Over the last four decades, the price of a college education has grown disproportionately to other costs. During the 1978-79 school year, it cost today’s equivalent of $8,250 to attend a public university and $17,680 to attend a private university. Now, a year at a public school averages $21,370, and a private college runs $48,510 a year.1 It’s no wonder Americans owe $1.5 trillion in student debt.2 Clearly, saving early and wisely has never been more important. Here are a few avenues to consider.
529 Plan: This qualified tuition plan was created to allow families to save money for future education without paying federal taxes on its growth – as long as it is used for qualified higher-education expenses. (The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act now allows families to use funds toward a private elementary or secondary education as well.) If the original beneficiary doesn’t need the funds for education, the beneficiary can be changed to another family member. Balances can’t exceed the beneficiary’s expected educational expenses. Many states offer a tax credit or deduction for contributions, often limited to their own state’s plan.
There are two types of 529s. A 529 Prepaid Tuition Plan locks in the current price for a block of tuition at a specified list of schools. With the more flexible and popular Education Savings Plan, funds go into an investment account.
UGMA/UTMA Account: Adults can easily make irrevocable gifts to a minor with these custodial accounts. Earnings are usually taxed at the child’s lower rate. The beneficiary must be given control of the account when they turn 18 to 25, depending on the state. Since the child owns the account, the assets may impact the student’s financial aid.
Coverdell Education Savings Account: Like 529 Plans, contributions are not deductible and distributions aren’t taxed. However, these plans are more restricted as individuals or couples who wish to open an account must meet income guidelines, and annual contributions cannot total more than $2,000 per beneficiary from all contributors.
This brief overview doesn’t cover all the rules and considerations of these accounts or other options. If you’d like to learn more or need help planning for a child’s or grandchild’s education, please call our office.