The rising cost of college education and student loan debt in America have made it increasingly important for parents to start saving for their children’s college education as early as possible.
In this article, we’ll discuss the best ways to start saving for college, including how much you should save, when to start saving, and the different types of college funds available.
How much should you save for college?
The amount you should save for college depends on several factors, including whether your child will attend an in-state or out-of-state public or private college.
According to the GoingMerry, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2022–2023 school year is $10,560 for in-state public colleges, $27,020 for out-of-state public colleges, and $38,330 for private colleges. To go along with these associated costs, they reference the importance of using college scholarships to lower costs.
It’s important to carefully plan and calculate expenses to ensure that you have enough saved to cover the cost of tuition, fees, room and board, and other expenses.
When should you start saving for college?
It’s important to secure your own financial stability before starting a college fund for your child. This means paying off high-interest debt, building an emergency fund, and contributing to your retirement accounts.
Once you have a solid financial foundation, you can start saving for your child’s college education. The earlier you start, the more time your money has to grow and accumulate interest.
How to start a college fund and types of college funds
There are several types of college funds available, including Education Savings Accounts (ESA) or Education IRAs, 529 Plans, and UTMA or UGMA accounts.
Each type of account has its own advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to do your research and consult with an investment professional before making a decision.
10 Simple College Savings Tips for Students
College can be expensive, but there are ways for students to save money and reduce their debt. Here are 10 simple college savings tips for students:
1. Apply for scholarships
Scholarships are free money for college that your child doesn’t have to pay back. Encourage your child to apply for any scholarship they’re eligible for. Even the small scholarship awards add up fast!
There are many scholarship search engines available online, such as Fastweb and Scholarships.com.
2. Apply for aid
Everyone who wants to go to college should fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA covers things like federal grants, work-study programs, state aid, and school aid – all different bundles of free money!
Even if you don’t think you’ll qualify for aid, it’s still worth filling out the FAFSA just in case.
3. Take AP classes
Advanced Placement (AP) classes give high school students the opportunity to earn college credits while they’re still in high school. Every AP class taken in high school is one less class you’ll need to pay for in college.
Encourage your child to take as many AP classes as possible to save on college tuition.
4. Get a job
Whether they take on a full-time gig during the summer or a part-time job during the school year, your child will be able to save money for college and gain work experience to put on their resume.
Many colleges also offer work-study programs that allow students to work on campus and earn money for college expenses.
5. Open a savings account
Most banks offer savings accounts specifically for students, which usually means waived monthly maintenance fees and no minimum balance requirements. If your child is under 18, you’ll need to be the joint account holder.
Encourage your child to save as much as possible in their savings account to help pay for college expenses.
6. Save money instead of spending it
When your child gets birthday money or an allowance, suggest they put it right into their savings account so they aren’t tempted to spend it. Encourage them to save as much as possible and avoid unnecessary expenses.
7. Never use student loans
Student loans may seem like a quick fix, but they’re a nightmare that sends college graduates out into the world anchored in debt. If your child can’t pay cash when tuition is due, then it might not be the right time to be in college.
Instead, they should take some time off school to work and save more money. There are also alternative financing options available, such as private scholarships, grants, and crowdfunding.
8. Choose a cheaper school
Going to an in-state school can offer the same degree programs at a huge fraction of the cost. Plus, if your kid stays local, that cuts down on moving costs, out-of-state tuition, and travel expenses to visit family and friends.
Encourage your child to research different schools and compare costs to find the most affordable option.
9. Let them live at home
Having your child live at home and commute as a college student can save thousands of dollars a year on room and board expenses. If your child’s college is within commuting distance, encourage them to live at home and save money on housing costs.
10. Look for tuition reimbursement at work
Some companies offer tuition reimbursement for their college student employees. If your child is applying for part-time jobs, help them filter their job search to include companies that offer a tuition reimbursement benefit.
Any little bit helps, plus they’ll get professional experience to add to their resume.
Starting a college fund for your child can be a daunting task, but it’s important to plan and save as early as possible to ensure that your child has the opportunity to attend college without incurring excessive student loan debt.
By carefully considering how much to save, when to start saving, and the different types of college funds available, you can help secure your child’s financial future. It’s also important to involve your child in the process and encourage them to take steps to save for their own education.
With early planning and proper understanding of investment options, you can help make college a reality for your child.