Saving For College

The Business of College Planning

The Roses are applying a multistrategy approach to pay for college costs

Patricia Roberts-Rose and her husband, Gene, started off setting aside $50 per month for their daughters, Amaya and Aliya, when they were born. “Today, we deposit $100 per month for each child,” says 43-year-old Roberts-Rose, who lives in Catonsville, Maryland. The Roses already have $16,000 saved for 10-year-old Amaya and about $9,000 for 7-year-old Aliya.

The strategic parents are taking half of their daughters’ birthday and holiday money and adding it to their college savings as well. Family members have been chipping in by giving them savings bonds. With both girls in private school, the Roses plan to take the $1,500 a month they currently pay for the girls combined and apply that money toward college costs when the time comes.

“I know we can’t pay for all of their college but we want to contribute because we were the first people in each of our families to go to college–even if we pay for two years and then [our daughters] get student loans,” Roberts-Rose says, noting that she was responsible for her own costs for school. The athletic sisters play lacrosse, softball, basketball, and swim competitively, “So we’re thinking that maybe that will pay off as well in terms of scholarships.” Tuition, fees, books, and supplies could cost around $63,000 to send Amaya to an in-state school such as the University of Maryland for four years when she reaches college age, and about $74,000 for Aliya. Attending an out-of-state school and living on campus could drastically change those amounts.

The Roses’ situation is far from unusual. While it may have once been customary for college students to look to mom and dad to foot most of the bill, parents’ income and savings account for only 30% of college costs today, according to a 2011 study by Sallie Mae. Grants and scholarships account for 33% of the bill, while student loans represent 15%, student income and savings 11%, parent borrowing 7%, and gifts from family and friends account for 4%.

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