Making the GradeThe college years seem far away for most parents of small children. Young families are more concerned with immediate priorities such as daycare arrangements, carpooling, school plays and after-school sports programs.
But soaring tuition costs and a weaker economy have many parents of young children thinking about college long before they had planned. The biggest concern for parents is how to pay for their child’s college education (in Illinois, the cost of tuition and fees for a child born today may reach $140,000). That concern, combined with today’s availability of college funding plans, has provided parents with many choices to consider in planning for college costs.
Where should parents begin their research? For starters, they should look at several different programs so that they can make comparisons and risk assessments between plans.
The College Savings Plan Network (CSPN), an affiliate of the National Association of State Treasurers, provides a good resource for comparing plans and different plan materials at its Web site, collegesavings.org. Another resource, Joe Hurley, an author and expert on 529 plans, helps parents objectively sort through their college funding options at his Web site, savingforcollege.com.
Articles regarding college funding, and even friends and family members can be a good source of college funding information. Parents should talk to other parents about what their college funding plans include.
Parents should also remember that there are often educational resources in their own backyard. In Illinois, the 529 prepaid tuition plan secured by the state of Illinois, College Illinois!, provides interested parents with a number of ways to learn more about the state-sponsored program. The plan’s comprehensive Web site, collegeillinois.com, helps them sort through details regarding the plan’s advantages, tax rules and affordability.
"Because college funding is a big decision that takes careful consideration, parents need to actively search out and utilize the resources that are available to them," said Randy Erford, director of College Illinois!.
According to Erford, parents should look for additional information in their own communities. For example, College Illinois! regularly visits libraries, schools, community organizations and parent groups to talk one-on-one with interested parents about their options and answer questions specific to the College Illinois! program.
Erford also recommends that parents talk to friends and family about what they are doing to pay for their children’s college education.
"Through our own research, we know that many of the people who participate in College Illinois! discovered the program by talking with friends and family who were already participating," said Erford.
College Illinois! is a secure alternative for college funding. The program’s benefits can be used at colleges nationwide, not only at Illinois public institutions. Coverage at Illinois public institutions equals 100 percent of future tuition and mandatory fees. Coverage at out-of-state or private institutions equals the average tuition and fees charged by comparable Illinois public institutions whenever benefits are claimed.
Parents can purchase from one semester at a community college to nine semesters at a public university. Various payment options are available, including monthly and annual installments.
For more information about College Illinois!, the benefits of 529 prepaid tuition plans or upcoming College Illinois! presentations in your area, visit collegeillinois.com or call toll-free (877) 877-3724.
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