Parents…did you know that the average family pays for half of their child’s college education from income and savings?

So how much are we talking? In 2017-18, that average amount spent on college by families was about $26,000. Nearly half of that amount – $13,000 – came from the family’s personal income and savings.*

While the idea of coming up with that much money can be daunting, there are things you can do now to ease the burden of saving – and paying – for your child’s future college education.Male student with piggy bank

What Parents Can Do: 

  • Set Concrete Goals.

If you make a plan for how your student’s college costs will be paid, you will be in a better position to address those costs than a parent without a plan. Even if you can’t contribute monetarily toward college, helping your student with the planning process is a great way to invest in their future. If you aren’t sure where to start, consider using the College Board’s College Saving Calculator. Once you understand your student’s projected college costs, you can work together as a family to figure out how to make college a reality. 

  • Open a College Savings Account and Make Regular Deposits.
If you plan to help with college costs, consider savings plans such as the NEST 529 College Savings Plan, which is Nebraska’s state-sponsored, tax-advantaged investment account.

Once you start a savings plan that works for you, put aside money each month (or create a depositing plan, then follow through with it). If you can save $50 a month, in six years you will have accrued $3,600 plus interest. If you aren’t sure how to come up with money to save, consider how you are currently spending your money. If you’re regularly going out to lunch or buying extra snacks or coffee, consider saving that money instead.

What Students Can Do:

  • Save, Not Spend.
When your student gets cash for holidays, birthdays, or other celebrations, encourage them to put most of it into their college savings account. You can also ask friends or relatives who give your child money to note that it is intended for the student’s college account.

If your student has a job, encourage them to save a large chunk of that money, too. It might not feel good to wait on fun, extra purchases, but by saving instead of spending, your student is choosing to make a long-term investment that their future self will appreciate.

  • Consider Dual-Credit Classes.

Dual-credit classes are courses students can take in high school that also count toward college credit – usually for General Education course requirements. If students can knock out some of those requirements ahead of time, they won’t have to pay to take those courses once they get to college. You will want to verify that the college your student is interested in attending will accept the course credits.

  • Prepare for Scholarships.
Students can make themselves desirable candidates to scholarship providers by working hard (or continuing to work hard!) in their classes, maintaining good grades, preparing for and doing well on their ACT or SAT, and getting involved in extracurricular activities like clubs or sports.

Picking a major before beginning college can also help, since some schools may have extra aid to offer students who pursue certain degree programs.

Hopefully, these tips will help you feel confident in taking those first steps to help your student monetarily prepare for college. If you need further assistance, feel free to call an EducationQuest office near you!