When it comes to affording higher education, these college-savings and financial-aid tips make the grade

For most parents, paying for a child’s college education is the second-largest investment they’ll make during their lifetime, ranking just behind buying a home. Just how much do today’s parents need to save to send their kids to college? According to the most recently published data from The College Board, the average cost for tuition and fees during the 2023-24 school year stands at $11,260 for in-state, public, four-year colleges in the U.S., with the price tag for out-of-state colleges rising to $29,150.

Of course, the cost of tuition and fees tends to be substantially higher at private colleges, and all of these prices tend to go up year over year. Further, for most students, additional expenses such as room, board and books must be added to the amounts mentioned here when calculating the total cost of college.


The importance of getting an early start
While the expenses of higher education can seem daunting, with some advance planning and financial discipline, most parents can build a substantial college fund that will minimize (or even eliminate) their child’s need to take out and later repay student loans. The biggest key, of course, is to start saving as early as possible. Not only will this allow you to build up a sizable balance of education-devoted funds over time, but it can also enable you to take advantage of balance-boosting assets like interest, dividends and capital gains. All of these can greatly increase your child’s college savings, especially over longer periods of time.


Build a bigger balance with these 4 college-savings tips
Looking to maximize the money you put into your child’s college savings? Consider these four tips on ways to pay for college that can help you boost your college-savings balance:

  1. Leverage leading college-savings vehicles — Numerous types of financial accounts/vehicles for building college savings are designed to help you build up a bigger college fund over time, and many offer significant tax advantages. Some of the leading options in this area include 529 college savings plans, Coverdell Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), Roth IRAs, custodial accounts and savings bonds. For a rundown on the basics of each of these options, check out our blog article “Ready to start saving for college? Here’s a rundown on the basics.”
  2. Start saving early — It’s already noted above, but it’s worth mentioning again. Starting your savings plan as early as possible is key, as small contributions can lead to big balances over time, and long periods of saving give your investments/savings time to grow. For example, consider the power of compound interest over time, and experiment with this compound interest calculator to see how much even small (but consistent) contributions can add up over time — especially with the help of compound interest
  3. Contribute consistently — Even if the amounts you can put away seem small, it’s important to make a regular habit of setting money aside for college savings. Over time, even small amounts of money can add up to significant savings, especially with time and interest (or other types of investment growth) added in. For instance, by starting with just a $100 initial deposit and adding $50 each month from the time your child is born through age 18, you can build a college-savings balance of $10,900. Add in a 5% interest rate compounded annually, and this total reaches over $17,000. That may not be enough to pay for college, but it can definitely help ease the financial burden.
  4. Make saving automatic — If you have both a checking account and a savings account established, consider linking them and using your bank’s digital banking services or mobile app to set up automatic cash transfers to savings each month. This can be a great way to build the funds you have available for college savings while avoiding the temptation to spend it.


For more tips on easing the burden of college expenses, check out our blog article “Ease the burden of saving for/paying for college with these 6 tips.”


Cut your costs with these 3 financial aid tips
With February being National Financial Aid Awareness Month, it’s also as good a time as any to start looking into the possibilities of lowering your college expenses via financial aid — especially if your child is nearing college age. Consider these three financial aid tips that can help you cut the out-of-pocket costs of paying for college:

  1. Fill out a FAFSA form — By filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, students can find out if they may be eligible for a long list of federal, state and school-specific financial aid programs, including grants, scholarships, work-study finds and student loans. Students can fill out the form no matter what their family’s income may be, and the process typically only takes about an hour.
  2. Apply for scholarships — A long list of schools, employers, individuals, companies, groups and organizations offer scholarships that provide funds for education — and scholarships are essentially free money that doesn’t have to be repaid. Thousands of different scholarships exist, and they are awarded based on merit, financial need and other specific qualifying criteria. Make sure your student takes the time to research and apply for any scholarships that may be available to him or her, as these can deliver substantial help covering college or career-school expenses.
  3. Look into grants — Grants are another form of financial aid that, in most cases, provide funds for college or career school and do not require repayment. These can be provided by the U.S. government, state governments, schools, and private or nonprofit organizations. To procure any grants that may be available, ensure your student researches any grants he or she may qualify for and applies for them.


Proudly serving South Carolina since 1933, Arthur State Bank offers accounts and services to meet a variety of financial needs. To help you achieve all your financial goals, the bank offers in-person service as well as a range of convenient digital solutions. To learn how Arthur State Bank can help you with banking needs ranging from checking and savings to retirement accounts, mortgages, other personal loans and more, visit arthurstatebank.com.


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Man doing his banking online

AnnualCreditReport.com is the only source for free credit reports authorized by the federal government. Every 12 months, you can get a free copy of your credit report from each agency.

Your credit report has your credit history for all of your credit accounts as well as any credit inquiries and public record court information such as collections. In addition, the report provides personally identifiable information such as your name, address, and employment.

Be sure to carefully review all three reports to identify any problem areas that you may need to clean up prior to applying for a mortgage. If there is any incorrect information, follow the reporting agency’s rules to correct it or add a notation to the report to explain the situation.

Your FICO Score is a score combines data from several areas include payment history, the amount owed, length of credit history, new accounts. Many lenders use this score as a guide. This score is not provided as part of the free annual credit report.

Learn more about how your credit score impacts your ability to secure a loan.


Couple looking over finances

Primary considerations for setting your housing budget require an assessment of your income, debt and current savings for the down payment on the home. The following are generally recommended guidelines; however, you should meet with an Arthur State Bank lender to get personalized mortgage information.


Couple meeting with lender

The pre-qualification/pre-approval letter is included with any offer you make on a house to inform the seller that you have met with a mortgage lender and you are prepared to make an offer. The letter states that based on certain assumptions, the bank is prepared to lend you up to a specified amount of money for a home mortgage.

When choosing a loan officer, we recommend going local to work with someone who understands your community’s real estate market. This blog on first-time home purchases includes questions to ask your lender that may be helpful when preparing for your meeting.

Helpful Resources:


Realtor shaking hands with a client

When a house is sold, the seller typically pays real estate commission to both the listing agent and the selling agent. It is extremely beneficial for the buyer to use their own real estate agent. Loan officers can often recommend selling agents in the area; ask your officer about realtor referrals when discussing your loan.

A good realtor will know the local market and can help you find an ideal home based on your budget, location and desired features. During your search, understand that you will most likely need to compromise on some items, so it’s important to identify your critical needs versus your wants.


Couple searching online for a home

Additionally, when you start with the house search and work backwards, homes can often go off the market while you’re completing steps 1-4. While browsing homes immediately can be tempting, we recommend following these steps in order so that, once you find your dream home, you’ll be well-positioned to take action immediately.

When you find the home you want and you think you are ready to put an offer on it, you will want to make sure you have all the information you need to make a solid offer.

  • Evaluate the neighborhood.
  • Drive by the house at different times of the day.
  • Examine how other houses in the neighborhood are maintained.
  • Consider any potential traffic or other disruptive noise.
  • Is there ample parking for you and visitors?
  • Read the details in any Homeowner Association agreements (HOA fees and rules).

Make sure to do a preliminary check of house details:

  • Check the water:
  • Does it have good pressure?
  • How long does it take to get the water hot?
  • Is it well water or city water?
  • Turn light switches on and off.
  • Open and close doors and windows to make sure they work properly.
  • Review previous utility bill expenses.
  • Consider the property tax bill.


Family meeting with realtor at new house

When writing an offer contract, be sure to pay attention to all of the details.

Offer Price:

Your agent should do a market analysis that pulls data on recently sold comparable houses. The best comparisons will come from the same neighborhood.

If you are asking for the seller to pay some of the closing costs, remember that this cost plus the sales commission determines the net amount you are offering the seller for the house.

Work with your agent on your negotiation strategy. There are many things to consider, such as how badly you want this particular house, whether it is a buyer’s or seller’s market and an assessment of the seller’s motivation to get the property sold.

There isn’t one best strategy.

Be sure to document in writing everything you want included with the house, such as appliances, etc. Your agent should guide you through the contract step-by-step.


  • Home inspection.
  • Mortgage.
  • Final walk through (24 hours prior to closing).

Proposed closing date. Typically, this is 30-45 days from an accepted offer.

A good-faith deposit is required for the offer. This is typically between 1-10% of the purchase price of the house. The deposit is kept in escrow until closing and the money is applied to the purchase price of the house at closing. If the house does not close due to one of the contingency clauses, the buyer receives their money back. However, if the buyer decides not to close on the property, the seller may get the deposit money.

Attach your pre-approval letter to the offer.


Two people in professional meeting

The clock starts ticking for everything documented in the contract, including mortgage application, inspections and closing date.


Woman advising other woman on mortgage application

You will need to decide which mortgage to select prior to the application.

Plan for the following potential fees:

  • Application fee (many banks and mortgage companies charge an application fee; however, there is not an application fee at Arthur State Bank).
  • Credit check.
  • Appraisal (may be paid at closing).
  • Loan origination fee (paid at closing).

Once you have approval for your loan, make sure you don’t change anything that will impact the status of your mortgage. Banks do a final check on credit and jobs just prior to closing, so now is not the time to change jobs or make another purchase on credit such as a car or furniture.


Home inspector going over findings with home owner

Depending on the size of the house, an inspection can cost on average between $300 to $1000.

Many real estate contracts specify how problems uncovered in the inspection will be resolved, up to a certain dollar amount. Should necessary repairs exceed that amount, the buyer has the option to cancel the contract without penalty and receive their deposit money back. Another option is for the buyer and seller to renegotiate who will pay for additional repairs.


Woman happily holding keys to her new home
  • Homeowner’s insurance is required by the lender prior to closing on the loan.
  • Turn on utilities in your name, effective the closing date.
  • Change your address with the U.S. Postal Service.
  • Make moving arrangements.

Three days prior to closing:

  • You should receive your final Closing Disclosure from the closing agency. The final Closing Disclosure shows a column for the seller and a column for the buyer. All closing charges and credits for both the seller and the buyer are documented in the closing statement.
  • Review the closing statement for accuracy prior to coming to closing.
  • The final amount in the buyer’s column shows you the amount of money you need to pay at closing.

The closing office will provide specific payment instructions. Closing funds have become recent targets for cybercriminals. If you are asked to use a wire transfer, call the office and ask to speak to someone you have been working with to double-check the instructions.

Closing day:

In South Carolina, the closing will usually take place at the attorney’s office. Everyone signing for the mortgage must be present to sign the closing paperwork. Make sure you bring the following:

  • Cashier’s check or proof of payment for wire transfer.
  • Driver’s license.
  • Checkbook, just in case there are any additional items that were not on the closing statement.

Be sure to understand this information:

  • How and when you will pay:
  • Your mortgage.
  • Your property taxes.
  • Your homeowner’s insurance.
  • Any HOA dues.
  • Who to call with any questions.

The best practice is to go through the homebuyer’s roadmap in this sequence. However, if you jumped ahead early in your journey, just circle back to address the steps you missed.

Arthur State Bank’s loan officers are closely tapped into local real estate markets and experts at helping clients get what they need on terms that work for them. We also offer mortgage specials for first-time homebuyers.

To start planning your journey to your dream home, try out our mortgage calculator. If you’re ready to talk to a loan officer, contact Arthur State Bank to request personalized mortgage information today. Don’t forget to ask about our first-time homebuyer offer.