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Planning for College

Saving for College

529 Savings Plans

529 plans (named after the section of the federal tax code that governs them) are state-sponsored college savings plans. They are a good way to save for college and they offer great tax breaks. Qualified withdrawals are now free of federal tax and most plans let you save between $100,000 and $270,000 per beneficiary. Plus, there are no income limitations or age restrictions, which means you can start a 529 no matter how much you make or how old your beneficiary is. Click here for more information.

Share Certificates

Share Certificates are available with a wide range of terms to fit your individual needs. Based on the term, dividends can be transferred to your share savings account, your checking account, compounded into the certificate or paid directly to you. ATFCU's certificates offer rates that are among the most competitive in today's market. Click here for more information.

Money Market

Money Market is a high yield investment account. Our money market account gives you the flexibility of using funds in the account without penalty and allows you to add to the account at any time. Click here for more information.

Costs Associated with College

  • Tuition - the amount of money that colleges charge for instruction and attendance.
  • Fees - other costs such as athletic activities, special events or facilities (for example, insurance or use of the gym).
  • Room and board - cost of housing and food. Most colleges offer a variety of on-campus and off-campus housing. Also, there usually is a variety of meal plans to choose from at most colleges.
  • Indirect costs - books, supplies, transportation to and from the school, computer (many schools require a student to have a computer) and personal expenses such as phone bills, entertainment and laundry.

Choosing a College

Your college education is one of the most important investments you will make. Most students start investigating colleges in their junior year of high school, though you can certainly start earlier if you want to. Remember, you will be spending the next four years at this college - you'll want to take the time to find a good match.

Here is a list of some important things to consider before you decide where to apply for and enroll in college:

  • What activities and services are available to help students get settled (academically and socially) during their first year?
  • How big are the classes?
  • (Ask students) How easy is it to meet with faculty?
  • (Ask students) Are you able to register for the classes you want?
  • What is the total cost of attending the college?
  • What types of financial aid does the college offer and how do I apply?
  • Are all freshmen assigned to an academic advisor?
  • Where do most freshmen live?
  • Can I take a tour?
  • What activities are available for students?
  • Who teaches the courses for first-year students?
  • How successful are the college's graduates in finding jobs?
  • What services (such as transportation and shopping) are available locally?
  • What is there to do on weekends? Do most students stay or leave campus on weekends?

Financial Aid

Hunt down scholarships. Scholarships are the best way to go because you never have to repay the money. Contact local organizations in your community about scholarships, and do searches on the Internet through sources such as FastWeb, FinAid, the College Board and the Financial Aid Resource Center.

Apply for grants. Grants are great because they don't have to be repaid either. You can learn about grant possibilities here. Also consider whether these two new grants might be appropriate: the Academic Competitiveness Grant, which offers up to $1,300 for students who have completed a rigorous high school program; and the National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent, or SMART, grant, which offers up to $4,000 for undergraduates majoring in physical, life or computer sciences, math, technology, engineering or a foreign language "determined critical to national security."

Submit your FAFSA application between January 1 and February 15 of your senior year. If you've begun navigating the financial aid universe, you know about the need to file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, in order to secure federal grants and different forms of state aid. Families are typically encouraged to complete this form as soon after January 1 as possible for the upcoming academic year. This year, though, you may want to wait until you're absolutely sure you've filled out the form correctly. New rules affect the way you should report your assets and your child's assets. For instance, 529 savings plans, Coverdell education savings accounts and prepaid college tuition plans are considered parents' assets, not students' assets. If you accidentally list such assets as your child's instead of your own, your child's chances of receiving aid could be wrecked. Complete the FAFSA online.

Money Tips for Students

School is back in session and with it come many life lessons in money management. It's important to establish the difference between needs and wants. Fiscal responsibility is just as important as making the grade. Following a few basic guidelines will set you on the right financial track.

  • Sign up for a free checking account
  • Start saving
  • Make a personal budget and stick to it
  • Use credit cards wisely and pay all balances in full
  • Track your spending
  • Set a limit on entertainment
  • Avoid unnecessary expenses at all costs
  • Pay your bills on time
  • Look for student discounts
  • Apply for scholarships
  • Get a part-time job

Ask a financial advisor for more information.