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College Savings Tips (For All Ages)

Girl wearing graduation cap.

According to the Financial Health Network, 47% of Americans spend more or equal to their income every month. That can make it difficult if not impossible to save for a college education. But there are a few tips you can use as a parent and student to plan for and save money while in college.

For Parents

Saving for college doesn’t have to start the day your child is born. But beginning on that day could make it easier to pay for school. If that just isn’t possible, or if it’s just too late, savings accounts such as the 529 Plan, Coverdell Education Savings Account, Uniform Transfer to Minors (UTMA), as well as Uniform Gifts to Minors (UGMA) make it possible to get some savings squared away for higher education without planning 18 years ahead.

  • 529 Plan: This tax-advantaged plan has no contribution limits and withdrawals are tax-free when used for college expenses. Plus, you can make deposits into the account while your student is off at college. Bonus: the funds you put into a 529 Plan do not count as income when you apply for financial aid. For Oregonians, the Oregon College Savings Plan is a state-sponsored 529 plan with special tax advantages and can be opened by just about anyone.
  • UGMA and UMTA: These accounts are easy to start and even easier to understand. Just make a contribution and it’s protected until the child turns 18. At that point, they can access the funds and use them for school, rent, food, or anything else that’s important at that moment. However, that can also be a drawback, as they can use the funds for a new bike, skateboard, or weekend away with their new significant other. One more negative: the money in the accounts is counted as income when applying for financial aid.
  • Coverdell Education Savings Account: Every deposit you make up to $2,000 per student per year into the account is tax-free when withdrawals are made and used toward college. While it doesn’t seem like a lot, it is a nice additional way to plan and save for college.

For High School Students

Even if you don’t have an annual income and you have a few years left in high school, there are things you can do to help pay for college.

Boost Your GPA: The better your grades, the better chances you have of scoring a scholarship. That means your parents (or you) will spend less on tuition and books.

Apply for Every Scholarship: This gives you better odds of receiving some scholarships. Remember, you don’t have to just take one scholarship. You can accept them all, as long as they aren’t from competing schools. Also, prep early for the ACT and SAT as your scores can affect the number of scholarships you receive.

Attend AP Classes: These count as college credit, which means you’ll pay less for college when you get there. It’s like free money. All it takes is a little extra studying now.  

For College Students

While you’re in school, you can either get a part-time job to help support your higher education endeavors, take out student loans, or help those paying for school save some money.

Working While in School: Be sure the job is close to or on campus, and the time commitment doesn’t interfere with college life or your grades.

Student Loans: You’ve read the precautionary tales about too much student loan debt after college. Well, the tales are true. Having too much debt, even when it’s paid back over 20 years or more, can eat away at your monthly income and make it tough to buy a home or start a family. Just be careful and talk to a lending professional before taking out too many student loans.

Helping Save Money: One of the best things you can do while in school is to live frugally. Sure, you need a smartphone, but do you need unlimited data? Can you live without buying any new clothing? And what if you limited your entertainment budget as well as your travel expenses?

Need Money to Pay for College?

Rivermark has student loan options to help you finance your higher education and consolidation loans to help pay for it back once you have that degree. Plus, we have a host of articles and advice to help you decide if student loans are right for you. Apply online, stop by any branch, or call 503.626.6600 or 800.452.8502.