Saving For A College Education

Saving for a college education is one of the most difficult things for a student and their family. Luckily many businesses, organizations, and institutions offer helpful plans that assist in making this task a little easier and a little less frustrating.

One such plan was developed for the staff and families of colleges in the State of New York. New York's College Savings Program is designed to help families of all income levels save for this important goal.

It works through payroll deduction and employees can enroll for as little as $15 per pay period. These deductions are made on an after-tax basis.

The program offers New Yorkers an annual New York State income tax deduction for contributions of up to $5,000 for individuals and up to $10,000 for married couples filing jointly. When the money is used to pay for your beneficiary's qualified higher education expenses, you will also not have to pay federal or New York income taxes on earnings. Qualified withdrawals are completely income tax free.

Anyone - parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, friends - can establish an account, regardless of state residence. To get started with payroll deductions you submit a completed application to the program and ill receive a confirmation form attesting your enrollment. You then advise your Payroll department and the deductions start in our next pay period.

The funds that you deposit can be used at eligible schools anywhere in the country and are not limited to the state in which you enroll. The funds can be used for educational expenses, including tuition, fees, supplies, books, and equipment required for enrollment. Most room and board expenses are also covered for students enrolled at least half time.

You can and should open account for each child in your family because each account can only have one designated beneficiary. You can be the designated beneficiary yourself, but you may designate anyone. The tax benefits are not contingent on the beneficiary being a family member of the account owner. Even if you move out of state you may keep contributing money to the account and continue to enjoy the benefits of federal and New York State tax-deferred growth.

Check and see if your employer, institution, association or union has a similar education savings program that you can apply to join. It will make saving for a college education much easier and a lot less frustrating for everyone involved.

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Ryan Larson