Many professions view a college education as an essential step towards establishing a career. But while the average graduate with a bachelor’s degree earns $1.2 million more over their lifetime than someone with only a high school diploma, many young people sacrifice this potential income due to the increased cost of college education.
Despite escalating costs, good financial planning helps many families put their kids on the path to a four-year college degree, says Benjamin J. Koval (www.soundpathretirement.com), president and founder of SoundPath Retirement Strategies.
“Planning college expenses well in advance helps reduce stress, especially when it comes to external factors, such as rising tuition fees or student loan interest rates,” says Koval. . “But while many families would love to see their children go to college, many don’t have a plan on how to pay for it.”
Koval offers these tips on saving and funding for college:
- Start a Section 529 plan. “These plans are a solid savings option because they’re tax-free as long as the money is used for college-related expenses,” Koval says. “Ideally, you set up a 529 savings plan when your children are small. It’s an investment plan that matures over the life of the plan.
- Earn college credits while in high school. Many US high schools offer Advanced Placement (AP) and dual enrollment classes. By taking these higher-level courses while still in high school, students can earn college credit sooner.
- Familiarize yourself with the aid process. Koval says students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which uses their information to determine the amount of financial aid they may be eligible for, including money from grants or scholarships. aid funded by the state. “It can also determine how much a student could qualify for in loans should they become necessary,” Koval says.
There are many types of student aid and the amounts can vary depending on many factors. Besides scholarships based on academic or athletic performance, Koval says students can also look into Pell Grants or privately funded scholarships awarded by foundations, religious groups, or other organizations based on need or merit.
- Consider the community college route. Community colleges are a good option for students who don’t get much support from family or scholarship opportunities, Koval says. “The average cost per credit hour at a two-year community college is less than half the average cost at a four-year college,” he says. “And after two years at a community college, students can usually transfer their credits to a four-year college to complete a four-year degree.”
Benjamin J. Koval (www.soundpathretirement.com) is president and founder of SoundPath Retirement Strategies.