When it comes to paying for college, there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. Whether it’s loans, grants, scholarships or paying out of pocket, researching your options is key.
“Parents need to know that saving for their children's college education is a discussion that should start when their student is in middle school and never stop,” says Jodi Okun, founder of College Financial Aid Advisors.
The Illinois Student Assistance Commission advises that as with saving for anything, it's a good idea to start early and take advantage of the power of compound interest, even if you can only set aside a little bit at a time.
“For those who are able to build college savings into their budget, consider options that have special tax benefits,” said ISAC Spokeswoman Katharine Gricevich. “The State of Illinois offers programs that encourage families to plan for college while reducing both state and federal taxes through the Bright Start college savings program and the College Illinois Prepaid Tuition Program.”
There also are federal options that have their own set of tax advantages, like the Coverdell Education Savings Account and “EE” and “I” U.S. Treasury Bonds.
If your child is heading off to college in the fall, it is important they fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Applicants may qualify for MAP grants, Pell grants, work-study and/or federal student loans.
Another avenue to investigate is available scholarships. Often merit-based, they can come from the federal government, state government, the school your child plans to attend, or private and nonprofit organizations.
“There are many resources for students for free money for college,” says Okun. Students should search locally and also check the college's website for institution-based scholarships. Remember, no scholarship is too small.”
Kane County Teachers Credit Union / KCT