By Alexa Bacon
In today’s economic environment, acquiring a college degree is more vital than ever. Many studies have shown that college graduates attain greater employment and more stable salaries compared to those with only a high school diploma. While finding a job can sometimes seem scary and impossible, a college education will greatly enhance a graduate’s success in the real world. The cost of education is overwhelming to many, and tuition continues to rise year after year. But with financial aid, scholarships, and work/study opportunities, attending college can be made possible for everyone.
529 Savings Plan
529 is a tax-advantage investment account for the future higher education of a designated beneficiary, usually a child or a grandchild. This is a great option because the money on the account remains free from taxes as well as any money that is withdrawn for qualified education expenses and grows from investments and deposits. These plans are statewide with generally the same structure. While many states allow investors from out-of-state, there can be a significant state tax advantage and other benefits when using a plan offered by your state of residence. Research the 529 plans offered by the state of residence to find what options they offer and start saving early.
1) Prepaid Tuition Plan: Offered by 12 states and one not-for-profit organization, this plan allows the pre purchase of tuition based on today’s rates and is paid out in full when the student is attending college.
2) Savings Plans: Offered by all states, this account’s earnings are based upon the marketing performance of the investments. Many plans offer various age-based investment options where the investments become more conservative as the person gets closer to attending college. There are also risk-based investment options in which the investments remain in the same fund regardless of age.
Roth IRAs are another savvy savings plan and can be used simultaneously for both college expenses and retirement income. The account holder is able to withdraw contributions without penalty past the age of 59 ½. Also the holder can withdraw earnings without a 10% penalty tax if they’ll be used to pay for educational expenses; however, the account must have been activated for five years. Another benefit of Roth IRAs are they tend to have more investment options than 529 plans, depending on the company providing it, and allows owners to invest the money in whichever funds they desire in order to gain more money.
Coverdell Education Savings Account
The Coverdell ESA is a savings account to pay for all levels of schooling through college. The ESA is a tax-deferred trust account which assists families in funding educational expenses for beneficiaries 18 years old or younger. The account holder can submit annual non-deductible contributions of up to $2,000 to the account, which grows free of federal income taxes. The unique quality about this savings account is that funds acquired can be used to pay for elementary, middle and high school expenses as well as college. Also for ESAs, the money can be invested in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, or cash equivalents. The account funds become available to the beneficiary once he or she reaches the age of 18 and must be completely withdrawn and used by the age of 30.
A simple way to pay for college after a degree is earned rather than before is through student loans. These take the pressure off making payments during college and allow students to repay them after they’ve completed their education. Students can manage college expenses by taking out loans to pay for tuition, books and living expenses and repay the debt through a repayment process which begins six to twelve months after graduation. Loans are paid (typically) through monthly payments until the entire deficit is paid off. There are two types of student loans available for college students: federal loans sponsored by the federal government and private student loans which generally include nonprofit organizations or institutional loans provided by universities.
Private scholarships are an easy and available option that isn’t emphasized enough for its benefits. Private scholarships are grants or scholarships offered by many organizations and individuals throughout the country. These private organizations award scholarships due to many different motivations or qualifications and usually entail the student being involved in a certain club, association, church, etc. Some may require a copy of your FASFA or high school transcript for the application process. Remember, thousands of private scholarships are available in the U.S., but might not be simple to find—research local organizations or companies in your city to see if they offer any specific scholarships.
KEES scholarships are grants available only to students who attended high schools in the state of Kentucky. If a student attended high school in Kentucky and is attending a college within the state as well, scholarships can be granted based on the following qualifications. KEES money is determined by high school GPA, ACT scores, or any AP classes taken and a student must have earned higher than a 2.5 GPA each year they attended high school. The state will award students with a set amount of money each year of college based on the ending GPA of high school, the highest received ACT score, and the score on an AP test taken. In order to keep receiving the full amount of KEES money earned each year, a student must earn a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher. Keep a high GPA during high school and college to earn some easy money.
FASFA is a government run program which stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid and is the primary application for need-based financial aid. Every student should apply for FASFA, regardless of demographics, because even though it can be a lengthy process, students can receive federally insured low-cost loans. FASFA determines the distribution of scholarships through information about the student’s parents’ household income, assets and basic facts about that household demographic. Another important reason to apply is colleges use FASFA results to determine which students receive their financial aid grants and even scholarships. To apply for FASFA and download the form, go to fasfa.ed.gov and results will be administered within one to three weeks.
2-year community college
A smart and cost effective way to save money on tuition is attending a community college for two years to complete the basic required classes then transferring to a regular university for the duration of the student’s education. Many community colleges offer the same general education courses and classes a normal university requires at a discounted tuition rate. Combine this with cheaper living costs, especially if a student chooses to live near or at home, and a substantial amount has been saved while still earning a degree. This is an inexpensive way to have the real college experience without having to pay full four years of a regular university’s tuition rates.
Employment: part-time jobs, work study, etc.
Having a part time job before and during college can help you save money for future and current college expenses, starting as early as the age of 16. Saving money from paychecks during years prior to college can add up to a huge savings for college. Having a job during college can provide students with money for any extra expenses. A part time job option convenient for students is the federal college work study, in which the university provides students with part time campus jobs in order to subsidize educational expenses, many pertaining to the area of study. In order to be eligible for work study, students must submit their FASFA application to the university. Any extra amount from a job can help fund all the expenses of college.