THE BLOG

How to Plan for College Tuition When You Have Two or More Kids

I did not jump for joy or do a pregnant cartwheel when I saw those two little dots on my ultrasound. If I'm being honest, I was scared. Very, very scared to be exact.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

The day I found out I was having twins, I came home, curled up on the floor in my shower, and sobbed my eyes out...

Yep, I did not jump for joy or do a pregnant cartwheel when I saw those two little dots on my ultrasound. If I'm being honest, I was scared. Very, very scared to be exact.

You don't know what to feel when you get news like that. It's just not what anyone expects when they go to get an ultrasound to confirm that they are actually, in fact, preggo.

The Mom Worrying Began

There were so many things that ran through my mind that day and the weeks following that ultrasound. I was worried about my twins' safety. I was worried about losing one of them. I was wondering how my body would handle a twin pregnancy and if they'd run out of room in there (spoiler alert: they did.)

As the weeks went by, I started worrying about raising them too, especially in a financial sense. In my typical Type A fashion, I'd already started a baby savings fund even before I was pregnant. My goal was to save $10,000 before I had a baby, and I already saved a few thousand dollars by the time I saw those double lines on the pregnancy test.

Now that I was having two babies, though, I had no idea how to estimate the cost. Would I need to save even more money than I initially thought? How expensive were the hospital bills going to be? What would I do about childcare now that there were two babies involved?

And then, it hit me like a ton of bricks: College.

Oh my gosh, I have to pay for college tuition for two kids at once. What am I going to do?

The High Cost of a College Education

Research from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that in 2013-2014, the annual price for tuition, fees, etc, at a public institution was $15,640 and $40,614 at a private nonprofit institution. Not only that, but the NCES also reported that, "Between 2003-04 and 2013-14, prices for undergraduate tuition, fees, room, and board at public institutions rose 34 percent, and prices at private nonprofit institutions rose 25 percent, after adjustment for inflation."

Translation: College tuition is increasing every year, and according to a recent Allianz tuition insurance survey, 84% of parents already think the cost of tuition is too high. So, you can only imagine how much tuition my husband and I will have to pay to send two children to college at the same time 16 years from now.

I'm actually scared to even calculate what it could be. I just read a 2012 Bloomberg article that said that between 1978 and 2012, college tuition and fees increased a whopping 1,120%! There's no doubt about it; college is a big, big business and with unlimited ways to pay for it (hence our nation's $1 trillion student loan problem) there seems to be no end in sight for how high tuition can go.

How to Prepare for It

So, now that I've scared the pants off of everyone trying to save for college, let's talk about what we're going to do about it because I mean, we all want our kids to succeed and go to college and save the world and all that, right?

Before you start a college savings account for your children, it's important to have a strong hold on your own finances first. I wouldn't start a college savings account unless you are regularly contributing to your own retirement accounts and have a nice, solid emergency fund.

However, if you're currently paying back your student loans and know how lame it is, think hard about what you can shift and change in your own life so that your kids don't have to go through that too. One great way to do that is to get started tracking your spending and try to modify it. You can do this using an app or even go old school with a pen and paper.

Once you whip your finances into shape, it's time to start actively saving for college. According to a recent Allianz Tuition Insurance survey, 82% of parents are planning to pay $10,000 or more per year on tuition. So, if you have two kids like I do and you hope to send them to a 4 year institution, we're already talking about quite a bit of money here.

A great way to start saving for a college fund is to save any money your kids get when they are little for their birthdays or holidays in a separate account. I have my children's gift money invested in a basic index fund in a custodial account, but you can set up a 529 account or an Educational Savings account.

Also, just remember, when your kids are 2 years old like mine are, they have no idea that their grandmother just sent them $50, so go ahead and put it in an account and don't spend it on a toy (because you know they just want to play with the box anyway.)

Once kids get older and know how to spend money on the things they want, you can encourage them to save some, spend some, and invest some for their college education.

Ultimately, when it comes to saving for your children's college education, whether you have one child or 10, it all comes down to planning and being prepared. Start now, and encourage your child to participate in the process too.

This article is an excerpt. View the full length, original article on www.CatherineAlford.com.