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Saving For College, Part 1: Parents' Responsibility

Contributed by mm | December 22, 2004 9:42 PM PST

One of my 2005 personal finance missions is to start systematically planning for my soon-to-be 3-year-old's college expense. I am consistently saving day after day, and I am always mindful of my responsibility of paying at least part of my kid's future college expenses. During the holiday break, I hope to learn one thing or two about college saving, and to make up my mind about how to leverage the most appropriate financial tools to achieve such goals.

Before I dive into the minute details of 529 plans, Coverdell Education Saving Account or other financial tools, let me first describe how I think of parents' responsibility of college expenditures -- this has been discussed with and agreed by my wife. I believe parents have responsibility to pay some of the college expenses, but it is unfair to parents nor beneficial to children if parents have to take the entire bill.

First, we believe college education is a must for the well-being of our child, and we expect him to finish a four-year degree. While we will respect his interests he may develop from now to college age, we believe his potential will be significantly handicapped if he grows up without a college degree. To this end, we feel we have the responsibility to help him to understand the importance of education and provide some financial support.

Second, we hope our child will also understand and appreciate the benefit brought by the college education. As the person who receives the most benefits from the big financial commitment/investment associated with a four-year college program, he should be prepared to share some of the burden too -- this can mean a student loan under his name and/or part-time job to save for college by himself. It's also our wish that he can learn financial discipline and hardworking attitude from the experience.

Third, we believe it may be unwise from a financial planning perspective to prepare for paying for full cost. Careful planning should entitle the kids to certain need-based financial aids, which will decrease the burden on parents and children dollar by dollar.

Keep tuned for the next installment, in which I plan to spell out the goals for college saving.

(This article is a component of the 10-part "Saving for College" series at PFBlog. If you want to read from the start, follow the links at this Table of Contents page.)

This Post Has Received 28 Comments. Share Your Opinions Too.

Russ Commented on December 23, 2004

It will be interesting to see what you decide, as it sounds like you and I have similar philosophies. I plan to treat any money that I give my son for college as a "loan" that I may/may not forgive after college is done to help with a head start on home ownership for him. But during the years leading up to and including college he will only know it as a loan. I'm currently contributing to a 529 as due to my expatriate assignment my AGI was skewed and didn't allow contribution to a Coverdell. One thing I am disturbed about is that it seems the more responsible you are, the less likely you will be able to take advantage of loans/grants and other need based items. I'm looking into flowing some money to Grandparents and having them contribute. Looking forward to your research.

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