• Drafting An Admission/Enrollment Contract
  • November 19, 2012 | Author: Kevin C. Susman
  • Law Firm: Weltman, Weinberg & Reis Co., L.P.A. - Cleveland Office
  • When enrolling a student into an educational institution, it is recommended that a contract or admission agreement be created and executed among the parties involved. While an action can be filed in a court of law without a written instrument, having a contract or admission agreement makes enforcing the terms much simpler. An admission or enrollment contract is just that - a contract. For a contract to be binding, certain elements must be present and can vary from state to state. In Ohio, the Supreme Court has stated the essential elements of a contract include an offer, acceptance, contractual capacity, consideration, a manifestation of mutual assent, and legality of object and of consideration.1

    In plain terms, this means the following need to be included within the contract or admission agreement:

    - It must be signed by person(s) at least 18 years of age and mentally competent.
    - - If there is more than one parent, preferably have both sign the document.
    - - A good clause to have above the signatures is an acknowledgment that the entire contract has been read and understood. An example of such a clause is:

    By signing below, I(we) acknowledge that I(we) have read the entire Enrollment/Admissions Contract, understand all the terms and conditions and agree to be bound by the terms of the contract. I(we) understand that any changes to the terms of the Enrollment/Admissions Contract must be in writing and signed by an authorized representative on behalf of the School and by both parent(s) or guardian (or other person who intends to be financially responsible for all charges and expenses).

    - All terms must be clearly stated.

    - The school term covered must be identified.

    - The total tuition obligation, must be identified, including:
    - - Whether or not a deposit is required, and if so whether it is refundable.
    - - Identify tuition payment options.

    - Indicate whether or not there will be any incidental fees and charges, such as late charges related to non-payment.

    - Identify the provisions for withdrawal and what percentage of tuition is refunded at what point; and whether the terms of withdrawal apply to an inability to attend school on account of illness or physical disability discharges the obligation to pay for tuition and board.2
    - - Set forth a clear contractual deadline at which the parent(s)/guardian(s) are obligated for the full year’s tuition.

    - Indicate whether a separate student handbook exists, and if so, whether it is made a part of the contract or agreement.
    - - Include an indication or acknowledgement of who received the handbook and when.

    - Identify whether there is a Tuition Refund/Insurance Plan; and that if there is, that its terms are expressly made a part of the contract
    - - Include an indication or acknowledgement of who received the Plan, when and when whether they choose or decline to participate in said Plan.

    The above are important concepts/clauses of a valid enforceable contract. As long as there is a clear, concise and valid contract, courts are more likely to uphold the contract. Generally, contracts for schooling for specified term is entire and when a student is withdrawn for a reason of his own without fault on the part of the school, the educational institution is entitled to be paid an agreed tuition amount for the entire period.3 The first step in getting a court to accept that a school is entitled to the agreed condition is to have a detailed and valid enrollment/admission contract.

    1 Kostelnik, Exr., Helper et al., 96 Ohio St. 3d 1; 2002 Ohio 2985; 770 N.E. 2d Ohio LEXIS 1549
    2 Several courts have taken the position that a contract for schooling for a definite period for which a specified payment for tuition and related charges is to be made is subject to an implied condition that a student will be physically able to attend, and that where the parties did not expressly contract with regard to the risk of loss in such circumstances, a student’s withdrawal from or inability to attend school on account of illness or physical disability discharges the obligation to pay for tuition and board. -Annotation, Absence From or Inability to Attend School or College as Affecting Liability For or Right to Recover Payments For Tuition or Board, (1983), 20 A.L.R. 4th 303, 306.
    3 Lake Ridge Academy v. John J. Carney, 1991 Ohio App. LEXIS 4993