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March 15, 2010

State’s college savings plan thriving

Despite tough economy, parents tucking back nearly $1.2 billion for higher education

One thing the tough economy has not negatively affected is college savings and State Treasurer Richard Mourdock wants that trend to continue.

Mourdock said many had speculated people would quit saving for college, but they have done just the opposite. Indiana’s CollegeChoice 529 Savings Plans have experienced a 47 percent rise in participation since the economy’s backwards slide, and they are now leading the nation in college savings plans.

“No other state has shown a double digit increase in growth in the number of accounts since mid-September 2008 when the economy went into the tank,” said Mourdock, who serves on a college savings plan subcommittee for the National Association of State Treasurers.

“We are just outpacing every other state in the country as far as parents and grandparents signing up with college savings plans, and that is a wonderful thing.”

Through CollegeChoice, 165,814 account holders have tucked away nearly $1.2 billion for higher education. To date, 450 families are taking advantage of the program in Cass County.

Accounts take about 15 minutes to set up online and offer steady returns as well as a 20 percent tax credit of up to $1,000 off a contributor’s Indiana state income taxes. And, anyone can contribute, Mourdock said.

Instead of buying the latest video game for birthday or Christmas, grandparents, aunts, uncles and/or family friends can give to the fund and receive a tax credit. The plan is mutually beneficial because it also helps offset the enormous expense of college tuition.

“Higher education is getting increasingly expensive. The average American family cannot begin to suddenly write that check the day that college enrollment shows up unless they’ve done a lot of planning in advance,” Mourdock said.

The state treasurer pointed out that cost of higher education is increasing faster than the rate of inflation.

“It’s almost out of control,” he said.

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