New Law Caps College Contribution to College Costs of the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign

Pursuant to 750 ILCS 5/513, a Judge may allocate the cost of college for the parties’ child pursuant to the parties’ financial resources.  Prior to January 1, 2016, the tuition rate and boarding costs of the school chosen by the child would be divided pursuant to the parties’ respective incomes.

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act as ratified on January 1, 2016, added a provision that allows parents to “cap” his/her contribution to college expenses for a child at the current cost of attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (“U of I”).  For 2015-16 academic year for the fine and applied arts major for Illinois residents, the cost of tuition at U of I was $13,640.  In addition to tuition, U of I estimates the cost of Room and Board at $18,300 per year, for a total college costs of $31,940.

In a recent Cook County case, the parties’ daughter had chosen to attend DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana.  The cost of DePauw for the 2015-16 year, including tuition and room and board, was $56,458.  The father earned at least $350,000 per year while the mother had relatively low income.  The mother sought an order for 100% contribution from the father at the DePauw rate.  The father argued for a cap on the college expenses given that he was not consulted in a meaningful way as to her college choice and disagreed with her choice of school.  However, the judge found that the father had already contributed significantly towards the daughter’s college expenses at DePauw despite the fact that they exceeded significantly from the rates at the University of Illinois.

The judge therefore denied the cap and ordered contribution at the DePauw rate.  However, the judge did order the mother to contribute 30% of the costs, with the father contributing the other 70%, stating that the mother should also be responsible for contributing towards college despite the father’s higher income.

Although this case was decided at the trial level and not appealed, it is interesting to see which route the judges will take in regards to the new “cap”.  The exact language of the statute mandates a cap, unless good cause is shown to not cap the expenses.  In the above scenario, the judge saw that the father had not previously objected to the expenses at the rate of DePauw and had the income to afford it.  However, absent “good cause”, a judge should cap the college contribution rate at the rate of U of I per statute.


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