So, in Iowa, when parents are divorced, either or both parents can be ordered by the Court to pay up to 1/3 the cost of a child’s college expenses (and by child I mean adult child — between 19-22 years old), not to exceed 1/3 the total cost of attending a regent university (e.g., U of IA) — this is called a “post secondary education subsidy.”
Thus, if 19 year old Junior wants his divorced parents to help pay his tuition to Iowa State, and one or both of his parents say no, then Junior (or either of his parents) has the right to take one or both of his parents to court and ask a judge to order them to pay up — and normally, the judge will do so (“In determining whether good cause exists for ordering a postsecondary education subsidy, the court shall consider the age of the child, the ability of the child relative to postsecondary education, the child’s financial resources, whether the child is self-sustaining, and the financial condition of each parent.”)
This law has been around in some form since 1997, and I have never been particularly fond of it. It seems to fly in the face of “equal protection under the law” — if parents remain married, or were never married, the issue of whether and how much each parent pays towards the adult child’s college costs is totally up to the individual parent, BUT if the parents get divorced, then that choice is taken away from them — a judge now has the right to order a parent to help finance his/her child’s college education over the parent’s objections. Even if a parent disapproves of his/her child’s lifestyle, or choice of college, or choice of major, or significant other, or just disapproves of college in general. Even is the child has chosen to have little contact with a parent in the years prior to his/her entering college (so long as the child hasn’t “repudiated” the parent, whatever that means).
Yes, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled in 1980 that it is NOT unconstitutional discrimination to require divorced parents to pay for an adult children’s college education even though married parents cannot be forced to do so (In re Marriage of Vrban, http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=2329472992008624969&q=postsecondary+education+subsidy+constitutional%3F&hl=en&as_sdt=4,16 And while usually I’m the Supreme Court’s biggest supporter ….. with all due respect, I sincerely believe that they dropped the ball on this one. Sure, I agree that sometimes divorces get nasty, and sometimes one parent takes out his/her anger at the other parent on the kids, especially if the kids “chose” the other parent. And if a non-custodial parent who can afford to help his/her adult child out w/college refuses to do so because he/she is still pissed off at the kid (or the custodial parent) because of the way the divorce turned out, then that’s petty and mean, but hey, so what? That’s life. Sometimes parents are jerks to their adult kids, just like sometimes adult kids are jerks to their parents, but is it an appropriate use of limited judicial resources for the courts to be meddling around in the family financial affairs of a bunch of adults?
So what do you think? Let me know, and take the poll …. I love polls!