Who Pays For College?

Parents need to be aware they may foot much of the bill for kids’ college costs as the court gets involved

The Washington State Child Support Schedule says this topic is advisory, not mandatory. In other words, there are rules with regard to support for children up until 18 or graduating high school. There are guidelines for young adults who choose to go to college. (See the Revised Code of Washington 26.19.090(1))

The road to higher education is one paved with costs and time. Who foots the bill? Not necessarily the person going to school.

Back in the old days, kids didn’t expect parents to pay for college unless they came from a well off family. The old days are gone. Washington courts, and particularly King County courts, expect parents to chip in towards college in most cases. In many cases they require parents to pay the bulk of college costs.

Factors The Court Considers When Awarding Money

When considering whether to order support for post-secondary educational expenses, the court “shall determine whether the child is dependent and relying upon parents for the reasonable necessities of life” according to the Support Schedule. It also say the court “shall exercise its discretion when determining whether and for how long to award post-secondary educational support.”

The court considers factors like the age of the child; their needs; expectations of the parties when the parents were together; and the kids’ prospects, abilities or disabilities. Also, it may consider the kind of college education the child wants and the parent’s level of education, standard of living and current and future resources.

The court can look at the amount and type of support that the child would have gotten if the parents were together. The basis for this is RCW 26.19.090(2).

Rules To Keep Getting Paid

To be clear, a kid is not getting a free ride with no expectations. They must enroll in an academic or vocational school, be pursuing a course of study in line with their goals and be in good academic standing.

College costs are on the rise. Mom and dad may be footing the bill.

Court ordered post-secondary educational support is stopped when a child fails to comply with conditions of full time enrollment or good academic standing per RCW 26.19.090(3).

The young adult must make available all academic records to both parents to get educational support. Each parent gets full and equal access to education records. (See RCW 26.09.225 and RCW 26.19.090(4))

The court will normally not order the payment of post-secondary expenses beyond the child’s twenty-third birthday. RCW 26.19.090(5).

Where Do Payments Go?

The court can require either or both parents’ payments for post-secondary educational expenses be made directly to the college. The court may direct that the parent making the support transfer payments make the payments to the child or to the parent who has been receiving the support transfer payments as well, per RCW 26.19.090(6), which normally is not something the paying parent likes.



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