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Saving For College - College Costs How Much? Get a Handle on Education Finance

August 9, 2016
Hancock Whitney
Hancock Whitney

UPDATED: August 30, 2023

These days, yearly tuition averages $10,940 at public, four-year, in-state colleges, according to The College Board.1 That figure climbs to $39,400 at private nonprofit colleges.1 Add another $12,310 for room and board, multiply by four years, and you’re looking at about $93,000 for public colleges and $207,000 for private schools.


Saving For College - College Tuition Fees

Source: The College Board


External financial resources - such as academic or athletic scholarships, state-funded grants, and so forth - may exist. But often they don't materialize as hoped - or students' interests veer onto new pathways that might make them ineligible for certain awards.


In short, every parent with college-bound kids needs a financial plan. The good news is, you don’t have to save all the money needed for post-secondary education. Read on to see why and learn strategies to help build the funds you do need without shirking your other financial obligations.


Saving For College - What You Really Need to Save

What You Really Need to Save


Financial experts typically suggest that parents save about one-third of the total expected cost of college.2 That’s about $30,000 based on the public school figures above.


This approach assumes that you’ll be able to pay another third of the costs while your child is in college, factoring in your own financial contributions, as well as grants, scholarships and work study. The last third would come from student loans.


A Smart Start To A College Savings Plan

The best saving strategy is simply starting early and contributing regularly. This lets you take advantage of the longest possible timeframe and maximize the impact of compound interest.


Based on the $30,000 target, if your baby is born this year, you could meet your target by setting aside around $150 per month.3 Of course, the more you can save, the less you or your student will need to rely on other forms of financial aid during the college years.


But even if your child is already in high school, don’t despair — and don’t delay any longer. Having something saved is always better than having nothing at all.


College Students


Pick Your Savings Vehicle For The Cost Of College

There are numerous savings options that offer special advantages to college savers. Here’s a quick look at four:

529 Plans

Most states now offer a 529 plan, and many provide tax incentives for contributions. In addition, savings in the plan grow tax free, and withdrawals aren’t taxed if you use the money for qualified education expenses.


The Uniform Gift to Minors and the Uniform Transfer to Minors Act are custodial accounts that allow minors to own securities, real estate and other property. Any income from the account is taxed at the child’s rate. The funds are not required to be used for education, but if you do so, they’re considered student assets for financial aid purposes.

Education Savings Bonds

If you redeem Series EE and Series I bonds issued after 1989, you can typically exclude the interest earned from your gross income for tax purposes. You, your spouse or a dependent must incur education-related expenses, and other requirements apply.

Certificate of Deposit

CDs may be a reliable option for conservative savers. Some savers use a technique called "laddering" CDs, combining different terms to take advantage of higher interest rates on longer term CDs while keeping access to some of their money. For example, if you want to put aside $10,000, you could put $5000 in a 2-year CD, $2500 in a 1-year CD, and $2500 in a six-month CD. While this option may not be the primary solution for your college savings, it can provide flexibility for a share of your funds.


Saving For College - The Final Pieces

As your student approaches the last two years of high school, be sure to visit the Federal Student Aid website. It provides important information about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as well as insights on specific types of financial aid. Also consider investigating a home equity line of credit, which can help you fill in any financing gaps before and during your child’s college career.


The best solution for you may be a combination of vehicles that provide you with the right amount of return and flexibility. Consider your long term goals and your unique tax situation before opening any accounts.


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1 “Trends in College Pricing 2022,” The College Board, https://research.collegeboard.org/media/pdf/trends-college-pricing-presentation-2022.pdf accessed August 10, 2023

2 “How much should you save for your child's college education?” Forbes, https://www.forbes.com/advisor/student-loans/how-much-should-you-save-for-your-childs-college-education/, accessed August 10, 2023

3 Based on $100 initial deposit and 5% rate compounded monthly; Savingforcollege.com, https://www.savingforcollege.com/calculators/college-savings-calculator, accessed August 30, 2023



The information, views, opinions, and positions expressed by the author(s), presenter(s), and/or presented in the article are those of the author or individual who made the statement and do not necessarily reflect the policies, views, opinions, and positions of Hancock Whitney Bank. Hancock Whitney makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, timeliness, suitability, or validity of any information presented.

This information is general in nature and is provided for educational purposes only. Information provided and statements made should not be relied on or interpreted as accounting, financial planning, investment, legal, or tax advice. Hancock Whitney Bank encourages you to consult a professional for advice applicable to your specific situation.

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Hancock Whitney Bank offers other investment products, which may include asset management accounts, as part of its Wealth Management Services. Hancock Whitney Bank and Hancock Whitney Investment Services Inc. are both wholly owned subsidiaries of Hancock Whitney Corporation.


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