When It Comes to College Funding, Planners Need to Go Back to School

Opiela, Nancy
March 2003
Journal of Financial Planning;Mar2003, Vol. 16 Issue 3, p46
Academic Journal
This article focuses on the various college funding tools that can be considered by financial planners and their clients as of March 2003. Time was when college admission staffs evaluated applications, accepted the best and brightest, and sent the files to the financial aid office to provide any help the family needed. No more. In fact, increasingly, a family's ability to pay for college is a factor in the admissions decision. According to Philip C. Johnson, a former college administrator, the safest approach to college funding is for clients to plan to pay as much of the college bills as possible. With qualified distributions federal tax-free, 529 college savings plans are at the top of everyone's list of college funding tools. 529 savings programs grew from about $9 billion at the beginning of 2002 to more than $20 billion by year-end. But while the tax advantages are enough to excite clients, planners bemoan the fact that 529s have fallen victim to bad timing. Although many planners feel the low rate of return on prepaid tuition plans eliminates them from consideration, the last few months have brought significant changes to some of these state programs.


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