Parents usually want to help their children pay for college. However, with tuition on the rise, they often are not able to provide the full amount for tuition, books, room and board. Even when they can, some feel that it is better to allow their kids to shoulder some of the responsibility of paying for their education. There are a variety of ways that parents can help pay for college, and most families use a combination of several methods.
529 or Other Savings
Creating a regular savings account for their child’s college education is necessary, but they may want to look into other options that can offer tax advantages. A 529 plan can help save for education expenses tax-free, and it remains tax-free as long as the money is withdrawn to pay for education. However, there are situations in which using money from a retirement plan might be as good or better. For example, some money can be withdrawn from a Roth IRA for educational expenses without penalty. Parents also have more flexibility to access retirement funds after they reach the age of 59 1/2. It may be best to discuss what kind of savings to use with a financial planner since there are a number of variables, including how each type of savings is calculated for the purposes of offering financial aid.
Even with college savings, many students will have to take out student loans. Parents can help fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This will help determine their eligibility for federal student loans. They may be eligible for direct subsidized loan, which are need-based. Direct unsubsidized loans are not need-based. Finally, parents may be able to take out Direct PLUS loans. These are all the options for federal student aid, but if necessary, can look at the possibility of taking out some private loans by visiting this site as well. There are even private loans that are specifically for the parents of students to help pay for college.
Grants and Scholarships
Researching the availability of private grants and scholarships can help to reduce the overall tuition balance. Some of these have broad criteria while others are very specific. Filling out the FAFSA will make your child eligible for federal grants, which include various types of Pell Grants as well as the need-based Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants. Scholarships may be offered by many different organizations and might be specific to certain majors or to students attending or graduating from a certain school among other criteria.
Helping to Prepare Financially
Parents can also help their children save money and teach them how to manage it responsibly. For example, if they work summer jobs, parents can work with them to decide on an amount they will put away for college from each paycheck. They might even help them make a budget to estimate how much they will need for college and what sources they can use. This can be a valuable opportunity to learn more about money and saving.