New parents squirrelling away funds for child’s college education

By Pamela Knudson

Grand Forks Herald (MCT)

Published: Thursday, Oct. 17 2013 2:30 p.m. MDT

In North Dakota, the person who opens the account, the “custodian,” may invest “up to $14,000 each year without triggering any gift taxes,” he said. The custodian is anyone who wants to help the child, not just the parent. He or she may withdraw any amount from the account as long as it’s for the child’s benefit.

“When a child reaches the age of majority — 18 in North Dakota and Minnesota — the money is the child’s to do with whatever way he wants,” he said. “This causes parents some degree of angst.”

Open a 529 account, an IRS option that allows gifts to a child’s college fund. North Dakota’s College SAVE program is an example.

“The donor controls the funds which grow tax deferred and are distributed tax-exempt as long as they are used for ‘qualifying college expenses,’ such as tuition, room and board, and books,” Hoplin said.

How much you invest in a college fund each month depends on the family budget, he said. “You don’t want to break your back and live in poverty.”

It also depends on “where parents think this child might go to school,” he said. “Then it’s arithmetic, working back from there.”

Between state colleges and Ivy League schools, “there can be a $30,000 to $40,000 difference” in annual costs, he said.

Children FIRST account

The Klenners got a jump-start on Christian’s college savings: $100 from The Bank of North Dakota for a Children FIRST account, part of College SAVE.

“I figure it’s free money out there; people should try to get it if they can,” Rob said.

Children FIRST is open to any baby, 12 months or younger, living in North Dakota. Anyone can apply for this account, not just the parent; only one grant is given per child. To apply, go to: www.ndchildrenfirst.com.

The program was started in 2011 as “an incentive for (parents) to save for college and get a little bit of a boost toward paying for a college education,” said James Barnhardt, College SAVE administrator at The Bank of North Dakota.

It allows parents — or whoever opens the account — up to four years to contribute the required $100 match, he said.

“We recognize that young people don’t always have the ability to save for college. We wanted to be sure that lower-income families had the opportunity to begin saving for their children at the youngest age possible.”

By meeting income eligibility requirements, the Klenners also received $500 for Christian’s account, which they were required to match, through College SAVE. They may apply for these funds annually for three years. College SAVE accounts can be opened for children age 15 and younger.

“According to Job Services of North Dakota, four out of five families qualify for one or the other program.”

The College SAVE program offers tax advantages, including a state income tax deduction, to eligible families.

“Hands down, there’s no better plan than using the state’s College SAVE plan,” Barnhardt said.

Rob agrees.

And what if, 18 years from now, Christian decides college isn’t for him?

“I’ll support him in anything he wants to do, Rob said. Not everybody has to go to college to be successful.”

But, “if he has the option to go, with the savings I have, I hope he’d give it a try.”

For more information on the College SAVE program, call 1-866-728-3529 or 1-800-554-2717 or visit: www.CollegeSAVE4U.com.

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©2013 Grand Forks Herald (Grand Forks, N.D.)

Visit the Grand Forks Herald (Grand Forks, N.D.) at www.grandforksherald.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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PHOTO (from MCT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): COLLEGE-SAVINGS

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