Finance experts offer innovative ways to save for college BY KATIE FOUTZ For Sun-Times Media

Here’s an article from the Chicago Sun Times we thought you’d enjoy. It features Lighthouse College Planning’s President, John Groleau.
There’s a minivan driving around Aurora right now, sporting window stickers from no less than three colleges and one local high school.
How are they paying for all those kids to go to college?
Edward Jones financial advisor Rebecca Smith knows it’s possible. To put a student through four years at a public college or university, it costs an average $60,000 in tuition, room and board. It costs an average $142,000 to cover the same at a private college. The cost is expected to more than double in 10 years and more than triple in 15 years, according to Edward Jones.
A couple of Smith’s clients saved $50 a month, plus every Christmas bonus, for each child’s college education. Another client puts her husband’s paycheck toward day-to-day family expenses and puts her entire paycheck into college savings for their children.
“It’s nice to see ordinary people be able to pay for college,” Smith said.
Her No. 1 recommendation is a 529 plan. 529s are tax-free investment vehicles that allow investors to save — and grow — money for college over time.
For example, a $100-a-month contribution to a 529 plan with a 7-percent growth rate could generate $43,072 in 18 years. If you have someone in college or soon to be in college, Smith said you could put in more money per month, plus choose moderate to conservative investments so you make some money but also don’t lose much money.
Besides the tax advantages, 529s offer the advantage of flexibility. If the child decides not to go to college, the money can be transferred to another family member, Smith said.
Another local financial advisor combines financial planning with academic counseling. John Groleau is the owner of Lighthouse College Planning in North Aurora and author of the book “Parents’ College Survival Guide: Planning and Paying for College.”
He tells his clients to save for college but also plan for the student to be a marketable college applicant. That means opening scholarship opportunities by getting involved in extracurricular activities and taking on leadership roles in high school.
“Find a school that will pay you to go there,” Groleau said.
Then spend time finding a major and college environment where the student will thrive because that makes graduation in four years more likely. Groleau said 57 percent of college students will take up to six years to graduate. At a state school, he estimated that means $45,000 to $120,000 in extra costs.
“The reason why I’m so passionate about this is I changed my major seven different times in seven different colleges as an undergrad,” said Groleau, who graduated in 5.5 years.
Groleau also encourages students to take out loans in their own names so that they are invested in their own education. But they shouldn’t have any loans larger than their expected salary after graduation so they can afford to live on their own while paying off those loans.
“I find parents who say they paid their own way through college and their kids can do the same,” he said. “But think of what it cost when they were in college. At $2,000 or $3,000 a year, that’s not so bad. At $40,000 or $50,000 a year? That’s expensive.”