Are you the parents of a high-school student with college just a couple of years away? What if you haven't really started saving for college yet?
"You've got to sit down with the child at that crucial moment and say, 'Let's be realistic,'" advises tax lawyer Shannon Nash, author of For the Love of Money: The 411 to Taking Control of Your Taxes and Building Your Net Worth.
There are several options at this stage, all of which can be used in combination:
- The student can contribute at least some of the cost, which Nash recommends in any case. A teen can work a part-time job while in high school, saving the money for college. That same student can continue working part-time while in college and take on repayment of any student loans after graduation.
- The family should aggressively check out financial aid and scholarships. If a financial aid request is turned down, don't be afraid to ask for a re-evaluation, showing all possible non-discretionary expenses (Grandma's nursing home, not the gym membership).
- Investigate and seek out education loans. Talk to your bank, hire a financial advisor and consult other families who've been in the same situation.
- If you must, consider tapping into your retirement fund. Education expenses can qualify you for a "hardship distribution" of your otherwise untouchable retirement money. Ask a qualified financial advisor for the best way to go about this.
- Lower your expectations, price-wise. The highest-end private college can cost 10 times more than in-state tuition at a public college or university. Consider two years at a community college and then transferring to a more prestigious school.
- Choose a college where the student can live at home, if this works for the family. You'll save on college room and board fees.
- Caroline Grannan
Check out the other articles in this series:
- Choosing and Using a Financial Planner
com/article-topics/article-topics.php?Article_ID=10018">How Will We Ever Save for College?
com/article-topics/article-topics.php?Article_ID=10020">The Many Ways to Save
The resources listed below cover long-range planning for college savings. This is just a small sampling of the resources available, but a good place to start.
Financial Planners or Advisors
Both membership organizations list local financial planners and good financial planning tips:
- The Financial Planning Association - www.fpanet.org.
- The National Association of Personal Financial Planners - www.napfa.org.
College Financing Advice
- CollegeBoard.com - Offers information to students and parents about saving for and applying to college.
- FinAid.org - This award-winning Web site has information on aid, scholarships, loans, savings plans and more.
- SavingForCollege.com - Provides information, tips and news about college savings options, including 529s and Coverdell Education Savings Accounts.
- 529 & Other College Savings Plans for Dummies, by Margaret A. Munro, Wiley Publishing, 2004.
- Kiplinger's Financing College: How Much You'll Really Have to Pay - and Where You'll Get the Money, from the editors of Kiplinger's Personal Finance, Dearborn Trade Publishing, 2005.