Paying for College

Whether you’re a student, a parent or grandparent of a current student, or a new mom or dad who’s planning for college before your little one can walk, creating a plan for education can be overwhelming. But with research, a solid understanding of the process and the right resources, financing college will not seem so daunting.

college students looking at computers

Planning for higher education doesn’t start with applications—preparing for college should start as early as middle school where students and parents discuss how hard work in school now will translate into academic scholarships and opportunities in the future.

Besides academic grades, college and scholarship applications will ask for information on every extracurricular activity, so it’s a good idea to start compiling achievements as early as possible including community service, academic awards, participation in sports, etc.

Checklist – First Steps

According to Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid 2021 published by the College Board, the nationwide average for in-state public tuition plus room and board per year is $22,690, and for private school is $51,690. The total price of a college education depends on how long a student is enrolled before completing a degree—frequently more than four years for a bachelor’s degree.

  • Determine your intentions about paying for college by asking yourself these questions:
    • Will your student fund all costs through work and student loans?
    • Will you pay for some or all of their education?
    • Will your contribution be limited to a fixed dollar amount or a percentage of the total expense?
  • Calculate your monthly savings goal by using our college savings calculator.
  • Consider the many options available for saving for college, such as a 529 Plan, Coverdell Education Savings Plan (ESA), Roth IRA or a Uniform Transfer to Minors Plan (UTMA).

    Tip: Encourage family (such as grandparents, aunts and uncles) and friends to contribute to your child's savings account or college savings instead of buying other gifts.

Checklist – Later Years

  • Evaluate the income opportunities for the careers your student wishes to explore. Will the chosen career generate more income than the cost of the education? Understand the return on your investment before your student explores their future area of study.
  • Consider tuition costs; in-state versus out-of-state, private versus public, etc. All of these will impact future career options, but often equally important the amount of student loan debt upon graduation.

    Tip: The sooner you discuss everyone’s role in financing a college education, the better. Remember, you can take out a loan to fund college, but you cannot take out a loan to fund your retirement.
  • Help your student identify the top 5-10 schools by researching:
    • Student-to-faculty ratio
    • Accreditation
    • Nationwide course study ranking
    • Sports, clubs, and organizations
    • Study abroad programs
    • The total cost of materials and services, including tuition, room, board, books, fees, meal plan, laundry facilities, parking pass and transportation home
  • Determine deal breakers and nice-to-have benefits before visiting and applying to colleges. Application fees and the cost to travel to multiple colleges can become expensive quickly. Narrow down your top choices before hitting the road.

Checklist – Managing College Financing

  • Be prepared. Gather the following documentation before you get started:
    • Federal Student Aid ID – You can locate this by visiting the page on how to create a new FSA ID.
    • Parents’ and student Social Security number (SSN)
    • Parents’ and student driver’s licenses
    • Prior year tax return, including W-2s for each employer
    • Records of assets like bank and investment statements, real estate value (including investment real estate or second homes), etc.
  • Reach out to the schools under consideration for a list of scholarships and their application deadlines. As a member of Delta Community Credit Union, students may apply for our scholarship programs.
  • Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine eligibility for programs such as grants, loans, or work-study offered through the federal government. This action will be required once per school year.

    Tip: The federal government’s financial aid formula excludes the following asset types from determining a student’s financial need:
    • Retirement assets, including IRAs, 401(k)s, 403(b)s
    • Home equity in a primary residence
    • Annuities
    • Cash value of life insurance
  • Set up a meeting with the school’s financial aid office to discuss funding that is and is not paid back. Be sure to understand when payments begin, who is assuming financial responsibility for subsidized or unsubsidized loans, and the interest rate that will be charged now or in the future.
  • The student should establish a monthly budget for their spending in college.
  • Set up a Checking Account so that the student can easily deposit money should they have an emergency, or to manage month to month expenses.

How We Can Help

To learn more about the different options available to fund higher education for a child, contact an Education Savings Account Specialist at 404-677-4600.