The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) requires parents to contribute to their children’s college education expenses. We’ve gone over this in some length, but you can find a refresher here on how (and why) divorced parents have to pay for their children’s college.
During the application process, the court typically requires that both parties, as well as the child, complete a FAFSA in order to best set respective obligations. This includes contributing to the cost of on-campus and off-campus housing.
The IMDMA states that the actual costs of the child’s housing expenses (whether on-campus or off-campus) should be covered by both parents under the condition that the amount does not exceed cost for the same academic year of a double occupancy student room, with a standard meal plan, in a residence hall at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The current cost of the room and board at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for 2016 is $11,010. Unfortunately, it’s hard to live off-campus for $11,010 per year.
Off-Campus Housing Costs Are Capped Too Low
Apartments within the same zip code as the University of Illinois have a median cost of rent of about $1,000 dollars a month, or $12,000 per year. Students must often pay for utilities, wi-fi, water, laundry, groceries, transportation to and from campus, etc. that brings their total cost of living dramatically higher than $11,010 per year. Even if a sublettor were to occupy the apartment during the summer months, the cost would still be greater than if the child were to live on-campus. This problem is not specific to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The cost of room and board at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2016, for example, is $10,728, while the average cost of renting an apartment in Chicago is about $1,400 per month per person — $16,800 annually.
This brings up the question of whether off campus housing obligations are set unrealistically low within the IMDMA. The difference in cost between on-campus versus off-campus housing could substantially limit a child’s options. Most upperclassmen live off-campus with friends. Keeping a child on campus can hold him or her back from maintaining bonds with those they have already established deep connections. Living off-campus also teaches a student how to become more independent, how to budget, cook and clean, and otherwise prepare him or her for independent adulthood.
The goal of the IMDMA is to make sure that decisions by the court are in the best interests of the child. It’s hard to imagine that it’s in a child’s best interest to never learn how to become independent.
This post was written by Kayla West, law clerk and Northwestern ’17, and Joshua Stern.