Paying for college can be a challenge.
Whether rich, poor, or somewhere in between, most people spend most of what they earn.
Not many people can write an annual check for $60,000 without breaking a sweat (or, perhaps, suffering a complete panic attack).
It can be tricky to figure out what strategies you can employ as a family to help pay for college. This is especially true if financial aid isn’t an option. Do you qualify for financial aid?
Here are some resources for those who are wondering how to pay for college:
Saving money for college is perhaps an obvious strategy for tackling that college bill, but according to a recent Sallie Mae study, only about half of all parents of children under age 18 are saving for their kids’ educations.
Higher income families may be positioned particularly well to save good sums of money for college. Even small amounts saved consistently can put a big dent in that college bill.
Some states even offer state tax incentives for contributing to an education savings plan. This reduces a family’s income tax burden and frees up more money to pay for college.
Reach out to a local financial planner even if you don’t believe you are all that financially sound. They will help you evaluate the education saving options that will best support your situation.
Even if you can afford to pay full price for college, who wouldn’t like to get a discount?
With the exception of the most highly selective colleges, recruitment aid, such as academic and/or athletic scholarships, is available.
At the vast majority of colleges, this type of aid is generally awarded without regard to a family’s ability to pay.
The best strategy for maximizing scholarship offers is to identify schools where you or child score well above average academically.
You can also pursue private scholarships found within your local community or opportunities online.
By default, most colleges will bill you twice a year—once for the fall semester and once for the spring semester.
Coming up with a full semester’s payment all at once can be difficult, even for families with relatively high incomes.
If you can afford to devote a fraction of your monthly disposable income toward college tuition, you should consider enrolling in the college’s monthly payment plan.
Most colleges offer such a plan to students, allowing them to stretch payments out over the course of 10 months or a year. There is usually a small service fee to sign up (maybe $50), but this fee is minimal compared to interest payments on a loan (or interest you may be accruing on your assets), so if a payment plan helps a family avoid borrowing (or liquidating high-return assets), it is well worth considering.
And speaking of loans, they are utilized by families at all income levels to help pay for college.
Even parents who could afford to pay for college out-of-pocket will sometimes choose to take out student loans. The strategy is to avoid asset liquidation or to give their child some responsibility for his or her own education.
Some parents even agree to pay off their child’s loans for them should the student maintain a certain grade point average, graduate on time, etc.
When borrowing, be sure to carefully consider all loan terms, as well as relevant gift tax implications for paying off a child’s loans.
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Higher income families may be able to structure their finances in a way that allows their child to claim this credit for themselves.
Also, as previously mentioned, families at all income levels can take advantage of tax-free asset accumulation by investing in a College Savings Plan.
Which Strategy Should I Choose?
While a high income is certainly a resource that is helpful in managing college costs, income alone doesn’t always ease the burden of college payments.
Higher income families, while precluded from accessing need-based financial assistance, are not without options for paying that college bill.
All families should explore the above resources when developing a college payment plan.
A little strategic thinking can go a long way toward maximizing financial resources. This can minimize college payment stress and help you avoid making mistakes paying back your debt, no matter what your income level.