College should be considered a lifetime investment rather than just a four-year expense. It requires financial planning and personal sacrifices. The earlier you start saving and investing, the less money you will have to save and invest later.
Even if you have not been able to save all the money you will need for college, several alternatives exist to assist you in making up the difference.
Financial aid comes in many shapes and sizes -- from scholarships and grants which do not need to be repaid, to federal loans which carry very favorable interest rates and terms. The following are a few of the most popular sources of financial assistance:
A college education is an investment that pays off. According to The College Board's annual report, Trends in College Pricing, median annual income for bachelor's degree recipients is 80 percent higher than median income for those with only a high school diploma. Over a lifetime that difference exceeds $1,000,000.
One of new products that came out of the Budget Reconciliation Act of 1996 is the Coverdell ESA. The Coverdell ESA offers the potential for tax-free growth when you use the account to fund a child's qualified higher education expenses.
A 529 plan is a state-sponsored education savings program that allows an individual to save in a tax-deferred account to pay for a beneficiary's post-secondary education at any accredited school in the United States. Unlike Coverdell Education Savings Accounts, which excludes joint filers with adjusted gross incomes (AGIs) above $220,000 and single filers with AGIs above $110,000, there are no income restrictions on those contributing to the plan.
Over 85% of the nation's schools offer various types of scholarship, granting money to college students based on a host of criteria such as academic merit, financial need, and in some cases, racial or ethnic background.
Though the application process can be complicated and redundant between scholarships, there is a great deal of money available for those who are willing to jump through the right hoops and prove their merit and/or need.