The earlier you start planning for college, the better. However, even if you didn’t start when your child was a baby, there are ways for you and/or your child to pay for a college for a education.
Distributions from Savings Vehicles
We covered the most-common college savings vehicles like the 529 plan, ESAs, UTMAs and Roth IRAs - all of which are explained here: Tips for Parents: Saving for Kids' College. However, if you plan on taking distributions for your kids' tuition, we recommend you meet with a financial professional to discuss your distribution strategy and tax implications. Also, be mindful this may affect your student's Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®).
Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®)
FAFSA will determine your eligibility for Federal grants, loans and work study. A Federal grant does not have to be repaid, unless your student drops out of college. Work study is a lump-sum of free money from the government that your student needs to work for while at college. Federal loans are borrowed money your student will have to pay back with interest. Parents, just a heads-up, FAFSA is going to look at your tax returns from the past two years. If you have a major income change and your student doesn't qualify for some of these benefits, we suggest you talk with the financial aid office at the college he/she is applying to submit a "special circumstance."
The link for FAFSA is www.fafsa.ed.gov.
While FAFSA is, generally, more need-based, scholarships are more merit-based and will take more "work" for your student to find. Here's a list of places to apply for scholarships: civic organizations, high schools, the college to which you're student is applying, places of employment. Remember, have your student keep applying every year. Too many times high school senior apply for scholarships, but never reapply thereafter.
Alternative loans would be considered personal loans through banks and credit unions. These act like a regular loan meaning your student needs to have good credit and the repayment plan will begin immediately - no grace periods or deferments. Parents, be aware that many times your student may need a co-signer on a loan of this type.
If you need help developing a plan to pay for your kids' college tuition, we'd be glad to help.
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