Have You Started Saving for Your Child’s Education?
Higher Education Meredith Barnhart, the director of communications for the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority, advises parents on proven ways to overcome the challenges of college financial planning.
What is the most important thing for parents to think about when planning for their child’s education?
A college degree can provide extensive benefits for a student, but it’s a significant investment for a family. We therefore advise families to start saving and planning for higher education early in their child’s life. Our goal is to get families into a position of empowerment, so that they can achieve the dream of a college degree for their child. That means we focus on helping families to open a college savings account as early as possible, even as soon as a child is born, and providing information, guidance and products to help make that happen. Starting to save for college early in their child’s life can ease families’ financial burdens later on and help open doors once it comes time to select a college and make a plan for payment.
What are the biggest challenges to planning for college?
Family life is busy, and there are so many demands on a family’s finances that it’s easy to get distracted and put off saving and planning for college. So we try to make it easy for families, offering step-by-step guidance on how to start a college savings account, and one-on-one support to answer questions and help families create a college savings strategy. We know that thinking about the full cost of college can paralyze families into taking no action at all, so we break down the process of planning for higher education into manageable stages, giving families the action steps necessary for each phase of life.
How can parents overcome these challenges?
Parents should know that it is possible to create a realistic plan to pay for college. Most families don’t have the means to pay the entire college bill, and instead use a combination of resources to finance higher education costs. We help families put together that plan by guiding them through a college savings strategy, offering details and tips on the financial aid process, sharing information about available scholarships and providing low-cost loans to help finance costs.
How can an affordable education impact a student’s life?
Helping a student earn an affordable college degree can allow that individual to achieve financial goals earlier in life, rather than focusing on a significant amount of college debt. We walk families through the steps of borrowing wisely and emphasize the importance of understanding the terms of your education loans and the full impact of your borrowing. It’s important to have a responsible plan in place as you pay for college in order to achieve financial freedom down the line.