College Fund 3.jpgIn my December 12, 2011 blog, I discussed the October 14, 2011 decision of New York County Supreme Court Justice Matthew F. Cooper, directing a father to pay 40% of his child’s private college expenses. In its April 24, 2012 decision in Tishman v. Bogatin, the First Department affirmed. A parent’s contribution to a child’s college education would not necessarily be limited to a portion of the expense to attend a campus within the State University of New York system: the “SUNY cap.”

The First Department held that Justice Cooper properly rejected the father’s contention that a so-called SUNY cap should be imposed on his obligation to contribute to the costs of the child’s college education. There was no burden placed on the mother to show that the child’s needs cannot be met adequately at a SUNY college.

Whether to impose a SUNY cap is to be determined on a case-by-case basis, considering the parties’ means and the child’s educational needs. A rule that, absent unusual circumstances, a parent’s obligation is limited to the maximum SUNY tuition would be inconsistent with Domestic Relations Law § 240(1-b)(c)(7). Under that provision, a court may award educational expenses where it determines, “having regard for the circumstances of the case and of the respective parties and in the best interests of the child, and as justice requires,” that the education sought to be paid for is appropriate.

Here, the appellate court noted, he child attended an elite public high school, his reasons for preferring the private college over SUNY schools were sound, both parties attended private college and private law school (neither party was represented by counsel), and both parties have the resources to pay the tuition at the private college where the child is enrolled.