Creating your family’s plan for college funding

child saving money in college piggy bank in page

Across the U.S. some families have yet to return their young scholars to the classroom, while others may already be well into the new school year. But one day, “back to school” will really mean “off to college.” As a parent (or grandparent), will you be financially prepared for that day?

College is a significant investment in a child's future and its costs can be equally significant. Student debt has doubled since 2008 to more than $1.4 trillion according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The average U.S. private non-profit four year institution charges $46,950 per year in tuition, room and board, a 13 percent increase over the last five years after adjusting for inflation, according to the College Board.

Your entire family—kids, parents and grandparents (plus aunts, uncles and other loved ones, too) —may need to pitch in to meet the high costs of higher education. What roles can everyone play?

College financing: Students need to be proactive … and flexible

Future college students need to understand the cost of their educations and what they can do to help keep the expense manageable. Take advantage of complimentary financial literacy resources available from RBC Wealth Management financial advisors and other financial professionals to learn budgeting and other important skills that will last a lifetime. Taking advanced placement courses in high school, and applying for scholarships and grants may also result in substantial savings.

Parents: Look for opportunities to fund college … everywhere

Parents may wish to explore popular college-funding strategies. 529 plan earnings accumulate tax-free, provided they are used for qualified higher education expenses. Some employers offer partial tuition reimbursement or company scholarships. Through a loan or a withdrawal, you may be able to access the cash value of your permanent life insurance policy. Establishing a trust may also be an option, although most trust funds must be reported as an asset when applying for government-sponsored financial aid.

Grandparents: Help out “multitasking” family members

Grandparents can help make it easier for their adult children to build retirement accounts by helping fund the grandchildren’s college expenses. Required minimum distributions from tax-deferred retirement accounts may be a source of funds. Tuition paid directly to a grandchild’s college will avoid the $14,000 annual gift tax exemption, although any gift for your grandchild’s benefit will not offer a charitable income tax deduction.

Grandparents’ contributions to a 529 plan may be a more favorable asset in terms of qualifying for financial aid. And up to $70,000 per beneficiary can be contributed to a 529 plan ($140,000 for married individuals filing jointly) in the first year of a five-year period without incurring any federal gift-tax consequences, provided no additional gifts to the same beneficiary are made during the same period.

All in the family: Work together to tackle those college costs

By working together, funding a college education is possible. And that may help all the scholars in your family earn the type of degree necessary to help them achieve their dreams in life. To learn more about planning for college expenses, contact your RBC Wealth Management financial advisor. Or use the locator tool to find an advisor near you.

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