Build College Savings Early

Physician's Money Digest, July31 2004, Volume 11, Issue 14

One of the greatest concerns physician-parents have, whether they have a simple or complex family structure, is college funding. Figuring out this area of family finances is usually not a whole lot of fun.

If you can, the best time to start saving for your children's college education is before they're born. Seriously, it's never too early to start a college fund; the tuition cost of a year at a state college could be as high as $33,000 by the time your future child is ready to go there.

Another good idea:

If you're having trouble finding spare cash to invest, cutting out your daily coffee and danish can add $1500 a year to your college savings. If you're close to your limit in credit card debt, use any extra money to pay it down. That's like getting a doubledigit return on your money with absolutely no risk.

For those physician-parents whose brood has entered the halls of higher education, and who are already strapped by college costs, the light at the end of the tunnel is the hoped-for graduation ceremony in 4 years. Think again. According to Education Trust (www.edtrust.org), 6 years is a more common benchmark for measuring graduation rates, and more than a third of full-time college students fail to get their diploma in that amount of time. For minority students, the percentage of those who go 6 years or more without graduating is even higher.

Solution:

The implications go beyond the extra cost to parents of an extended stay in college, Education Trust officials say, because job prospects for those without a college degree are shrinking as the nation turns toward an information economy. Plan on allotting more savings for college, work out payment plans with your children, and try to be patient.