Saving for college is smart, but what happens when your parents' method of saving limits your choice of schools? Brandon has some advice for a Sparkler facing that dilemma. Emily writes:
My parents did a program where they prepaid for all the public universities in my state, unfortunately my feelings about these schools are lukewarm at best. And what I was wondering was, as someone who doesn't qualify for any financial aid, and kind of clueless about scholarships or merit aid money, do I have any options or should I suck it up and go to a whatever school and maybe transfer?
It sounds as though your parents may have invested in a kind of savings program known as a 529 plan. Basically, a 529 plan is a way of saving for college that can help control for the rapidly rising rate of tuition, or at the very least, offer an easy way of saving for college that gives you some pretty decent tax benefits.
Just because your parents purchased a 529 in your home state doesn’t mean you can’t use the funds at public or private schools out-of-state. The Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) program in Washington State, for example, can be used at nearly any public or private college nationwide. If you spend the 529 at an out-of-state school, you probably lose some of the intended savings, but that's not the end of the world.
So the first thing to do is look up your state’s 529 program at Saving for College.
Then, call the contact number for your state's program and ask what impact enrolling in an out-of-state college will have on your investment. It may not be as bad as you think.
Got a question about college and $$$? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.