Paying for College Begins With a Plan

Learn how to start a savings plan for college with this helpful advice.

Tackle tuition with a plan

Estimate your costs.
Examine your options.
Set up a savings plan.

Start a savings plan for college

Attending college or helping your kids attend college is an important goal and dream for many members, but the cost of tuition can be daunting. Below are several strategies to help you plan and pay for college.

There is no one size fits all solution, so you’ll likely use a combination of strategies to develop your plan. Before you make any decisions, we recommend that you research your options and individual situation carefully and consider consulting with a tax professional and financial advisor.

To estimate your costs, consider where your student might attend college. If your child is young, this can seem like the distant future, but even a best guess will help you start saving for their education. This is important since the cost of an in-state school can vary significantly from an out-of-state school. Once you have selected some schools, visit or the specific college’s website to help you estimate the cost of tuition, books, room and board and other expenses. Be sure to account for variances, such as living at home versus on campus or attending community college for the first two years.

Since the costs of college or your financial situation may change over time, you should reassess your plan every year. Two or three years before starting college, narrow down the preferred colleges and review the costs, application processes, timelines and financial aid options. The college admissions office can help you estimate your costs and eligibility for financial aid. Taking the time and initiative to research and ask questions is very important.

Funding for college typically comes from financial aid, loans and savings. Financial aid is helpful if you qualify, but it can be difficult to predict qualifications years in advance. There are many different types of loans that can be used to pay for college including government-backed student loans offered through your college. Private student loans and home equity loans offered at the Credit Union can also help fund college. The amount you’re able to borrow is often based on your income and credit history, so be sure to make all loan and credit card payments on time and borrow wisely.

If you want to be confident that you’ll be ready to pay for college when the time comes, it’s best to start saving early and regularly. Opening a savings account at the Credit Union is an easy way to start. When you have enough money saved, you may want to move the funds to a certificate or money market account, which often offer higher yields. Also, many states have 529 college savings plans that may have tax advantages. Speak to an Ap Financial Planning advisor to learn more about the options in your state.

If four years of tuition and expenses cost $100,000 at the college of your choice and the student is going to college in 10 years, then you need to save at least $10,000 per year to have enough money when they start college. Some colleges offer a discount if you pay all four years at once. Since it's more common to pay by semester, you could have 13 years to save rather than 10. Therefore, you would only need to save $7,693 per year, or $481 per month. If this amount is not within your monthly budget, you could plan to borrow a quarter of the costs and reduce the amount you have to save to $75,000, or $5,770 per year, or $481 per month. A great way to maximize your savings is to structure your plan.

Assuming you are in a position to start saving $500 per month, here is a simple plan that can really add up over time. Deposit $500 per month into your Credit Union savings account. At the end of the year, you will have $6,000 to open a one-year certificate. Continue to save $500 per month in your savings account. When your one-year certificate matures, move the $6,000 from your savings account into the certificate during its seven-day grace period. Repeat this process each year. When your one-year certificate matures before each college year starts, move the money needed for that year into a money market account. Then, as you need to pay college bills, move the funds from your money market account to your checking account. Remember, you can only make six electronic transfers from your money market account into your checking account per month.

Here to help

In 2017, our Credit Union established the Support Education Foundation, Inc. to help fulfill our core purpose of serving the education community. The mission of the Support Education Foundation is to operate and support charitable giving programs for the benefit of members of the education community. Funds raised through the 501(c)(3) organization are used for programs such as student scholarships, professional development awards and other initiatives to help students achieve in the classroom. Together, we Support Education.

Student scholarships

  • Dorothy Marvil Scholarship: $3,000 award for high school seniors who plan on attending a four-year university, community college, technical college or trade school.
  • Rosemary Brinkley Business and Finance Scholarship: $3,000 award for graduating high school seniors who have completed the Business and Finance curriculum at their school and plan on pursuing a career in business, finance or a related field.
  • Community College Scholarship: $3,000 award for students currently enrolled at one of the community colleges we serve and who plan on returning for the following academic year.
  • Eva Chesley Scholarship: $5,000 award for a student currently enrolled at a four-year college or university in the state of Maryland and is pursuing a degree in education.
  • Vocational Scholarship: $3,000 award to a student attending a Vocational School in Maryland.

Professional development awards

The Maurice Erly Professional Development Award gifts a $1,000 award for educators, administrators or support staff be used towards continuing education fees, such as workshop registrations, certification fees and tuition.

Student programs

The Support Education Foundation collaborates with the Student Service Departments of school systems and community colleges to provide students with the tools to be successful. Programs include:

  • Backpacks for middle school students: Each year, we donate over 7,500 backpacks filled with school supplies to middle school students. The backpacks are distributed at back-to-school fairs as well as individual schools so students are ready for their first day of school.
  • Warming Hearts and Hands: We donate thousands of new hats, gloves, mittens, scarves and socks to K-12 and community college students through our Warming Hearts and Hands program. Monetary donations can also be made online and the funds collected will support students in the education community.

Helpful tip

Use the “College Cost Calculator” provided by CollegeBoard to help you calculate the future cost of college tuition.

Need a little extra to cover tuition? We can help.

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