With College Costs
The cost of sending
a child to college is increasing and shows very few signs of slowing.
The reasons for these increases are many. Many states have been forced
to reduced their support for public universities, schools have spent to
improve facilities, there has been increased demand as more high school
graduates choose college over entering directly into the work force and
some say colleges have lagged in improving their productivity with technology
as other industries have done.
College Costs of
As the chart from The College Board shows below, average costs have almost
doubled over the past 16 years. You should also note that the costs reflected
do not include additional costs like transportation, books and entertainment.
Estimate the College
Costs of Tomorrow
For the past several years, college costs have been increasing at a rate
faster than the overall inflation rate. While it is impossible to know
what will happen in the future, here is a chart that demonstrates what
happens at annual increases of 4%.
||Annual cost today
||Annual cost in
||Annual cost in
||Annual cost in
And do not forget,
these are just the annual costs; and if your child attends for four years,
you must multiple by 4. And, do not forget to include additional costs
of books, transportation and entertainment.
Starting to Save
Early is Critical
As with saving for any goal, the sooner you start and the more you save,
the more you will have when you need it.
Choose the Best
Way to Save
Starting to save on a regular and consistent basis is most important.
The next decision to consider is how to hold the funds.
As Part of Regular
One option for parents is to just consider saving for a child's college
as part of their total savings program. This is simple, but doesn't provide
an easy way to identify how much progress is being made toward a goal.
Establishing a separate account for college savings helps with monitoring
progress. However, the earnings on the funds will be taxable to the parents.
Another option is to establish a custodial account for the child. Using
a Uniform Gifts to Minors Act (UGMA) or Uniform Transfer to Minor Act
(UTMA) account is an easy and legal way to transfer the ownership of assets
to a child. With a UGMA or UTMA account, the parent creates a custodial
account on behalf of the minor child. Assets are transferred into the
account and the custodian, usually a parent, manages the account until
the child reaches legal age. At that point, the child can do whatever
he or she wishes with the assets. Transfers to these accounts are irrevocable.
Earnings on the account are taxable to the child which may save some income
These accounts function like an IRA with earnings not being taxed if the
funds are used for qualified education purposes. The largest drawback
to Coverdell ESA's are that annual contributions are limited to $2000.
There are also income limitations for these accounts.
Section 529 College
These college savings plans are now offered by over 40 states and were
also enhanced by the 2001 Tax Law. While the plans are offered by the
state, there is no restriction on where the child attends college utilizing
the funds. One potential drawback is that there are usually limited investment
options. It makes sense to look at several states programs to find one
that offers the investment choices you desire.
With a Section 529
Plan, there are no income limits on the donors and contributions of up
to $14,000 ($28,000 for a couple making a joint gift) per year can be
made. In addition, there are special provisions to allow a "front-end
loading" of up to five years of contributions to be made without
gift taxes. Withdrawals used for qualified educational purposes are excluded
from federal income taxation.
Enabling a child to attend the college of their choice and get an education
that will prepare them for a successful and productive life is one of
the greatest gifts you can give. However, the costs of providing that
college education can be very large. Starting earlier rather than later
can make the process easier, especially with some of the tax benefits
a Section 529 College Savings Plan.
Developing a college
saving habit can provide your children with the funds they need and provide
you with the satisfaction of knowing that you are doing the right thing.