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Attending college has become both increasingly important and increasingly expensive, and it is likely to become even more so during the next few decades. New parents and even expecting parents often wonder how best to save for college for their children. For parents of multiples, especially, it is never too early to begin planning and saving for future college costs.
Parents of multiples are rightly concerned about the burden of putting two or more children through college at the same time. Beginning a college savings plan early is a must. Even if you can only save a small amount, the more you save, the less you or your children will need to borrow later to finance the cost of college.
No one can dispute the fact that having multiples can make paying for college unusually difficult. But parents of multiples can take comfort in knowing that colleges take the number of children a family will have in college at the same time into consideration when determining the family’s expected family contribution (EFC), and therefore when determining how much financial aid the family will receive. Colleges typically divide the EFC between all of the children who will be attending college that same year; making it possible for all of the children to receive more financial aid, which helps lower the cost of attending college.
College savings options
Even with financial aid, it’s still important to have some money set aside for your child’s education. The options for college savings plans are basically the same for parents of multiples as they are for the average parent. Currently the most popular way to save for future college costs is the Section 529 College Savings Plan. Because the money is tax free when used to pay for qualifying educational expenses, as well as the fact that the assets are held in the parent’s name, make this an attractive option for most parents.
Because the assets in a 529 plan are held in the parent’s name, the child’s chances of receiving financial aid are higher. Other options that help a child stay eligible for more financial aid include government savings bonds and Coverdell Education Savings Accounts that are held in the parent’s name rather than the child’s.
Parents of multiples can open separate accounts with each child as the beneficiary if they choose. If one of the children does not attend college or doesn’t need the amount of money set aside, it is a pretty simple process to transfer the money in that child’s plan to one of his or her siblings. If you prefer to keep things simple, the transferability rules would allow you to open one account with one child as the beneficiary and simply transfer equal amounts to the other children when it comes time to pay for college.
Accounts held in the child’s name like custodial accounts (UGMA/UTMA), trust funds and regular savings accounts will have a much higher impact on the amount of financial aid the child might receive. Keeping assets in the parent’s or even a grandparent’s name is often the best college-saving strategy.
Twins (or triplets, or more!) mean twice (or more) the diapers now, and quite possibly twice the college costs later. All parents need to think ahead and start saving for college early if they plan to help pay for college or finance their children’s education entirely. For parents of multiples it is even more important to save early and learn about the best college savings options.
Photo credit: Hampton University by Kevin Coles
An author and career advisor, Jenny Masterson also contributes content to thebestcolleges.org, an informational site featuring the best colleges as well as specialty institutions such as online Christian colleges.