By Nancy Farmer, President, Private College 529 Plan
May 2, 2016
With Mother’s Day coming up this week, I recalled a note I received recently from one of our account owners. Her name is Brenna DeLaine, and she wanted to let me know her daughter, Jai, will be graduating this month from Spelman College.
Brenna is a mom who is really devoted to saving for college with both 529 prepaid tuition and savings plans. She described in an earlier Forbes article why she prepaid tuition over a decade ago.
Brenna did a lot of research on saving for college when her children were young and gained insights that prepaid tuition would be a great strategy for her family. Catching up with her last week, I learned several things about her approach:
• She saw how much tuition was increasing at her alma mater, Spelman College, and other schools.
• She wanted flexibility.
• She felt “safe and comfortable” using prepaid tuition.
• She was aware of the difficulty of paying off college loans.
Brenna had, over time, deposited into the plan an amount equal to two years of tuition at Spelman, where her daughter now is about to graduate. Combined with merit aid, Jai graduates debt free. Brenna estimates that because she bought tuition more than a decade in advance, she saved over $10,000 on the cost of Jai’s education. Those funds are helping out with college expenses for her younger son, Matthew, and with upcoming medical school costs for Jai.
Based on her story, I suggest these tips to families beginning to plan for college:
• Start early.
• Find ways to save, such as when you no longer have to buy diapers, or pay daycare fees or when relatives ask what your child wants for birthday or holiday gifts.
• Consider opening 529 prepaid tuition AND 529 savings accounts. The 529 savings accounts can boost tuition saving and can be used for non-tuition expenses, like room and board, computers, books, etc.
Families who buy prepaid tuition really are purchasing college “on sale.” Tuition is not rising as fast as it was a decade ago, according to the College Board. But almost no one would expect college tuition to be less five, 10 or 15 years down the road. By prepaying, you’ll increase your peace of mind. Take tuition increases off the table. Take investment market volatility out of the equation.
If you are planning for college, you have lots of options to investigate. Prepaid tuition 529 plans should be one of them.
About the author: Nancy Farmer is president of Private College 529 Plan, the only college savings plan sponsored by 283 private colleges and universities across the country. It was created by authorization of the U.S. Congress for colleges and their consortia to help families save for college and increase the affordability and accessibility of higher education. She also is a former state treasurer of Missouri, where she directed its MOST college savings plan.