The average American mom raises 2.4 children, according to the Pew Research Center. And unless she has a favorite, she’ll likely strive to have each of her children attend college.
If you find yourself parenting a full household, learn how to save kids’ college costs by following these five steps:
If you want to learn how to save for kids’ college expenses, you’re probably already aware that the cost of education has long been rising. The average price of tuition and fees for a private four-year school in 2020 was $32,410, according to the College Board. And that figure doesn’t include extras such as room and board.
To meet climbing costs, it’s wise to begin saving up as soon as possible for your kids, rather than waiting until the last minute to pay for college.
There are many ways to sock away funds for the future. Many consumers see 529 college savings plans as the best way to save for kids’ college costs, but education savings accounts and Roth IRAs are helpful alternatives. Make sure you evaluate all of your college-savings options before picking the best one for your family.
With 529 plans, it’s best to open an account for each of your children, as you’re not allowed to make withdrawals for someone other than the beneficiary.
If your kids are more than four years apart in age, however, you could get by with one 529. You can change the beneficiary once your oldest child has graduated.
Once you’ve opened your accounts, it’s time to set a goal. Your financial advisor, if you have one, could model out the amount you might need by the time your children reach college age.
You could also consult a college savings calculator, such as Charles Schwab’s handy tool. It’ll take your monthly or yearly contribution, plus other details, and spit out your potential savings in the years to come.
As your kids grow older, rely on specific schools’ net price calculators to figure out how much your family might have to cover based on your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). If you can’t find the calculator for your prospective school online, ask its financial aid office for the link.
When it’s time to buckle down, scour your budget to make room for monthly contributions to each child’s account. You might send a greater percentage of your contribution to your older child’s account and later make up the difference for your younger child down the road.
Focus on contribution amounts more than account balances, and treat your kids’ savings as unique but equally important goals.
For example, you might contribute equal amounts to each account but choose more aggressive investment strategies for your younger kids. After all, they have more time to ride the market’s highs and lows before reaching college age.
Older children’s savings might be better off with a conservative investing style. Typically, 529 savings plans come with age-based investing options that match your kid’s freshman year with the maturity date of your savings. That type of plan could make managing your savings easier.
When your oldest is approaching their late teens, re-evaluate their use for the funds. Maybe they’re planning on applying to lower-cost trade schools, for example. In cases such as this, you could transfer their unused education funds to a younger sibling who’s intent on attending a more expensive four-year school. That’s one of the ways to transfer 529 funds without incurring a penalty.
Even if you know how to save for one kid’s college, the process can be burdensome. When you add siblings to the mix, the task becomes progressively harder to accomplish.
If you’ve figured out a monthly contribution amount within your budget but don’t see a clear path to your long-term savings goal, consider other ways to grow the funds.
One popular strategy is to ask family members and friends for 529 plan donations on birthdays. You might ask your kids’ grandparents to contribute more often if they’re financially able. Gift of College is one way for family and friends to get involved.
Year-end tax refunds, employer bonuses, and other windfalls could also be contributed to meet your long-term goals.
As each child approaches their final year of high school, ensure your family completes the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). It opens the door to grants, scholarships and federal student loans.
All of your savings to this point will be captured by the FAFSA and will affect your EFC — the amount of money you’ll pay for college out of pocket.
Thankfully, the FAFSA will give you a break for having a larger family and for having multiple kids in college.
- FAFSA: Your dollar-figure EFC is divided by the number of kids in your household. With two daughters less than four years apart, for example, an $18,000 EFC would be split into $9,000 for each child while they’re in school.
- CSS Profile: Used primarily by private colleges, it may be less accommodating than the FAFSA. According to Goal Investor, your EFC could be decreased by about a third for each college student in the family.
As you’re completing the FAFSA and potentially the CSS Profile, don’t go it alone. You might know how to save for your kids’ college expenses, but they should too.
Consider collaborative strategies with your children, including:
- Encouraging your kids to apply for scholarships and perhaps earning their own income to put toward the cost of college
- Looking into the possibility of gaining college credits while in high school, perhaps via AP classes or dual enrollment
- Talking about the high cost of private, four-year universities and considering attending a two-year community college before transferring
The best way to save for kids’ college attendance is likely a mix of multiple strategies, a combination that’s unique to each family. Find what works for your family and consider a major bonus: You could avoid having to borrow federal and private student loans.
Need a student loan?Here are our top student loan lenders of 2021!
|1.04% – 11.98%1||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|1.13% – 11.23%*,2||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|3.84% – 9.40%3||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|1.05% – 11.44%4||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|1.22% – 11.66%5||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|2.76% – 7.14%6||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|1.24% – 11.99%7||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of Smart Option Student Loan customers. |
1 Important Disclosures for College Ave.
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
Rates shown are for the College Ave Undergraduate Loan product and include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.
Information advertised valid as of 4/22/2021. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Lowest advertised rates require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.
2 Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.
3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. If you choose to complete an application, we will conduct a hard credit pull, which may affect your credit score. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 0.15% effective Jan 1, 2021 and may increase after consummation.
4 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
UNDERGRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.23% to 11.26% annual percentage rate (“APR”) (with autopay), variable rates from 1.22% to 11.66% APR (with autopay). GRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.13% to 11.37% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.12% to 11.73% APR (with autopay). MBA AND LAW SCHOOL LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.30% to 11.52% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.29% to 11.89% APR (with autopay). PARENT LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.60% to 10.76% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.22% to 11.16% APR (with autopay). For variable rate loans, the variable interest rate is derived from the one-month LIBOR rate plus a margin and your APR may increase after origination if the LIBOR increases. Changes in the one-month LIBOR rate may cause your monthly payment to increase or decrease. Interest rates for variable rate loans are capped at 13.95%, unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law. Lowest rates are reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. If approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, the repayment option you select, the term and amount of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. Information current as of 4/1/2021. Enrolling in autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi. SoFi Lending Corp., licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. NMLS #1121636 (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)..
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
Undergraduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 2.76% – 7.14% (2.76% – 7.14% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 3.01% – 7.50% (3.01% – 7.50% APR).
Graduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 2.19% – 6.73% (2.19% – 6.73% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 2.89% – 7.09% (2.89%-7.09% APR).
Business/Law Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.36% – 9.54% (1.36% – 8.82% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.13% – 9.84% (4.13% – 9.12% APR).
Medical/Dental Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.36% – 8.34% (1.36% – 8.04% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.03% – 8.64% (4.03% – 8.34% APR).
Parent Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 2.10% – 7.41% (2.10%-7.41% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.69% – 7.83% (4.69% – 7.83% APR).
Bar Study Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 4.45% – 9.60% (4.45% – 9.53% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 7.39% – 12.94% (7.38% – 12.81% APR).
Medical Residency Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.55% – 7.05% (3.55% – 6.77% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 6.99% – 10.49% (6.97% – 10.07% APR).
Variable Rate Disclosure: Variable Rates are based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of March 1, 2021, the one-month LIBOR rate is 0.11%. Variable interest rates will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. The maximum variable rate is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%.
Fixed Rate Disclosure: Fixed rate ranges are based on applicable terms, level of degree, and presence of a co-signer.
Lowest Rate Disclosure: Lowest rates require a 5-year repayment term, immediate repayment, a graduate degree (where applicable), and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.
Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer. Borrowers should carefully review federal benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are considering possible loan forgiveness options, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision on our website including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
Eligibility Criteria: Applicants must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or eligible non-citizen with a creditworthy U.S. citizen or permanent resident co-signer. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer is required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. Citizens Bank private student loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/Promissory Note, verification of application information, and if applicable, self-certification form, school certification of the loan amount, and student’s enrollment at a Citizens Bank participating school.
Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
7 Important Disclosures for Discover.
Lowest APRs shown for Discover Student Loans are available for the most creditworthy applicants for undergraduate loans, and include an interest-only repayment discount and a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments.