The court order regarding Post-Secondary Education Support (PSES)
The child and each parent are normally held to be responsible for 1/3 of the cost of the child’s college costs, including tuition, room & board, Books and Supplies, & transportation. The combined share of the parents would therefore be 2/3 of this amount. The child’s 1/3 will normally be paid from part time work, student loans, grants and scholarships. Any excess from the child’s share would normally be equally & proportionately attributed to the parents’ obligation. The Court normally limits the parent’s 2/3 share at 2/3 of the cost of attending the University of Washington (this is a common provision). The UW cost therefore acts as a “cap” or upper limit to the parents’ obligation. The parents then are usually ordered to divide this share proportionate to their net incomes.
What happens if the child’s college costs exceed the UW cap?
Let’s assume the annual cost of the child’s college is $33,000, and the annual cost at the UW is $21,000. The child’s college would exceed the cost of attending the UW by $12,000 a year. Since the UW cost acts as a “cap” on PSES, the parents would each only pay 1/3 of the $21,000 cost for the UW, or $7,000 each. After both parents pay their one-third share of the UW cost (a total of $14,000), the child would have to pay the balance owed at the child’s chosen college, or $19,000 ($33,000 cost at the child’s college, minus the $14,000 parents’ share = $19,000). The child can pay that through part time jobs, student loans, grants or scholarships. Of course, either parent could voluntarily pay the difference, but it would not be required by the PSES order.
What if the scholarships exceed the child’s costs?
If, on the other hand, the child’s scholarships and grants pay were in excess of the child’s college costs, the parents’ shares would be reduced or eliminated. In the above example, if the scholarships were $33,000 (a full scholarship), the parents’ share would be $0.
What happens if the child’s college cost is less than the UW cap?
If the child’s college cost is only $15,000 per year, the shares would normally be $5,000 for each parent, and $5,000 for the child (i.e., each would pay 1/3 of the 15,000).
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