COLLEGE SAVINGS 101

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I won't qualify for financial aid, but I still need help paying for college
http://www.savingforcollege.com/articles/i-wont-qualify-for-financial-aid-but-i-still-need-help-paying-for-college-805

Posted: 2015-07-15

by Kathryn Flynn

Families with annual earnings over $100,000 are often referred to as "high-income". But even though their income is considered high, many still struggle to find money to set aside for college each month. And since household income is one of the main factors used to determine financial aid eligibility, they worry about not being able to qualify for help paying for college when the time comes.

So what can you do if you make too much for financial aid, but not enough to pay for college out of pocket?

Fund your 529 with daycare tuition

According to Babycenter.com, the average monthly cost of sending one child to a daycare center is a whopping $972 a month. Fortunately, children typically only go to daycare until they can attend full-time school. So what if when your child is finished with daycare you took that $972 and deposited it into a 529 college savings plan each month? According to the College Board the total cost of attending a four-year private university in 13 years will be around $327,000. Earnings in a 529 plan grow tax-free and withdrawals are not taxed when the money is used to pay for college. That means with annual investment return of 6% if you started saving when the child turns five years old you'd be able to rack up close to 90% of your child's total college costs!

RELATED: The magic number for college savings

Take advantage of tuition tax breaks

Another way to bring down the costs of college is to claim a tax credit on tuition tax payments. The American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) allows families to claim a tax credit of 100% of the first $2,000 and 25% of the next $2,500 of their dependent child's college tuition and fees, for a maximum credit of $4,000. This credit is available if the student is pursuing a degree and enrolled at least half time, and as long as they have not completed their first four years of higher education prior to the beginning of the taxable year. It can only be claimed in up to four tax years per student, and the credit is phased out for incomes between $80,000 and $90,000 per individual ($160,000 and $180,000 for married couples filing jointly).

The Lifetime Learning Credit allows families to claim a tax credit for 20% of up to $10,000 of tuition and fees for a maximum credit of $2,000. This credit is available for all students, regardless of how many credit hours you're enrolled in, and there's no limit to the number of years you can claim it. But this credit is phased out for incomes between$54,000 and $64,000 for individuals ($108,000 and $128,000 for married couples filing jointly), and you may not claim it in the same year that you claim the ATOC.

If you're planning to use funds from your 529 account to save for college you can still claim one of these education tax credits, just as long as you don't double-dip. So, for example, if you have $20,000 worth of qualifying education expenses, you can use $4,000 to generate the AOTC and take a $16,000 tax-free withdrawal from your 529 plan. If you take out more than you need from your 529 and spend the money on non-qualified expenses you will end up paying a 10% penalty and income tax on the earnings portion of the withdrawal.

VIDEO: What is a qualified expense?

Apply for scholarships

While you might not qualify for a need-based scholarship, you can always apply for a merit-based award. Merit-based scholarships are given to students based on things like grades, test scores and other academic achievements - whether or not they need the money. Currently, 12 states and the District of Columbia are spending more on merit-based aid than need-based aid. What's more, Sallie Mae's How America Pays for College 2014 report shows that 38% of students from households with annual income above $100,000 used scholarships to pay for at least some of their college, with average amount of $8,259.

Apply for financial aid just in case

The formula used to calculate a student's Expected Family Contribution (EFC) takes more than just income into consideration. For example, a student who goes to an expensive private college will typically be eligible for more financial aid than a student who goes to a public school even if their household incomes are exactly the same. Students who have a sibling in college will also get a break. Let's say your son and daughter will both be attending college this year. The total amount you are expected to pay out of pocket your EFC is $60,000. But instead of your son and daughter each having an EFC of $60,000, they will each have an SFC of $30,000. And a lower EFC means more financial aid eligibility.

RELATED: 15 facts about financial aid eligibility

Families with annual earnings over $100,000 are often referred to as "high-income". But even though their income is considered high, many still struggle to find money to set aside for college each month. And since household income is one of the main factors used to determine financial aid eligibility, they worry about not being able to qualify for help paying for college when the time comes.

So what can you do if you make too much for financial aid, but not enough to pay for college out of pocket?

Fund your 529 with daycare tuition

According to Babycenter.com, the average monthly cost of sending one child to a daycare center is a whopping $972 a month. Fortunately, children typically only go to daycare until they can attend full-time school. So what if when your child is finished with daycare you took that $972 and deposited it into a 529 college savings plan each month? According to the College Board the total cost of attending a four-year private university in 13 years will be around $327,000. Earnings in a 529 plan grow tax-free and withdrawals are not taxed when the money is used to pay for college. That means with annual investment return of 6% if you started saving when the child turns five years old you'd be able to rack up close to 90% of your child's total college costs!

RELATED: The magic number for college savings

Take advantage of tuition tax breaks

Another way to bring down the costs of college is to claim a tax credit on tuition tax payments. The American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) allows families to claim a tax credit of 100% of the first $2,000 and 25% of the next $2,500 of their dependent child's college tuition and fees, for a maximum credit of $4,000. This credit is available if the student is pursuing a degree and enrolled at least half time, and as long as they have not completed their first four years of higher education prior to the beginning of the taxable year. It can only be claimed in up to four tax years per student, and the credit is phased out for incomes between $80,000 and $90,000 per individual ($160,000 and $180,000 for married couples filing jointly).

The Lifetime Learning Credit allows families to claim a tax credit for 20% of up to $10,000 of tuition and fees for a maximum credit of $2,000. This credit is available for all students, regardless of how many credit hours you're enrolled in, and there's no limit to the number of years you can claim it. But this credit is phased out for incomes between$54,000 and $64,000 for individuals ($108,000 and $128,000 for married couples filing jointly), and you may not claim it in the same year that you claim the ATOC.

If you're planning to use funds from your 529 account to save for college you can still claim one of these education tax credits, just as long as you don't double-dip. So, for example, if you have $20,000 worth of qualifying education expenses, you can use $4,000 to generate the AOTC and take a $16,000 tax-free withdrawal from your 529 plan. If you take out more than you need from your 529 and spend the money on non-qualified expenses you will end up paying a 10% penalty and income tax on the earnings portion of the withdrawal.

VIDEO: What is a qualified expense?

Apply for scholarships

While you might not qualify for a need-based scholarship, you can always apply for a merit-based award. Merit-based scholarships are given to students based on things like grades, test scores and other academic achievements - whether or not they need the money. Currently, 12 states and the District of Columbia are spending more on merit-based aid than need-based aid. What's more, Sallie Mae's How America Pays for College 2014 report shows that 38% of students from households with annual income above $100,000 used scholarships to pay for at least some of their college, with average amount of $8,259.

Apply for financial aid just in case

The formula used to calculate a student's Expected Family Contribution (EFC) takes more than just income into consideration. For example, a student who goes to an expensive private college will typically be eligible for more financial aid than a student who goes to a public school even if their household incomes are exactly the same. Students who have a sibling in college will also get a break. Let's say your son and daughter will both be attending college this year. The total amount you are expected to pay out of pocket your EFC is $60,000. But instead of your son and daughter each having an EFC of $60,000, they will each have an SFC of $30,000. And a lower EFC means more financial aid eligibility.

RELATED: 15 facts about financial aid eligibility

 

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