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Back to School Means One Year Closer to College
Whether you have a pre-k student or you are sending your child to college, the end of summer vacation brings a wealth of changes for families as the kids head back to school. While these changes can be exciting, for those who are not prepared they can also bring challenges.
One of the obstacles families face is the increasing cost of higher education. According to CollegeBoard.org, between 2011-12 and 2016-17, published tuition and fee prices rose by nine percent in the public four-year sector, by 11 percent at public two-year colleges, and by 13 percent at private nonprofit four-year institutions, after adjusting for inflation (Trends in Higher Education). Whatever the age of your child, TODAY is the day to start thinking about the future and planning for this expense.
At the Georgia Student Finance Commission (GSFC), we help students achieve their educational goals by administering financial aid programs, advocating on issues related to financing higher education, providing free financial aid consulting, and promoting financial literacy and default prevention. The Path2College 529 Plan is the state of Georgia’s tax-advantaged college savings plan families can use to help pay the cost of higher education. Together, we have worked with thousands of families across the state to help them create a plan to help Georgia’s children build the financial foundation to continue their education after high school.
So, if your finances joined your family and took a vacation this summer, it is time to return to reality and get back on track with your financial planning. Here are a few tips to help get you started.
Evaluate your financial situation. Start by estimating the cost of your child’s education by using the Path2College 529 Plan College Savings Planning Calculator at path2college529.com/tools/calculator/. This planner takes into account the current age of your child and when he/she plans to start college, your savings goals, the estimated future cost of college and other important factors. Then look at your overall budget and determine how much you can afford to save each month. The key is to find a balance that works for your family and allows you to save regularly over time.
Create a financial roadmap. While many families will not be able to save the entire amount needed for a college education, a good plan is to save approximately 25 percent of your estimated education expenses, and then utilizing current income, grants, scholarships and financial aid for the remainder. Write your plan down, and then take action to make it a reality.
Share your goals. Make sure to talk to your children about your plan and their college savings. Not only will this get them thinking about their future, it will help ensure they attend college. That’s right—studies show that simply having a college savings account makes your child three times more likely to attend college and four times more likely to graduate than if they did not have one. (http://www.ihep.org/better-together, May 2017)
You should also let your family and friends know about your child’s college savings, and encourage contributions to their savings in addition to or instead of traditional gifts. Oftentimes, giving the gift of education is something people would prefer to do over toys that will get broken or quickly forgotten. The Path2College 529 Plan provides tools for parents to create custom invitations to request contributions and let family and friends know about this gift-giving option. For those wishing to contribute, a “Gift of Education” certificate can be printed to show a contribution was made, and the account owner receives an email letting them know about the gift.
Start saving NOW. When you start saving early, you can take advantage of the power of compounding. A compounding effect occurs when any accrued interest or earnings in turn collect additional interest or earnings. The earlier you start saving in your child’s life, the more opportunity your money has to grow. But, do not get discouraged if you did not start early. No matter the age of your child, every dollar saved today is a dollar you will not have to borrow in the future.
Reach out to the GSFC and/or Path2College. We are here to help answer your college savings questions, provide resources to ensure you meet your goals and guide you on your child’s path to college. Visit our websites, www.Path2College529.com and www.GSFC.Georgia.gov, for more information.
The Path2College 529 Plan is the state of Georgia’s college savings plan. As of June 30, 2017, the plan has more than 146,000 beneficiaries with more than $2.3 billion invested for higher education expenses. Families have withdrawn more than $595 million to pay for education-related expenses on behalf of more than 36,000 students. For more information, visit www.Path2College529.com.
The Georgia Student Finance Commission (GSFC) was founded in 1965 and serves as the administrator of more than 20 state- and lottery-funded scholarships, grants and service-cancelable loan programs. In addition, GSFC provides free financial aid consultation to K-12, postsecondary institutions and community organizations across the state to help students and their families prepare to pay for college. For more information, visit www.GSFC.Georgia.gov.
Consider the investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses before investing in the To learn more about the Path2College 529 Plan, its investment objectives, tax benefits, risks, and costs please see the Disclosure Booklet at path2college529.com. Read it carefully.
Check with your home state to learn if it offers tax or other benefits for investing in its own 529 plan.
Taxpayers should seek advice from an independent tax advisor based on their own particular circumstances. If the funds aren't used for qualified higher education expenses, a 10% penalty tax on earnings (as well as federal and state income taxes) may apply.
Investments in the Plan are neither insured nor guaranteed and there is the risk of investment loss.
TIAA-CREF Tuition Financing, Inc., Program Manager. TIAA-CREF Individual & Institutional Services, LLC, member FINRA, distributor and underwriter for the Path2College 529 Plan.