For many parents, planning for their children's higher education is a top priority. And while it may be one of the most significant financial obligations, it is something parents generally strive for—to provide the most promising and meaningful future for their children.
There are many options available for paying those tuition bills, including federal grants and scholarships, financial aid, student loans and education savings and investing plans. Regrettably, not all students qualify for scholarships, which are predominately based on merit, nor for financial aid, which is based on financial need. Student loans, another option, will likely leave a parent or their child with a debt burden that exceeds a traditional mortgage.
With timely and proper planning, a parent's most viable option is to control what they can and fund college with an education savings and investing plan. A fully funded education and savings plan can help prevent the need to liquidate assets or undertake additional debt that would otherwise hinder one's retirement goals.
Below, are several tools designed to help you make informed decisions about selecting the right institution as well as an introduction to savings and investing options to help reach your college funding goals.
Selecting the Right College or University:
See U.S. News & World Report's College Rankings for the latest rankings, based on several major criteria.
See the College Screener to review several criteria, including type, location, size, focus, budget, affiliation, activities and sports.
College Costs and Financial Aid:
See the College Financing Calculator to help determine loan planning, how much you need to save and whether you are on track to meet your college funding goals.
See the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to learn more about Federal Student Aid and to submit an application.
Saving and Investing for College:
See Money Magazine's Guide to College Savings Plans for an introduction to creating a College Savings Plan ahead of time.
See BlackRock's Investing for College for an introduction and comparison of the various college savings/investment options.