It’s never too early to start saving for college tuition
By U of A System Division of Agriculture
Sept. 16, 2016
- Making a savings plan is the first step toward making saving happen
- Arkansas 529 available to help begin saving for college expenses
LITTLE ROCK — As we hit the mid-mark of September, many students around the country are settling into their fall semester routines, returning to the institutions of learning they left before summer vacation, or adjusting to new schools, including college.
For parents of children who haven’t yet matriculated out of high school, it’s a reminder that the costs associated with attending college grow ever closer with each passing year. Laura Hendrix, assistant professor of Family and Consumer Science with the University of Arkansas System, said it’s a great time to begin saving and strategizing for future tuition costs.
“Research shows that families who have a plan save 46 percent more than families who don’t,” Hendrix said. “So a plan is not just finding a place to save — it’s also estimating college costs. Right now, as college football games are starting up, families with children at home are starting to think about how they are going to send their kids to college in three or four or 10 years.”
Hendrix said that about 90 of families expect their children to earn at least a bachelor’s degree. To realistically prepare for that effort, Hendrix offers several key tips:
- Create a plan that includes setting savings goals, estimating costs and identifying sources of funding
- Start a savings fund with its own account, and consider opening an Arkansas 529 account (which is similar to an Individual Retirement Account)
- Identify grants and scholarship opportunities, while realizing that such sources typically only end up covering about 34 percent of all costs associated with a college education
- Compare borrowing options, and keep loans to a minimum where possible — beware of using loans to finance a lifestyle
- Find ways to cut costs: smart spending decisions can significantly reduce college costs. To that end, consider beginning a college career at a community college (where fundamental and required courses can be completed at much lower tuition rates than at a four-year institution), attending college in your home state (to avoid out-of-state tuition costs), taking as many college credit courses as possible in high school and living at home with your parents while attending college.
Hendrix said Arkansas 529 is one of the best tools available to parents in the state.
“We’re really fortunate to have the Arkansas 529 here, which is similar to an IRA or an employer provided fund, where there are some choices in the 529” she said. “Like an IRA, it’s tax deferred, although it’s specific to being used for college. You can transfer it from one child to another, and the child can use it anytime, so if they decide not to go the first year they’re out of school, they can use it for graduate school.
“The state is having a special promotion right now, called ‘Coloring for College,’” she said. “Kindergarteners across the state can color a picture, and parents can send that in to 529, along with the entry form. One student from each of the state’s 75 counties receives a $529 deposit, so quite a little bit a bump for saving for college for some kindergarteners.”
To learn more about Arkansas 529, visit www.arkansas529.org. To learn more about planning for college and other tips for developing financial resources from the Division of Agriculture, visit www.uaex.edu/money.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
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Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service