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Funding a college education

GAINESVILLE, Ga. (BP)–The Bible tells us that “sons are indeed a heritage from the LORD, children, a reward,” (Psalm 127:3).

Indeed, children are a reward, a great blessing from the Lord. However, they aren’t cheap, and one of the most expensive aspects of raising children is their college education.

College costs are out of sight and rising. Although many parents think about saving for their children’s college education, often they have no idea where or how to begin. Unfortunately, some don’t start planning for college expenses until their children are in high school.

According to the Education Finance Statistics Center, in 2007 the four-year total for tuition, room and board for public institutions will be more than $69,000. The projected cost for a four-year private education is about $142,000.

Some people have been led to believe that they are fully responsible for the college education of their children. That’s fine, if a family is financially able to so.

However, what if you haven’t been financially able to develop a savings plan for education, or you’ve simply neglected to do so, and your children are already in high school? Well, you can begin by telling your children that they’ll also have a responsibility to help pay for their education.

Let them know, while they’re still in high school or middle school, how much of their college education you’ll be able to pay. Then, if a college is available within your budget, great. Often, local colleges will fit your budget. If not, your children will need outside help.

Nevertheless, even if your child is in high school, and you have no educational savings plan, there is a lot of help available in many different forms. There are scholarships, financial aid and student grants through state and federal government education supplement programs. And, don’t allow your children to think they can’t take summer jobs, use personal savings, be employed during school or find an on-campus student job.

The idea is to get started now, and carefully do some research online. There are lots of helpful websites, but be very cautious, because some are no more than marketing programs.

Although scholarships and grants can help a student defray expenses, parents may not be able to depend upon this source to fund fully their children’s education expenses.

As parents begin saving for their children’s college expenses, they need to decide on the kinds of accounts they will use for the college education savings. Some of the most common are: the Uniform Gift to Minors Act (UGMA); the Coverdell Education Savings Account (CESA); state-sponsored prepaid tuition plans (529 Plans); and state-sponsored college savings plans.

Of course, there is also the old fashioned way — save for your child’s education in your own account, in your own name using any of a variety of investment tools: insurance policies and annuities; fixed income investments (CDs, Series EE bonds, and zero coupon bonds); and no-load stock mutual funds.

Perhaps funding a child’s college education should be the top financial concern if you’re a new parent. Otherwise, continued rising educational costs may make it difficult to afford to send your children to school.

It is never too early to begin to plan for a child’s educational future, but you need to be informed, pray for wisdom and discernment, and then get started.

God is faithful and He will provide, but He also expects parents to be good stewards of the funds that He has entrusted to them. If you have a healthy financial plan in place for your child’s education, keep on saving.

However, even if you’re just now seeing the financial need that is quickly coming at you, and you’re somewhat behind, you can get started right away.
Howard Dayton is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries. Dayton and the late Larry Burkett joined forces in 2000 when Crown Ministries, led by Dayton, merged with Christian Financial Concepts, led by Burkett. The new organization became Crown Financial Ministries, on the web at www.crown.org.

    About the Author

  • Howard Dayton