Tuition battle should be resolved in the home

Vince Bellino

Vince BellinoTemple junior Caityln Ricci stirred controversy when she won a court case that demanded her parents pay $16,000 for her Temple tuition, each year that she remains a student at Temple. The general reaction – and mine – was one of shock that parents can be ordered to pay for their children’s college education.

The decision has been named controversial by many states and discussion of a legislation to prevent similar cases is being pursued. Ricci’s demands are unfair and unnecessary, especially considering the other options she has available to her.

If a Temple student were to complete four years as an in-state University Studies major, the cost would be $58,784, not including room and board. That brings the yearly tuition to $14,696 per year.

Ricci’s parents have been ordered to pay $16,000 for her tuition, but are refusing and are currently in the process of appealing. The judge will not hold them in contempt of his order, so they will face no additional penalty fees while the case is pending.

Matters are further complicated by the New Jersey Supreme Court ruling in Newburgh v. Arrigo, which outlines divorced parents’ responsibility to help their child financially for higher education. Courts generally look at 12 deciding factors when determining parents’ responsibility to pay, including, but not limited to, the parents’ financial ability and resources, the financial aid available to the child, the child’s relationship with their parents (receptive and reasonable to parental advice and requests) and the amount of money required from the parents.

There are a lot of things skewed about this system, putting aside the fact that a child is able to sue their parents and legally win in New Jersey.

Demanding that only divorced parents be made to foot their children’s college bills is ridiculous — according to the New York Times, New Jersey has the lowest divorce rate with only 9 percent of all adults in New Jersey getting divorces. Of these divorced adults, surely not all of them have children. Why, then, is a segment of the population less than 10 percent potentionally forced to pay tens of thousands of dollars?

More important in the case of Ricci, however, is the factor about applying for all possible financial aid. Ricci’s parents claim they told her to apply for all financial aid and that she did not. If she did, in fact, miss this essential part of the financial aid process, Caitlyn Ricci made herself  accountable to pay the $16,000 of tuition.

Judges must also consider when hearing Ricci’s case that her parents say they are willing to help her pay to attend Temple if she makes an attempt at reestablishing her relationship with them again. Ricci left her home after a dispute with her parents shortly after being kicked out of a college internship program run by Disney for underage drinking.

Ricci’s parents say that she did not follow household rules, like having a job, taking summer classes and doing chores, so she moved out to live with her paternal grandparents. Ricci claims the dispute was over summer classes.

If Ricci’s parents offered to pay her court costs, then denying that offer because she didn’t like the terms that it came with, especially terms so simple as having to do chores or take summer classes, is a childish and immature way to exploit the system and her parents.

We all know college is expensive and that Ricci wants to avoid being saddled with crippling student debt, but so does everyone else – Ricci isn’t special in that desire.

To bleed money out of a system that is meant to help those who might not be able to afford a college education because of family issues is unfair to those who could fully use the system, as well as unfair to Ricci’s parents, who could become responsible for not only their daughter’s tuition, but the court costs from the lengthy battle if their appeal fails.

When considering this situation under the condition that New Jersey’s “Newburgh laws” are fair, Ricci’s demands are still ludicrous. It is not rational or reasonable to expect to receive her tuition from her parents after a court battle that is both emotionally and financially costly when Ricci’s parents have made it clear they would help her with her Temple tuition if she maintains a relationship with them and have repeatedly stated that they just want a relationship with their daughter once again.

If Ricci wants her parents to pay her college tuition, she should work with them on their offered, and reasonable, conditions rather than waste others’ time, money and energy in a court battle.

Vince Bellino can be reached at vince.bellino@temple.edu

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