Saving for College, Part I: 529 Plans

Paying for college can be a struggle.  Nobody wants to repay student loans forever, not everybody is going to land a full-tuition scholarship, and federal student financial aid seldom takes care of all college costs.  If you're a parent or relative looking ahead to cover college costs for a child, finding scholarships is a great step now, but you may also want to consider college savings plans.

Read below for information on 529 savings plans, which are one of the most popular and diverse options for college savings.  If this is not for you, check back tomorrow for more information on other savings options.

529 Savings Plans While 529 plans have sustained average losses of 21 percent in the last year, they can still be a good idea, especially if you choose your plan carefully and have plenty of time to save.  Many 529 plans allow you to move your savings into a much more conservative portfolio when the student nears college, an option they're sure to publicize based on the recent behavior of the stock market.  While there are limits on how many changes can be made to a 529 plan per year, the plans are otherwise quite flexible and varied, so it's easy to find one that works for your situation. Plus, 529 plans can be taken out in the parent's name, rather than the student's, so they will only minimally affect a student's financial aid eligibility.

Additionally, contribution limits are high, income limits are nonexistent, minimum contribution requirements tend to be low, and many states offer a variety of incentives for residents who contribute to their plans.  As an added bonus, many 529 plans can accept contributions from anybody anywhere, not just the people named on the account, and several programs have been created to take advantage of this.  For example, some plans allow a portion of credit card purchases or purchases at certain stores to go towards a particular student's 529 plan.

Prepaid Tuition Savings Plans If you're hesitant about sticking money for college in the stock market with uncertain returns, another type of 529 plan is also gaining popularity.  Prepaid tuition plans allow families to contribute a fixed amount now in exchange for a certain portion of tuition being covered in the future.  Many states do this for their state colleges and universities, and the Independent 529 plan, which is accepted by over 200 private colleges, also fixes contributions to portions of future tuition.  Both of these varieties eliminate worries about tuition inflation, though if tuition actually goes down between now and when the student starts college, a prepaid plan might not be the most lucrative option.

The Down Side 529 plans do have drawbacks and limitations.  Money must be spent on education, and the expenses that qualify are limited to undergraduate tuition, fees, educational expenses like books, and now computers. However, if the student is enrolled at least half-time, money from a 529 plan can also go towards room and board, so even if your student earns a full-tuition scholarship, it's possible to still take advantage of 529 savings.  Money must stay in a plan for at least 3 years, so if you're saving for a college sophomore, you're out of luck with these.  However, you can transfer the unused portion of a 529 plan to another family member without incurring the heavy withdrawal penalties, and it may also be possible to use the funds towards graduate or professional school.

Plans also vary from state to state, so your state's plan might not have the best benefits for you, or might not offer as sweet a deal in terms of tax breaks or low fees as the next state over offers its residents.  Luckily, you can shop around among a variety of plans, including ones offered by several other states.

529 plans are not the only college saving option, though they remain the most popular and perhaps the most well-known.  Check back tomorrow for information on the rest of the pack.

And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!

Discuss

Share your thoughts and perhaps thousands of students will benefit from your unique insight on the subject!



If you can read this, don't touch the following fields


 
Comments (0)

Most Shared Articles

The mantle of "College President" is one that includes a lot of responsibility and scrutiny, but for some in the higher ranks, the lucrative pay makes it worth it. According to data released by The Chronicle of Higher Education, some private-college presidents have made over $5.4 million in a single year. The average annual salary for full-time college/university presidents in 2014 was roughly [...]

0 months ago 1 comments Read More

Perhaps your 2017 New Year's Resolution is to earn more free college money - that's our goal for you! 2016 is now coming to an end, and so are these scholarship deadlines, so hurry and apply to these end-of-the-year awards while you still can! Girls Who Illustrate Awesomeness Scholarship [...]

0 months ago 6 comments Read More

The incoming Trump administration could reverse President Obama's actions on college sexual assault, giving hope to those who claim their lives were destroyed by false rape claims. However, this raises concerns for some that perhaps those who have been victims of sexual assault and made legitimate reports may not get the protection they deserve. Since 2011, colleges and universities have been [...]

1 months ago 5 comments Read More

Students are being called to "expose and document" professors "who discriminate against conservative students, promote anti-American values, and advance leftist propaganda" on a new website called Professor Watchlist. Turning Point USA, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization founded in 2012 promotes ideas of free-market capitalism and "educates students about the importance of fiscal [...]

1 months ago 7 comments Read More

Finding trustworthy and accurate scholarship and other financial aid information can be tricky these days, especially when it comes to sources that offer unreliable, often misleading content. "Scholarships" offered by scammers who charge fees and operate outside the laws, rules and ethics of modern-day netiquette abound. Here at Scholarships.com, we carefully and thoroughly vet [...]

1 months ago 0 comments Read More

American Flags designated for a Veterans Day ceremony at Brown University were torn and trashed by university students. While a group tried to protect remaining flags, others continued what they believe was a "justified" protest against the recent presidential election. The American flags arranged on Brown University's Main Green flew in honor of the annual Veteran's Day ceremony, which made [...]

1 months ago 16 comments Read More

Black Friday deals will be unleashed in just two weeks with some of the largest retailers getting an early start on Thanksgiving Day. When it comes to end-of-the-year scholarship hunting, no worries - we've got you covered. Score big this holiday season (and semester) with free college money: RMA Foundation [...]

1 months ago 0 comments Read More

The Associate Dean featured as the "chief villain" in a discredited Rolling Stone article on an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia has been awarded $3 million by a federal court jury. This decision followed an earlier ruling that the discredited article ruined her reputation and "undermined her work to help students who had been sexually assaulted." In November 2014, Rolling Stone [...]

1 months ago 6 comments Read More

November is National Scholarship Month and in its honor, we're doing what we do best - offering the best scholarships out there to help students like you fund the cost of college. Whether you're in high school trying to land some free money before heading off to school or a college student looking to pay next semester's tuition, here are some of the few generous scholarships available to [...]

1 months ago 0 comments Read More