If you've got several kids and you're still working to pay off your own student loans, paying for college is going to be a challenge. But, saving even relatively small amounts can make a huge difference. Coming up with a plan to save will guarantee your kids a chance to get a quality four-year college education.
Start with the premise that you don't want to carry on the tradition of burdening your kids with student loans - if they want to tackle that in graduate school, more power to them, right?
Live at home
Is there a local college the kids can attend while living at home? Room and board represents about half the cost - perhaps more - of attending a public college. It depends upon the tuition and living expenses in that city. If you allow your kids to live at home, you are already providing substantial help.
Take advantage of tax credits
There are significant tax credits available to help cover the cost of education, covering thousands of dollars each year. If tuition at the local college is $10,000 and tax credits allow you to cover $3,000 the annual cost is now reduced to $7,000 per year.
Look for scholarships
Every college offers scholarships, many of which are targeted at specific groups (kids who play an instrument, kids who like math, kids who attended your high school, kids of parents who belong to a particular union, etc.). Many of these scholarships are not exclusively for underprivileged or gifted students - they're for regular kids like yours. Encourage your kids to apply for ten to fifteen scholarships. Many are small. Some are less than $1,000 per year. Combined, however, the scholarships may add up to a significant portion of the $7,000 per year gap.
Have your kids save, too
With your kids living at home and attending the local college, it should be relatively easy for them to find a part time job during high school to help them save for some of their own college costs. If they continue working during college it is easy to believe that they can cover a meaningful portion of their college expenses.
Start to save now
Finally, if you save just $29 per month per child beginning at birth in a 529 plan where you might earn 5 percent per year on your money without having to pay any taxes you should accumulate $10,000 for each one by the time they graduate from college. While that wouldn't cover much of the $100,000 total cost of tuition, room and board at your local college, that could easily close the remaining gap with the plan outlined above.
Whatever you do, don't give up on sending your kids to college. If you help them to create that expectation of themselves, you may be surprised by how hard they'll work in school and the opportunities that will create. Top academic performers can often attend college at little or no cost. Even if you are left following this plan for funding your kids' college education, take comfort knowing that you've created the opportunity for them to get an education that opens all of life's doors.
This article was originally published on FamilyShare.com. Check out these other related articles: How do I choose investments for my child's college fund?, How will I ever pay for my children's college education? and Set up your child's college fund when she's a newborn.