Industries & Practices

Education Law

    Back To Education Law

    Ohio Attorney General provides guidance on “self-supporting” students

    The Ohio Attorney General has issued an opinion providing guidance on the recurring problem of how to determine when an 18-year old student should be deemed self-supporting so as to permit tuition free enrollment in a district other than the district where his or her parent resides. This exception to the general rule on free attendance exists under Section 3313.64(F)(1), which allows students at least 18 years of age (and less than 22 years of age) to attend school free wherever they choose to live, if they “live apart from their parents [and] support themselves by their own labor.”

    The Attorney General acknowledges that the phrase “support themselves by their own labor” is rather open-ended and therefore probably “cannot be defined . . . in a manner that ensures uniform application in Ohio.” Nevertheless, he does attempt to provide some broad parameters that may be of assistance. He indicates, for example, that:

    • Just producing a paycheck is not enough. The question is whether the amount of the check “demonstrates self-sufficiency.”
    • A statement from a head of household where the student lives, saying that the student does chores to support himself, is not enough. There must be an examination of the “relative value” of the services, which will not be enough if the district’s total assessment of the situation is that the student is in fact still in some measure “dependent upon another for the necessities of life.”
    • “Supporting themselves” means to “finance or otherwise facilitate the furnishing of the necessities of life, including food, shelter, and clothing, by means of their own physical or mental effort.”
    • The phrase “does not apply to a person who depends on another for support.”

    Perhaps the most useful finding of the Attorney General is that the General Assembly, in not providing a definition, “has delegated to local decision-makers the discretion to interpret and apply this provision.” Thus, although the opinion does not provide educators with any kind of “bright line test,” it does provide legal support for school administrators in defense of challenges to their decisions, which (according to the Attorney General) must be treated as a legitimate exercise of their discretion, as long as that discretion is not abused.

    The full text of the Attorney General’s opinion (2014 OAG No. 026) may be viewed here.

    Download PDF