Are Parents Obligated to Pay For College?08:35

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The case of a New Jersey high school senior who is suing her parents over payment for her education, is raising questions about parental obligations and higher education.

Rachel Canning of Lincoln Park, New Jersey, claims that her parents threw her out of the house when she turned 18. Her parents say she left on her own and wasn't following their rules.

Most schools consider it the family's responsibility to pay for school and provide financial assistance only when the family can't afford to pay.

And there are generally no exceptions, according to

The U.S. Department of Education has published guidance to financial aid administrators indicating that neither parent refusal to contribute to the student's education nor parent unwillingness to provide information on the student aid application or for verification is sufficient grounds for a dependency status override. This is true even if the parents do not claim the student as a dependent for income tax purposes or the student demonstrates total self-sufficiency.

Canning lost the first round in court. The judge denied her payment for her private school tuition and current living expenses. The judge will now take up the college question in April.

Beckie Supiano has been writing about this issue for the Chronicle of Higher Education and joins Here & Now's Robin Young.


  • Beckie Supiano, reporter covering admissions and aid for the Chronicle of Higher Education. She tweets @becksup.

This segment aired on March 6, 2014.