With an educational power of attorney, or EPOA, an adult student with special needs authorizes someone to make education-related decisions for him. The student's designated agent can, for example, apply for financial aid, register for courses and review educational records on the student's behalf. This is different from the regular POAs that parents or caregivers use to assign another adult to handle educational matters for a minor child. For example, if a parent goes out of state, he can use a POA to delegate his kid's temporary caregiver to enroll the child in school or make other decisions.
Why the EPOA Is Useful
Once a student turns 18, she's legally an adult, empowered to control her own life. If she has disabilities, however, she may not be ready to make all the necessary adult decisions. It's not a matter of intelligence – a student who's a whiz in class may still not be able to talk with faculty advisers, decide a schedule or navigate the maze of financial aid. In general, a power of attorney authorizes an agent to make decisions for the person who signs the document. It allows the agent to do just about anything the person could do for himself. Limited POAs assign the agent specific tasks, such as selling a house, or a specialized area of authority, such as making medical decisions. An Educational Power of Attorney, or EPOA, grants the agent authority to act only in the educational world.
The Power of an EPOA
The educational power of attorney allows the agent to handle any decisions the student doesn't think she can cope with. It can be broad, covering all the bureaucratic tasks and paperwork involved in attending college, or specialized to deal with specific areas. The agent can make decisions exactly as if she were the student herself. These include:
- registering for class
- deciding on a course of study
- meeting with the administration
- requesting any special assistance the student needs
- applying for financial aid
The agent cannot, however, attend classes or take tests for the student.
As an adult, the student has the legal right to decide to create a EPOA. If he doesn't think it's in his best interest to appoint an agent, it can't be forced on him. The EPOA is supposed to meet his needs, but not what other people think he needs.
Creating an EPOA
All 50 states allow individuals to create powers of attorney, but every state has its own rules for what constitutes a valid document. Illinois, for example, requires you to have one witness to your signature and have the document notarized. The agent cannot be the witness. Connecticut requires two witnesses.