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Legal Information: Pennsylvania

Statutes: Pennsylvania

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December 14, 2023

4327. Postsecondary educational costs

(a) General rule.–Where applicable under this section, a court may order either or both parents who are separated, divorced, unmarried or otherwise subject to an existing support obligation to provide equitably for educational costs of their child whether an application for this support is made before or after the child has reached 18 years of age. The responsibility to provide for postsecondary educational expenses is a shared responsibility between both parents. The duty of a parent to provide a postsecondary education for a child is not as exacting a requirement as the duty to provide food, clothing and shelter for a child of tender years unable to support himself. This authority shall extend to postsecondary education, including periods of undergraduate or vocational education after the child graduates from high school. An award for postsecondary educational costs may be entered only after the child or student has made reasonable efforts to apply for scholarships, grants and work-study assistance.

(b) Action to recover educational expenses.–An action to recover educational costs may be commenced:

(1) by the student if over 18 years of age; or

(2) by either parent on behalf of a child under 18 years of age, but, if the student is over 18 years of age, the student’s written consent to the action must be secured.

(c) Calculation of educational costs.–In making an award under this section, the court shall calculate educational costs as defined in this section.

(d) Grants and scholarships.–The court shall deduct from the educational costs all grants and scholarships awarded to the student.

(e) Other relevant factors.–After calculating educational costs and deducting grants and scholarships, the court may order either parent or both parents to pay all or part of the remaining educational costs of their child. The court shall consider all relevant factors which appear reasonable, equitable and necessary, including the following:

(1) The financial resources of both parents.

(2) The financial resources of the student.

(3) The receipt of educational loans and other financial assistance by the student.

(4) The ability, willingness and desire of the student to pursue and complete the course of study.

(5) Any willful estrangement between parent and student caused by the student after attaining majority.

(6) The ability of the student to contribute to the student’s expenses through gainful employment. The student’s history of employment is material under this paragraph.

(7) Any other relevant factors.

(f) When liability may not be found.–A court shall not order support for educational costs if any of the following circumstances exist:

(1) Undue financial hardship would result to the parent.

(2) The educational costs would be a contribution for postcollege graduate educational costs.

(3) The order would extend support for the student beyond the student’s twenty-third birthday. If exceptional circumstances exist, the court may order educational support for the student beyond the student’s twenty-third birthday.

(g) Parent’s obligation.–A parent’s obligation to contribute toward the educational costs of a student shall not include payments to the other parent for the student’s living expenses at home unless the student resides at home with the other parent and commutes to school.

(h) Termination or modification of orders.–Any party may request modification or termination of an order entered under this section upon proof of change in educational status of the student, a material change in the financial status of any party or other relevant factors.

(i) Applicability.–

(1) This act shall apply to all divorce decrees, support agreements, support orders, agreed or stipulated court orders, property settlement agreements, equitable distribution agreements, custody agreements and/or court orders and agreed to or stipulated court orders in effect on, executed or entered since, November 12, 1992.

(2) In addition, this act shall apply to all pending actions for support. This section shall not supersede or modify the express terms of a voluntary written marital settlement agreement or any court order entered pursuant thereto.

(j) Definitions.–As used in this section, the following words and phrases shall have the meanings given to them in this subsection:

“Educational costs.” Tuition, fees, books, room, board and other educational materials.

“Postsecondary education.” An educational or vocational program provided at a college, university or other postsecondary vocational, secretarial, business or technical school.