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My plan for dealing with SS19's tuition shortfall - thoughts?

WokeUpABug's picture

So I spent a bunch of time running numbers and I figured out there are two reasons SS19 is short on tuition this year:

1. Because BM has not paid her "promised" share. ("promised" is in quotes bc she's promised various amounts over the past year, but I've decided to hold her to her most recent promised amount of $10,000. This seems reasonable for a woman who makes over $100,000 per year. That she wants to spend her money sending the the other kids to private school is neither here nor there)

2. Even had she paid her share, SS19 would still be several grand short. This is due to poor (no) planning on his part. He has demonstrated he cannot manage money at this point.

But when I look at the next 3 years, SS19 is moving off-campus and costs drop. Also he is eligible for increased federal loans. The net result is that if we keep paying our current amount, and BM pays hers, and SS19 kicks in his summer earnings, it would work.

I could just refuse to let DH cosign loans, and let SS19 drop out or transfer, but I think this would cause DH to deeply resent me and a really severe rift in our marriage. So here is my plan, fully recognizing that some of you will disagree with it.

In order to fix the tuition shortfall for this semester, we will advance money from next semester. BM will also need to pay the remainder of what she owes for this year. We will not advance any money until she does this. Then DH will cosign a loan for the amount of the shortfall (several grand) to use for next semester's tuition. (before anyone asks, BM cannot cosign any loans due to recent bankruptcy). I will allow DH to do this under the following conditions:

- He prints and shows SS19 all the emails from his mom promising various amounts of money, including her filings from their recent court case where she argued DH had no obligation to pay for SS19's college tuition, only the younger kids' private school. This may seem harsh, but SS19 needs to see who his mom is.

- SS19 must sign over all his summer earnings checks to us. We will keep them in an account for him to use for his share of tuition ($3000). He has already proved he cannot be trusted to save them himself. He also must open his grade portal so DH can see it, maintain a 3.0 GPA each semester, and apply for any scholarships we find for him.

- BM will be in charge of paying SS19 food (calculated as $200 per month for 9 months), plus his rent ($6000 per year), plus an additional $1100 of tuition per semester. This comes to $10,000. We will not pay any amount toward his tuition until her $1100 is paid. This is to avoid her trying to get us to pay first, and then her not paying her share, and us having to advance money so SS19 can register for courses for the next semester which has already happened. If she does not pay her money he will have to take a semester off.

- This is the last loan will take out for SS19. It will cover the amount of the shortfall due to SS19's poor planning. It does not cover, nor will we ever take out a loan to cover, any amount due to BM failure to pay her share. Nor will we ever pay our tuition money before BM pays her share.

- If SS19 receives additional aid in subsequent years (once SD17 is in college too it will likely be increased), this will decrease our contribution, and we will divert that money to pay off the cosigned loan. BM and SS19 contributions will stay the same.

- SS19 will be asked to sign a contract between him and DH stating he agrees to these conditions, and that he will sign a cosigner release for DH at the earliest opportunity (generally 12 months). We will send a copy of the signed contract to BM as an FYI. If she refuses to pay her promised share, then at least we all know why this failed.

If DH or SS19 objects to any of these conditions, then there will be no cosigning a loan.

Also I will tell DH that all subsequent skids going to college will need to follow this same plan, and that their tuition after aid and loans cannot be more than the amount of DH's and BM's contribution, plus their summer earnings. Fool me once shame on you... I am NOT letting this happen again.

Ok, thoughts?

ETA: I already have a prenup stating DH not allowed to take out any new debts without my permission. I will also draw up a document stating that he is solely responsible for the repayment of this debt should we divorce and that it cannot be considered in any way a joint debt. (I will not cosign the loan, only he will, so the bank would only hold him responsible but a divorce court may see it differently).


Considering Cohabitation's picture

You're my hero.

Way to go. You've considered every contingency (as far as I can tell) and given SS one more chance to get it right. As a 19 year old I didn't always get stuff right the first time and my parents helped me out in a similar fashion, including the types of conditions you've included here. You've also held BM accountable to her promise. If this works, you're a friggin' genius.

WokeUpABug's picture

Thanks! We will see... DH notoriously hates to promise me things, so I anticipate some push back on the conditions. But he knows I've been adamantly against cosigning loans from day 1 so this is a huge concession from me. In order to get it he will also need to make concessions. And it all needs to be written down so there's no "misremembering" after the fact!

Amcc13's picture

Well it's an awful situation to be in woke up a bug. I think what you have proposed seems very fair and overall I think you know what you are talking about.
I had been following the posts on this situation as they developed and I have a few things I would like to have clarified or add if you wouldn't mind.

First- what is ss time table like? Is he in lectures all day or what? I think you should also have a copy of his timetable turned over to you. I can't see any reason he can't work during term time. If he worked 15 hours a week at the student centre, spent two nights delivering pizzas... Well I think that this would be a good added stipulation. When I was in college with the exception of final semester I worked at weekends and it teaches you about life and time management. I think these would be good lessons to learn at a young stage.
Second- he should be continually applying for scholarships , big and small. Even small 500 or 250 dollar ones can help as another drop in the bucket. He should be aiming to apply for one a week which he sends paperwork to you after and receipt of email to show it is done
Third- should ss decide to go against the contract after it is signed what will the penalty be? So you say you want him to sign out the guarantor ASAP but what if in 12 months he refuses to- what will be the clause in place to force your dh to act should this occur?
Fourth- obv ss can't handle money- maybe one of the stipulations should be that he must go on a budgeting course and learn to manage money. I think this would be a skill for life as after college he has to take control of his own life
Fifth- you has said something in a previous post about family being willing to lend money. Would that still be an option? I think it would be better than taking out loans if you avoid them altogether. You could draw it up as a contract and have him make repayments but it would keep him out of the bank.
Sixth- during the summer he needs to work a full work week- not just 20 he part time but full 40 hours.

Seven - side note do you think it will be a good idea to show ss the emails from his mom? I can't help but wonder if that would turn you against you

Now in terms of dh
First - he must learn from this and teach all his kids to manage money. All of them need to learn to budget
Second- he needs to be involved with school choices for college for the next kids. No more fancy pants schools that can't be afforded
Third- ss signs the contract and dh enforces it to the letter. It's all for naught if. This does not happen

It's a sticky situation alright . Do the best you can I guess and I hope my points help!

WokeUpABug's picture

Hi Amcc13. Thanks for your response, here are my answers:

1. SS19 is a student athlete. The sport is only "club" at his school but has a dedicated coach and team, and they compete against D1 teams. I was an athlete in college and I can tell you, between weekday practices and weekends away at competitions there isn't much time for part-time work.

2. Totally agree about continually applying for scholarships. SS, BM, and DH are all lazy, which is why this has not happened. But I did a brief search and turned up tons of little scholarships he is eligible for. He's going to need to apply for them (and show us proof he did) as a condition of this deal.

3. I don't think there's a solution for what happens if he doesn't sign over a cosigner release for DH in the future. At that point we would have paid all our tuition money. But really, I don't know why he wouldn't. It's mostly the banks that wouldn't want to let DH off.

4. We will consider budgeting course. I actually wrote the contract to read that everything over the $3000 he earned would be split in two and given back to him at the beginning of each semester. We actually didn't give him any spending money at all this year and he spent all his summer earnings in the first month, so he's been living pretty lean for awhile. He went back to work over winter break (his is pretty long) and seems to be budgeting better this semester.

5. I've decided against him getting a loan from my parents. I'd rather not involve him. What if he didn't pay them back? Permanent bad feelings.

6. He will be working a full week during the summer, and will likely get a second job. This will give him spending money during the school year, as most of the money from his first job will go to tuition.

7. I know what you mean about showing SS his mom's emails. BUT she's promised him the moon (she actually tried to get him to enroll in a private $65,000 a year college). At this point he NEEDS to know why this isn't working out so he doesn't believe her promises and follow her poor spending habits in the future. I don't think it's just bad-mouthing her. But I will consider if the point could be gotten across some other way.

Totally agree with your last three points. We need to take a much more active role in choosing the schools for the next 3 kids. If they pick somewhere too expensive, our answer will need to be NO, we won't pay for that school. And yes, if DH fails to enforce this contract then there will be a big problem between us. And I will never agree to let him cosign a loan again!

Amcc13's picture

Ah perfect woke up a bug thanks for all the extra info
You had said about him being athlete before and now I remember as soon as you said. No that's fair if he is busy training and I can understand him then not having the time.
And I completely understand not involving your parents and what bad feelings it could leave. You are definitely approaching this right
I think everything was very fair overall and it would be a good contract.
Can I suggest some stipulation in the contract that you him and your partner sign that failure to adhere or enforce contract will lead to no money for his siblings ? So he is aware he has not only his future but his siblings future in his hand? As well as for your dh to know that he will screw over other kids if he doesn't take a strict line with this
Also essay competitions are a great way to make some extra money- maybe keep an eye out for them in his field of study?
It's good to hear he is budgeting better- maybe he has learned a tough lesson about money and taking care of it

It's sad he was promised so much by BM and then got so little in the end - thank goodness he didn't do the other place at 65000- just the thought of that would turn my stomach !!!

WokeUpABug's picture

Yes I already found several essay competitions in his field of study I think he should apply for. I'm so helpful! Blum 3

I'm not going to put the other kids' college tuitions on the line. I don't think that's fair to them. I'm going for more a "natural consequences" thing here. I think SS19 will adhere to the contract. He's a pretty good kid, just horrible and irresponsible about money. That's not really his fault, it's what he was taught by BM. So now DH and I need to teach him something different. He's always been kind and respectful to me, so I want to give him a chance in this.

I think the more likely scenario is that BM doesn't pay her share of tuition, or doesn't pay SS19's rent, etc. I tried to design the plan to minimize her tuition contributions. Frankly if she doesn't pay his rent I don't care and I don't think DH does either. And I doubt any mother would not pay her son's food. He may end up hitting up his grandparents for food money, but whatever.

If she doesn't pay his tuition, it's my DH's feet who will have to be held to the fire. He will want to pay our tuition money so SS19 can get started on the semester. But that's what we tried this year, and we all know how that worked out. No, if BM wants SS19 to go to college she will have to pay his tuition before the semester starts. I think both DH and I would be ok with SS19 sitting out one semester. Heck it would give him extra time to work to earn more money! }:)

Amcc13's picture

Fair enough. You're very on top of things and have given lot of thought. As you said not a bad kid just bad with money. Hopefully getting better with money- tho I did just read the update at the bottom Ek! That's gonna cause problems if it is true!
Your being very helpful at the moment I have to say- when are the other people in this like dh going to step up and help out too? Please don't get me wrong- it's great that you get on with him and care enough to help but I kind of also feel you may be approaching the caring more than the parents mark... I don't want all of this to end up on your shoulders alone
If this cannot go ahead the way you have now designed it, a year off working hard would go along way to paying bills and teaching him the value of money and hard work- that happened to my partner back in the day. He was just kind of making it thru and then he failed a year, his parents wouldn't pay and he had to take a year off. When he saw how hard he had to work for money in a low paying job it lit a fire under his bum and when he went back he aced his last two years. He to this day says it is the best thing that has ever happened to him; he recently went on to get the masters in his field and did really well while paying cash and working full time job.
However will taking a year off effect the sports stuff???

WokeUpABug's picture

Yes I think I do care more than the parents. I'm very worried bc DH wants to cosign loans, and I know if he does that and fails to hold SS and BM accountable then it will just happen again and again. So this plan was designed to save my marriage and my sanity. I would leave DH before I'd stand by and let him cosign loan after loan.

When I heard SS was trying to live with friends this summer I had the same thought- he's just not ready. He's got to get to a point where he understands he's on the verge of leaving school before he's receptive to making changes. Right now he's not there.

I think a year off would not be a bad idea for him.

Amcc13's picture

I read bavk over all your other blogs on this subject earlier today to do my best to understand this in my head.
I think you have been more than fair and thoughtful in this situation. You obv care very deeply and you want to help despite the stuff the bio mom goes on with. I am sorry you are in such a sticky situation

A year off working could do world of good. A full time job where his wages every month are split 50-50 or 60-40 or whatever you want- obv the bigger bit to you- would do a world of good to get money saved up and squared away. It would also give time for him to learn about money and he would probably go back a wiser person to college - mature students always did best in my class because they had life experience under their belt.

Apart from this, I really want you to protect yourself and take care of yourself... If dh does consign for loan no one must be under the illusion that you will cave every time. There must be a one time deal - we did this to get out of a bind and this is a one time offer. We can't get to this time next year and have this happen again. It's just not going to be feasible

On a happier note; how are you enjoying the new job ?

Icansorelate's picture

I know this sounds harsh, but I would make one condition, he does get a part time job during school, even if it means giving up club sports.

I could afford to pay for all 3 of my kid's college. I did, but each of them had to take one loan so they had skin in the game.

I refuse to pay for fun money, so they had to have summer jobs. In addition, all 3 found ways to make money on campus.

One, who was into sports, became a ref and got paid for it.

The second, became an ambassador.

The third who is a Stem major, so serious class and study time, signed up to shovel snow.

I think SS19 could be expected to do a bit more to help himself. Screw the sports he is in college to get an education.

One thing missing from your contract, is he MUST graduate in 4 years. Any time beyond that is completely on him.

What I fear for you is BM is totally going to just ignore this.

I still think SS needs to transfer to a school that is affordable.

WokeUpABug's picture

Your approach to your kids' college is exactly what I'm doing with my DD. She has a loan for part, and I don't pay her fun money (other than a uber account - she goes to school in an urban area and I'm terrified of her being stuck somewhere without a ride).

SS19's sport is his life. Should college be that way? No. But SS19's sport was DH's sport in high school, and DH's brother's sport in college (got him into fancy ivy league school) and SD17's sport, and SD15's sport, you get the picture. It's totally part of DH's family culture. I kind of get it, track was like that for my family - got both my father and grandfather big scholarships, and I ran as well. Now SS19 did not get a scholarship, and it's only at the club level, but it's such a revered thing in DH's family. It's a condition he would never accept. I'd have better luck getting him to transfer and do the sport at a state college.

About the 4 years - YES! I will definitely be adding this. That our contribution is for 4 years only. DH and I have already talked about this.

And lastly, you are definitely right, BM will try to ignore it. I swear she is like an adolescent sometimes, always pushing boundaries. But I will make sure DH is fully prepared to stand his ground when she does. You see, BM is irresponsible because she trusts that DH will pick up the pieces. When she realizes DH won't do it anymore, it becomes an issue between her and SS19. She can either disappoint him or not. But it won't be us on anymore.

Icansorelate's picture

I still think he could get some sort of job during school. If my son, the chemistry major who is in labs 5 afternoons a week can, ANYONE can.

The key to the 4 year rule, is for DH to start drilling that in now- SS must be aware of the requirements for graduation and the sequence, and pay attention to it. The schools try to make it difficult for students to finish in 4 years, so they have to stay on top of it. Again if a chemistry major can do it, any student can.

WokeUpABug's picture

Who knows? Maybe he could. He might decide to do that once he sees most of his summer earnings going toward his tuition and wants some spending money! As long as he earns his $3000 each summer I will leave that up to him.

Agree about the 4 year thing. I think DH has been way too hands off with SS19's college so far. I'm pretty hands off with my DD19 but that's because she's super motivated and already puts way more pressure on herself to get good grades than I ever would. Me putting extra pressure on her would probably cause a nervous breakdown! SS19 not so much... We should be making sure he is doing well in classes and on track for graduation.

I think he is right now though. From the discussions we have had he seems like he has his head on straight and is trying to pick a major that is both interesting but offers good employment opportunities after college.

Pokeyketchum's picture

I teach in a college and we do NOT try to make it difficult to graduate in four years. Exactly the opposite. We WANT students to graduate on time. It is a measurement of our success and rankings.
Students who change majors, can't decide what to take, delay taking the difficult courses, fail courses, fail courses because they do not attend, etc.; these are why students do not graduate on time...

Icansorelate's picture

Sorry, respectfully disagree regarding state universities and stem majors (I was one, and have a PhD)...the schools do try to make it difficult to graduate in 4 years and in fact, try to actively flunk out students in the first two. I have seen it myself and with several of my kids/skids.

If yours is a smaller and/or private school, what you said is likely correct. But, in large state universities, it is nearly impossible to get into the classes needed for the graduation sequence. If a student is aware of it, plans carefully, works with thier advisor and dean, if necessary, 4 years is doable. But a single misstep will ensure and extra semester.

WokeUpABug's picture

Just had a talk with MIL. She will contribute book money every semester, so that's taken care of.

But get this... She was talking to BM yesterday and BM dropped that SS19 may not live at MIL's house this summer when he was lifeguarding (free) and instead stay with his friends in a rented beach house (not free). According to BM "he'd made committments" to those boys to stay with him.

Oh boy if this is true DH will hit the ceiling. Just goes to show how irresponsible SS19 is with money and the necessity of laying down the law.

Gimlet's picture

So the kid who is short college tuition is going to live with his buddies in a rented beach house? I really hope your DH squashes that fast.

notsurehowtodeal's picture

I just read an article about a young woman who graduated from college $67,000 in debt - which she paid off in 20 months. She lived with family friends, worked 3 jobs and also baby sat. She bought a $300 car and cut all her expenses to the bone.

I couldn't help but think of your SS! I think the fact that he is even considering renting a beach house instead of living for free with his Grandmother proves that he does. not. get. it.