Most parents want to be able to provide a solid education for their kids. But with money tight in many households, tuition fees can be a major stressor, especially households with several college-aged kids.
Financially preparing for college in the face of rising high education costs can be a daunting task, but a sound savings strategy today can ease the strain of tomorrow’s tuition costs.
“Exploring various options and planning early can make the cost for a college education much more tolerable,” said Pete Schmidt, Vice President, Regional Sales Manager covering the Twin Cities for BMO Harris Financial Advisors, Inc., a part of BMO Financial Group. “Saving should be a priority as soon as possible because the decisions you make now will have a significant impact on how much money you have when your children are ready to head off to college.”
Below are a few options to help families pay for college:
- Consider a 529 Plan: Designed to help families set aside funds for future college costs, a 529 Plan is an education savings plan operated by the state or an educational institution. 529 Plans can be used to help pay the costs of qualified higher education expenses at colleges nationwide. The federal tax law even provides special tax benefits to plan participants1. A common strategy is to set up an automatic transfer out of a checking account to a 529 Plan account. This helps spread out the cost over a longer period of time.
- Set Up a Savings Account: Using cash for costs outside of tuition, such as books and a meal plan, will keep student loans and credit card debt down. Start a savings account specifically for these types of expenses. The student can also participate by depositing a percentage of money from summer or weekend jobs and from monetary gifts into the account to give them a sense of ownership. It’s never too early or too late to begin saving for a college education.
- Share your Plan with Others: If grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other family members know about your college savings plans, they can help out. They can deposit into a 529 Plan or savings account or buy Savings Bonds as birthday and holiday presents and help build up even more money to use toward college costs.
- Apply for Federal Student Aid Programs: Through the use of grants, work-study programs, and federal loans, there are a variety of resources available to help fund a college education. Eligibility is different for each program. For further information, visit www.ed.gov.
- Research Scholarship Opportunities: Scholarships are available to a variety of people through individual universities, county offices, privately held businesses, and nonprofit organizations. Your school’s guidance counselor can be invaluable in providing information on local scholarship opportunities or scholarship information for specific colleges being considered, and a search of the Internet can provide additional resources for finding scholarship opportunities for a college education.