March 22, 2024

Strategies for Funding Education: Tips for Parents from Financial Advisors

By Team Seneschal

Navigating the financial complexities of higher education can be daunting. With college costs escalating, preparing for your child's academic future is more critical than ever. It's a concern that keeps many parents awake at night, pondering how to secure the funds necessary to support their child's educational aspirations.

By understanding the costs, exploring saving tools like 529 Plans, and learning investment strategies, you can take proactive steps toward ensuring your children's educational success without compromising your financial stability.

Understanding Costs

Tuition fees form the bulk of college costs but aren’t the only expense. Whether on-campus or off, there are several other expenses that can add a significant amount to the bill. Living expenses, books, supplies, and personal computers, among other costs, can accumulate rapidly, depending on the student's course requirements and lifestyle.

A private university's tuition is typically higher than a public university, and out-of-state schools may have additional costs for non-resident students.
According to, for the 2023-2024 academic year, the average price of tuition and fees was:

• $41,540 at private universities
• $11,260 at public universities for in-state residents; and
• $29,150 at public universities for out-of-state residents

College costs have been increasing rapidly in recent years, with private tuition rising by an average of 12% annually from 2010-2022. The cost of a private college education will likely continue to grow, making it even more critical for parents to plan early and effectively for their children's educational future.

Early Planning: The Key to Success

Early planning for funding college expenses has many benefits.

It allows for smaller, manageable savings contributions to grow through compound interest over time, reducing the financial burden.

It provides time to research and explore different education savings tools and investment strategies, allowing you to make informed decisions.

It enables you to adjust your financial plan to accommodate changing education costs and your child's interests and goals.

If you start saving for your child's college education when your child is born, you have approximately 18 years until the child goes to college. Assuming a 6% annual rate of return, a parent who saves $100 per month will have roughly $35,000 saved by the time their child starts college.

By saving early and consistently, you can reduce the need for loans and ensure your child graduates with manageable debt.

Financial Tools for Education Planning

Several financial tools are available for planning and saving for higher education expenses. Some of the most popular options include:

529 Plans: These are tax-advantaged savings plans designed specifically for education expenses. Contributions to a 529 Plan grow tax-free, and withdrawals for qualified education expenses are not taxed federally. Many states also offer tax benefits for these plans, but the specifics can vary, so choosing the right plan for your residence is crucial.

Pros: Tax-free growth, withdrawals, and state tax benefits (in some states).

Cons: Limited investment options, potential penalties for non-qualified withdrawals, and restrictions on how funds can be used.

Coverdell Education Savings Accounts: These savings accounts provide tax advantages for educational expenses, but contributions are limited to $2,000 per year per child.

Pros: Tax-free growth and withdrawals for qualified education expenses.

Cons: Contributions are limited, and the account must be used by the time the beneficiary turns 30.

Custodial Accounts (UGMA/UTMA): These accounts allow parents to save money in a trust for their child's future.

Pros: No contribution limits. Funds can be used for any purpose that benefits the child.

Cons: Once the child reaches the age of majority (usually 18 or 21), they gain control of the account and can use the funds for any purpose they choose.

Each option has unique features, benefits, and limitations. Selecting the right mix can be optimized with the help of a financial advisor.

Smart Investing for Your Child’s Future

Investing is an effective strategy to grow education funds. A diversified portfolio can help manage risk and volatility while striving for growth. Understanding your investment options and the level of risk you're comfortable with is crucial.

As with any investment, there's no guarantee of performance. Qualified financial advisors can tailor an investment strategy to align with your education funding goals, risk tolerance, and timeline.

Scholarships, Grants, and Financial Aid

Savings and investments aren’t the sole avenues for funding education. Scholarships, grants, and financial aid play a significant role in reducing the financial load.

Unlike loans, these funds do not require repayment, making them an invaluable component of education planning.

Parents and students should actively seek scholarship opportunities and understand the grant application processes. Filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is also critical in securing financial aid.

Additional Tips from Financial Advisors

Financial advisors emphasize the importance of consistency in savings contributions. Keeping track of your investments' performance and making necessary adjustments.

As your child grows, their educational interests and the economic landscape may change, which may require revisiting and adjusting your financial plan accordingly.

Final Thoughts

A solid plan for your child's educational future requires understanding, planning, and action. By incorporating scholarships and financial aid into the mix, funding your child's higher education becomes increasingly attainable.

Consult with a financial advisor to customize a plan that best fits your family's needs and start on the path to educational and financial preparedness.

Seneschal Advisors, LLC DBA Seneschal Family Office is a Registered Investment Advisor registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Registration as an investment adviser does not imply a certain level of skill or training, and the content of this communication has not been approved or verified by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission or by any state securities authority.

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