some states, the courts have the power to award college support beyond the age of majority, which is referred to as post-secondary or post-minority support.
It may be either in addition to child support or a part of child support. It may also be a separate payment after child support comes to an end.
When determining whether or not the non-custodial parent should provide college support to the child, the courts take into account many different factors, such as:
- The financial resources of both parents
- The standard of living the child would have had the marriage remained intact
- The child’s financial resources — including financial aid and scholarships
- The child’s academic performance or whether or not he or she was going to college anyway
Want a much better idea of who is legally obliged to pay for a child’s college education in the US whether or not the parents are divorced?
Check out the following basic breakdown of post-minority child support requirements by state:
Child support requirements come to an end once the child turns 19 years old, once he or she graduates from high school or obtains emancipation. If the child is disabled, one or both parents must continue support. In Alabama, parents are not required to pay college costs as part of support, although they can voluntarily agree to do so.
Once the child turns 18 years old, the court can no longer require one or both parents to pay for his or her college. However, the court may be able to award support for a child who has a physical or mental handicap.
Parents are required to support a child only until he or she reaches 18 years of age. However, there are exceptions for a child who is disabled or reaches majority while still in high school, except if he or she has become emancipated for reasons aside from turning 18 years old.
Child support comes to an end when the child reaches majority, except if he or she is still in high school or has a disability. Parents are no longer required to support the child who is still in high school after graduation or upon reaching 19 years old, whichever takes place earlier.
It’s only until the child reaches 18 years of age that parents should provide support. However, it can continue until the age of 19 if the child is a full-time high school student and not self-sufficient. In California, the law allows parents to keep supporting an adult child who is incapacitated.
When the child marries or enters the military at 19 years of age, child support comes to an end. It can, however, continue if the child is still in high school upon reaching the age of majority, mentally or physically disabled, or both parties agree otherwise. Parents cannot be obliged to pay for child support and college education at the same time.
Although child support terminates at 18 years old, it may continue if he or she is still in high school, unmarried, or still lives with one or both parents. The court can order support for the child to attend college up to 23 years of age.
Unless the child is still a full-time high school student who is likely to graduate, support continues until he turns 18 years old. Child support ends at 19 years of age or upon high school graduation, whichever comes first.
District of Columbia
Parents are no longer obliged to support a child once he or she reaches 21 years of age, which is considered the age of majority in the District of Columbia. However, support may continue under exceptional circumstances.
Generally speaking, child support ends at 18 years of age. It has to continue, though, until the child is 19 years old if he or she is still in high school and is very much likely to graduate, dependent, or has mental or physical incapacitation. Paying for college is not the duty of the parents unless the child is actually dependent.
Child support continues only until the child turns 18 years old, becomes emancipated or marries. It’s possible for the court to order parents to support a non-emancipated or unmarried child who is in college until 20 years of age.
When the child turns 19 years old, support terminates. However, the child must be notified three months in advance. The court can require parents to support a child in certain situations, such as if the custodial parent or the adult child can provide proof of being enrolled as a full-time student or accepted into a college before 19 years of age.
It’s only until the child turns 18 years old that support comes to an end. The court, however, may order the parents to continue support if the child is still in high school until education is discontinued or he or she turns 19 years old, whichever of the two comes first.
The court can order continued support for educational expenses even if the child is already in the age of majority. The application can be made while the child is still in high school, even if he or she is already 18 years of age or older, or college. Educational expenses covered include tuition, fees, room and board, books and supplies, transportation, etc.
A child who is a full-time college student is entitled, upon the motion of a parent, to support until the time he or she graduates, marries or enters the military.
Generally speaking, child support ends at 18 years of age. However, it can continue until 19 years of age if the child is still completing high school or an equivalent. Child support may still continue until 21 years of age if he or she is a full-time college student or has been accepted for admission into a college for the coming term.
Support comes to an end when the child turns 18 years old. However, it terminates at 19 years of age if the child reaches the age of majority while still in high school. College support is by agreement only.
Child support is only up to 18 years of age or, if he or she is still in high school, up to 19 years of age. The court has no power to oblige the parents to support a child in any other circumstances.
While child support terminates at the age of majority, it may continue until 19 years of age if the child is dependent upon either parent as well as a full-time high school student (or equivalent) in good standing. Providing support for college is by agreement only between the parents and the child.
Support terminates at 18 years of age. It comes to an end at 19 years of age if the child is still in high school or graduates, drops out or gets an expulsion, or whichever occurs first. The parents and the child can come to an agreement when it comes to college support.
Child support ends at 18 years of age. If the child is enrolled in high school, it terminates whichever between reaching 19 years old or graduation comes first. The court may consider the terms of existing separating or property settlement agreement or court order, if any, in determining if the guidelines would be inappropriate or unjust.
Typically, support stops when the child turns 18 years old. It may, however, extend until 21 years old if the child is enrolled in an educational program and living with the parents. It may also extend up to 23 years of age if the child is dependent resulting in being enrolled in an educational program, excluding costs beyond an undergraduate degree.
While support ends at 18 years of age, it may extend until 19 and a half years old in order to complete high school or past the said age by agreement between parties — any agreement is enforceable.
Support stops when the child turns 18 years old. However, it can extend up to 20 years of age if the child is still attending high school, or if he or she is incapable of self-support as a result of a disability. Both parties may extend child support longer if addressed in the order or agree to an educational trust fund for college education.
Unless the child gets married or joins the military, support terminates at 21 years of age. Although both parties may agree to continue child support past the age of majority, the court cannot order the parents to shoulder the child’s college expenses after reaching 21 years old.
Child support ends at either 18 years old or upon reaching 21 years of age or graduating from high school — whichever comes first. If the child is a college student, support obligation continues until graduation or he or she turns 22 years old — whichever comes first.
Support stops at the latter of 18 years of age or until graduation from high school, although no later than 19 years of age except if the child is disabled. College support is only by agreement between the parents and the child.
Turning 19 years old, marriage or emancipation — child support stops at any, whichever comes first. The court may not order child support past the age of majority over the objection of any parent.
Child support ends at either 18 years of age or 19 years of age if the child is a high school student who is yet to graduate. The parents and the child can agree about college education support.
It’s when the child turns 18 years of old or completes high school, gets emancipated, marries or enters the military — whichever comes first — when support stops. Via stipulated agreement, parents can agree to contribute to college or other educational expenses past high school but must specify the amount of the contribution.
Support terminates at 19 years old, or up to 23 years of age if the child is still in high school or college or has a mental or physical disability. It’s possible for support for a child attending college to be extended.
When the child turns 18 years old, support comes to an end. The child still gets support until 19 years old if he or she is still in high school. College support beyond 19 years of age is by agreement only.
Child support ends at the age of majority, but may be extended until 21 years of age. It’s possible for the court to award educational expenses and require the parents to pay them as directed. Without an expressed agreement, parents may not be directed to pay for or contribute toward college education for a child who is 21 years of age or older.
Support stops at 18 years of age, although it may continue until 20 years of age or graduation, whichever comes first, if the child is still in high school. College support is only on a per-agreement basis.
Child support ends at 18 years of age. But if the child is still in high school, then it terminates at 19 years of age. The court may order child support past the age of majority if the court deems it appropriate or both parties agree.
While support ends when the child reaches 18 years old, it is pushed back if the child is still a full-time high school student or the court obligates the parents to continue support. College support is by agreement only.
Support terminates at 18 years of age. However, if the child is attending high school as a full-time student, support is given until he or she turns 20 years old or until graduation, whichever comes first.
Child support stops at 18 years of age. It can, however, continue to 21 years of age if the child is unmarried and attending high school, a community college or a four-year institution.
Unless the child is emancipated at an earlier age, support ends when he or she turns 18 years old or graduates from high school — whichever happens later. Both parties, however, may agree to extend child support.
Although support stops at age 18, it continues for 90 days following graduation if he or she is still in high school, but not exceeding the 19th birthday. Through an agreement, college support is possible.
Child support ends upon turning 18 years of age, emancipation or attainment of self-sufficiency. If the child is still attending high school, then support terminates upon graduation or the end of the school year after the child turns 19 years old. The court, in some instances, may order college support for a child over 18 years of age.
It’s either at 18 years old or until 19 years old (if the child is a high school student) when support comes to an end. Child support may be extended if both parties agree to it.
Unless the child is in high school, support ends at 18 years of age. Otherwise, it continues until the child graduates from high school or his or her classmates graduate. Extending support may be done contractually.
Child support ends at 18 years of age or upon graduation from high school or marriage, whichever occurs later. Child support may be extended if both parties decide to continue it.
Besides reaching the age of 18, child support also stops upon graduating from high school, marriage, emancipation or entry into the military, whichever occurs later. However, the court has the authority to extend the support obligation of parents past 18 years of age upon finding necessity or special or unusual circumstances.
While support typically terminates at 18 years of age, it continues until the age of 21 if the child regularly attends high school or college or undergoes vocational training. The court may order the husband to increase support during the statutory period, notwithstanding any stipulation incorporated in a divorce judgment for provision of support.
Child support comes to an end at 18 years of age. However, it may continue until either graduation from high school or 19 years of age, whichever comes first. Support extension past the age of majority may be done via an agreement.
It’s possible for child support to extend beyond the age of 18 if the child remains dependent on his or her parents, which can be determined by the court based upon the child’s age, child’s needs, child’s disabilities, expectations for the child when the parents were still together, parents’ level of education, parents’ resources.
Even though child support ends at the age of majority, it may continue beyond the age of 18 if the child is unmarried, lives with a parent, and is a full-time student working on a college or vocational program diploma. Both parties may agree on extending child support contractually.
Support ends when the child reaches 18 years old or, if pursuing a high school diploma, 19 years of age.
It’s at age 18 when child support comes to an end. It may, however, extend to 20 years of age if the child is attending high school or an equivalent program full-time. Both parties may agree on extending child support further.
Please keep in mind that laws change all the time. Make sure that you check your state’s law in order to know the latest and most accurate information, therefore allowing you to find the right answers to your questions.
What To Do If Your Parents Can’t Pay for College
Filing the FAFSA as an independent lets a student whose parents refuse to pay for college enjoy low expected family contribution (EFC) and high financial aid awards. However, there are strict eligibility requirements to meet. Having a job or considering cheap alternatives to college is an option.
Unless the court requires the provision of college support, there is nothing that you can do if your parents do not want to pay for your college. Well, except begging them really well.
But if they won’t budge, it doesn’t mean that you should turn your back on your dream to become a degree holder.
That’s because there’s hope — and it usually starts with filling out the FAFSA. Unlike most college-bound high school teens, however, you will have to file yours as an independent, which will allow you to get more financial aid than most others. What’s more, it will not require you to ask a parent of yours to provide his or her financial data.
Unfortunately, having parents who are not willing to help you with college isn’t enough for you to be declared as an independent for financial aid. You will have to be at least one of the following:
- An emancipated minor
- A recently homeless youth
- Self-supporting and at risk of becoming homeless
- Has been in foster care
- Has been an orphan
- Has been a dependent or ward of the court after age 13
- In active duty military service
- A US veteran
Not eligible to file the FAFSA as an independent? Fret not — here are some of the things you may consider if your parents won’t or can’t pay for college:
- Apply for many scholarships and grants
- Get a part-time job
- Attend a community college
- Apply for the work-study program
- Go to a trade school
- Consider a skills bootcamp
Related Article: 15 Tips to Pay for College for Low-Income Families
Just Before You Apply to College
Once you reach the age of majority, in most instances, your parents are no longer legally obliged to support you, which means that they are not required by the law to pay for your education costs — unless in some states where they will have to keep doing so if you are still a high school student and below a certain age.
Sometimes, if your folks are divorced, the court may order your non-custodial parent to provide child and/or college support, sometimes until age 20 or 21, while at other times until age 23, depending on state laws.
Read Also: Is Going to College Worth It Today?
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.