Saving for College

April 19, 2010

At many public schools, the total cost of a four-year education is now close to $80,000. According to recent government figures, tuition has been rising at a rate 10 times faster than the median family income since 1979. So what is the best option to save for college? What if you're starting late when your child is older?

Let's break this down by age. If you're starting early, you just had a baby, there are couple of good options, first the education savings accounts with banks or mutual fund companies, how does that work, what are the pros and cons?

Education savings accounts
- set up at mutual fund companies or banks
- stock mutual funds for newborns
- add fixed income investments for 3rd or 4th graders
- has a cap on contributions per year

529 prepaid tuition plan
- locks in tuition at in-state public colleges at current prices
- state income tax deductions up to $10,000/year

529 savings plan
- called "bright start" in illinois
- more flexible but no guarantees (stock market driven)
- you choose an investment portfolio

If your child is in high school:
- invest more conservatively
- can still contribute to a 529 plan to earn tax deduction
- be careful not to increase taxable income which can impact child's eligibility for aid

Throughout this week, there is a huge initiative going on in the Chicago area called Money Smart Week. Many public and private entities are coming together to offer free class on financial literacy including saving for college.

University of Illinois Extension, Tax Breaks for Higher Education

FinAid: The Smart Student Guide to Financial Aid

IRS Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education

Illinois prepaid tuition program, College Illinois!

Illinois college tuition savings program, Bright Start

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