You’ve been under a rock or just not that into personal finance if you didn’t hear of Rachel Canning this past week.
She’s the high school senior from New Jersey who sued her parents for the remainder of her private high school tuition, college tuition, living expenses, and emancipation.
If you’d like to read more about how she’s a spoiled brat, or how it’s indicative of a sense of entitlement so common in this generation, all of that has been discussed heavily on other blogs, on commentary shows, and among the comments on news pages.
The only thing that I’ll add to that is that this is a sad story. It’s made sadder still by how complicit the mainstream media was in letting this spread so wildly (I’m certain that editors at CNN and the like are absolutely shocked that much of the focus — positive and negative — among their viewership has been based around the young lady’s looks).
That family — yes, including the parents of whom Rachel is a product — needs counseling, not reporters.
The real lesson to take away from this
Of course, most people’s natural reaction is to read that she’s 18 and her parents owe her nothing.
As someone who’s still paying for school, I might say you’re mostly there, but with an asterisk.
Suppose instead of suing, Rachel had kept her mouth shut, filled out the FAFSA, and applied for financial aid at one of the schools she had been accepted to.
She’d have to put her parents’ tax info on her FAFSA and would be on the hook for an expected family contribution meaning she would be eligible for far fewer grants (free money). Not only that, she wouldn’t be able to take loans for that expected family contribution. All of this would apply until she turns 23 or is formally emancipated.
Perhaps you don’t feel sorry for her, but for kids who’ve run away from abusive homes or who have long been estranged from parents who don’t accept them, this could be the difference between going to college and not.
Some members of Congress are working to reform this. For example, Rep. Elijah Cummings introduced the FAFSA Fairness Act which would establish criteria to let some students complete the application with a status of “provisional independent.”
Of course, given how the public has reacted to Rachel’s story, I don’t have a lot of hope for it passing.