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Paying for College

When Students Plan to Take the Money and Run

Is it okay to accept an ROTC scholarship and drop out of the program later to avoid paying back the grant? Plus, should a restaurant take responsibility for a patron's allergic reaction?

One of my son's best friends is planning to accept an ROTC scholarship to college and wants my son to join him. The boy seems uninterested in military service and is attracted mostly to the money. He says he can drop out of ROTC before the start of his sophomore year and not have to pay back the freshman grant. Is this true, and do you think the boy is acting ethically?

Yes, it is true. The military may offer this deal because it thinks an ironclad ROTC commitment, plus subsequent military duty, would scare off some good prospects. And it must believe that freshmen will find ROTC to be interesting and fun -- and will want to keep their scholarships.

Ethically speaking, it is okay for an ROTC student to change his or her mind and drop out, but it would be wrong to accept the freshman grant with no intention of following through.


Taking responsibility

I have a walnut allergy, and I suffered a severe reaction at a restaurant after eating a dessert that did not list walnuts as an ingredient. The restaurant refuses to help pay my emergency-room bill, saying I should have asked the waitress about nuts before ordering the cake. But my asking wouldn't have mattered -- when I did inquire later, after the reaction began, she said there were no walnuts in the cake. Then my boyfriend summoned the manager, and he told us the waitress was mistaken -- the cake did contain walnuts.

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You make a good case for at least partial reimbursement of your expenses, and I hope the restaurant will see this. Yes, you should have asked about walnuts before ordering, but the waitress's misinforming you -- after the reaction began -- shows that your having done so wouldn't have prevented the problem. This situation calls for an amicable settlement, without litigation.

Have a money-and-ethics question you'd like answered in this column? write to editor in chief Knight Kiplinger at ethics@kiplinger.com.