By WBZ-TV Chief Correspondent Joe Shortsleeve

BOSTON (CBS) – State law says many adopted kids are entitled to free tuition and fees at any state college.

However, Chief Correspondent Joe Shortsleeve found out, once accepted, these kids are being told there is no money.

Catherine O’Malley of Marshfield adopted Alexis when she was nine years old.

“I can not believe that you go to court and these are the terms. I did not renege on my part of the agreement…here she is!”

WBZ-TV’s Joe Shortsleeve reports

Yes. There she is, Alexis who is now 18-years-old. This past June Alexis graduated from Marshfield High School and was accepted into the arts program at Bridgewater State University.

State law says adopted children like Alexis are entitled to free tuition and fees at state colleges. The promise is right there in black and white and Catherine has all the paper work. But Bridgewater State said, sorry pay up.

Shortsleeve said, “but you had these letters and you showed them the letters?”

Catherine responded, “yes they had to have copies of them but the lady says, everyone brings them in but we don’t have the money.”

As for Alexis, what was supposed to be a guarantee is now in question.

“It is not fair at all, it kind of hurts!”

“I was like so, I got into a school. And now I actually might not be able to finish college. How am I supposed to go on with my life?”

So Catherine O’Malley had no choice. If she wanted Alexis to attend Bridgewater State in a few days she would have to come up with thousands of dollars in tuition and fees on her own which she is now trying to do.

Catherine says, “I just do not understand how this could be allowed to happen!”

So with no where to turn, Catherine asked for help from her State Senator, Robert Hedlund, who called the situation shameful.

Shortsleeve asked, “why are they not getting the money?”

Hedlund responded, “they are not getting it because the legislature under funds the program and consistently under funds the program so it is almost like bait and switch.”

So how many kids like Alexis are out there?

The Massachusetts Department of Higher Education tells WBZ she is just one of 256 students statewide stuck with a broken promise.

In a statement to WBZ state education officials say:

“In the midst of challenging fiscal times, our Administration has tried to accommodate the educational needs of all Massachusetts residents, including families with adopted children and those in foster care. We will continue to fund a significant portion of public college and university fees as well as tuition payments, but full funding of these programs has not been possible given budgetary constraints.”

But Catherine O’Malley says, “this law is still on the books, but what does that mean when you pass a law and then you do not fund it? Why don’t they take the law off the books then? It is a sham!”

As for Alexis she has a question for state law makers. “Why would you make a promise that you really can’t keep?”

That is a great question.

State education officials tell WBZ at best, this school year, they will be able to cover only 50 to 55% of the promised fees for these kids. And keep in mind at state schools the fees are the really big number.

Fees are usually six or seven times the tuition.

Comments (23)
  1. Dean Gross says:

    Bring an action in court, then hire a marshal to foreclose on the state.

    1. Judy Lola says:

      I to have adopted and have the letter my son is a senior and this has me worried as we are older parents in our mid 60’s and retired and just thinking of this makes me sick. I had gotten in touch with a few he was interested with already preparing for next year and did get replys that they would accept it as it does say in my letter that you have to get in touch with the school before you apply to make sure they will take the waiver. They promise you things when you adopt and this sounded great as we knew we would be retired by the time he was to enter college I will be almost 66 and my husband 69 so coming up with a lot of money is going to be hard to do. I hope this gets worked out before next year. I feel bad for this girl and her family you think you have it to make it a little easier for you and then they deal you this. The state sure get all there raises for themselfs they find that money but when it comes to things that are already promised where it it oh to bad we don’t have it. Will stay tuned for a update hope it is better. Judy Lola N.Grafton,Ma.

    2. Annie says:

      I found it rather puzzling that Deval Patrick would want illegals to have state tuition apply to them so “the playing field would be level” and a LAW for free tuition for adoptees would not be funded!

      What is wrong with this state? Where is the common sense?

  2. just me says:

    I was not adopted and I had to figure out how to pay for my education, they can too…what makes adoptees so special? There is no money so that means you have to figure out what you are going to do.

    1. Michelle Callahan says:

      Are you kidding me? If these families didn’t adopt these kids, the state would have been paying for their care for all these years. The state entered into a LEGAL, BINDING CONTRACT (or so these families thought). Families are told to “…do right by these kids. Feed, clothe, and shelter these kids AND get them through high school; and we will pay for them to go to college.” You can bet that if the tables were turned, the State would be all over these families for not doing their duty.

  3. Chianne says:

    Oh for crying out loud. Why do these people think that the State or Govt has to pay their way? Get a job and pay your way through school. Apply for scholarships, do something except leech off the system.

    1. JohnC says:

      I agree with justme and Chianne that the adopted kids should not recieve special consideration when it comes to college funding. However, the Commonwealth did promise to pay. Since it made the promise, it should honor that promise. I hope that it will not make promises that it does not intend to keep in the future. BTW: I had to pay my own tuition.

      1. pete says:

        I’m sure that all of you are for FREE anything to the Illegal’s why not to these few kids. The Law is The Law. Live with it.

    2. MAC says:

      Leeching? Really? What usually happens when your average Joe breaks the law? We would pay a penalty and/or go to jail. The State is breaking a LEGAL CONTRACT they entered into. It’s disgraceful (and so is your comment).

  4. Thomas Carr says:

    For many of the kids I have worked with over the last 30 years this is just one more broken promise in what for many of these kids was a lifetime of broken promises. There were also many adoptive parents who made that final commitment to adopt because they believed it was a way to give these children a college education which they would have been unable to do.

  5. Ajay says:

    The issue isn’t whether or not adopted kids should receive or not receive something. The issue is that the People’s Republic of Massachusetts promised to pay.
    I hope that these kids and their parents remember thiese broken promises when they enter the voting booths.

  6. KB says:

    Ya, but lets let the illegal immigrants in and pay their way, right Deval?

  7. Keep the Promise says:

    This promise (and law) was made to families who adopted kids out of the satte’s foster care system (which cost tens of thousands a year per kid) – why not keep the promise?

  8. Morgan 53 says:

    now I understand how the State had a 460 million dollar surplus last year, just don”t live up to your obligations!

  9. emom says:

    Lets see ,,,, How about taking away more services to the elderly and hani-cap…. And tell use how fair that is…. I do agree apply for scholarships,,, which so many don’t do, get on the computer early on and start researching for them, try the local level as well, they are there just for the taking IF YOU APPLY,,,, no instead many try and take the EASY road ,,,,,, That easy road is not there for those that truly need help,,, we have to fight all the time for what we need… so now what’s FAIR..

  10. response says:

    I’m shocked, the government told these people they would pay for something and now tell them, they don’t have the money…..
    I do feel badly these people were lead to think they could go to college on tax payer dollars and it wouldn’t cost them anything…but let me give you a little piece of advice….NOTHING IN THIS WORLD IS FREE.

  11. seand says:

    If she was illlegal she could go for free

  12. emom says:

    As I think more and more on this,, I understand, some wanting to be able to get something for nothing.. HOWEVER,, there are many families that struggle, and well try and find ways to get money for their kids to go to college, BUT for some there is no assistance, nor any money in any fund to help them or off set what they would have to pay… Grants are becoming fewer and fewer, schools, are not just handling them out, neither is the government, But it seems some groups are still allowed to gain such support… If they state they have it for one group Why not all groups, There are so many kinds of grants out there for so many kinds of reasons, BUT, once again, the government is canceling them in order to off set a budget issue… NO IT’S NOT FAR,,, but Why are some grants given when they may not need it nor should get it. When others that struggle may never have the chance to be able to go to college….. All I am saying is they should make it so ALL has the chance to be able to be given a grant to go to college, Why only a select group….

  13. Stephanie says:

    For all of you who are preaching that you paid your own way and you had to come up with tuition for your own kids…good for you! Maybe you should now consider the even more difficult (and more rewarding) task of parenting a child from foster care. It sounds like you might have the gumption for it.

    It was my understanding that spouses of state workers get free tuition too. An article from a rival news channel talks about this on March 2, 2011. WBZ, is that also being underfunded? I am not sure if the link will be published

    A promise is a promise. I believe that if they want to stop this, they should grandfather those that have been promised. It should also be across the board. Reevaluate all ‘Free Tuition’ programs.

    I did not adopt my son for free state tuition. We will try for the free tuition but will do what needs to be done to make sure he gets an education. Raising a child hurt by trauma, violence and neglect is not your typical parenting experience. That is not the case with all children coming out of DCFS but it is a real possibility.

    This is not about entitlements, it is about promises. Change the law if you disagree with it but please don’t sit here and judge families who have stepped up to this responsibility and were promised this. We have been teaching our children about responsibility and consequences for years. What do you think our response to this should be?

    1. MAC says:

      VERY WELL SAID STEPHANIE. Good Luck to you and yours!

  14. peanut says:

    I agree ,they should find ways to pay their own way, I had 4 in college and no body helped me I worked 3 jobs, my husband worked 80 hr. weeks and my kids worked,the government didn’t help me and neither did financial aide cause we made too much working too much to pay, the child is the parents responsibility not everyone’s so to think you are owed is ridiculous. No one is “owed” anything in life…work for it!!!

    1. Peanutbutter says:

      Ugh, more self righteousness from the “my husband just looks at me and i get pregnant!” set.

      Nobody told you to reproduce 4 kids…seriously, you sound bitter b/c you had more kids than you could reasonably handle and lived beyond your means.

      These families are adopting the kids that nobody else wants and saving the state a bundle by losing foster subsidies when they adopt.

  15. anonymous says:

    Well to start, I believe not everyone deserves an education. Only people who deserve it. And im not saying adopted children dont, But alexis omally doesnt deserve the gift to have college paid for. She smokes marijuana, parties, didn’t treat many people right. I believe the children should be interviewed throughly before all of this. Yes adopted children are put through many obstacles, but that doesnt mean that they should get these benefits.

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