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Tag Archive: College Savings Plan Network

Get your savings in full swing this spring

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CSPN-Baseball-Quote

I always welcome the start of baseball season, as it’s a great reminder that good things are in store for the months ahead. It’s a chance for renewed optimism as we cheer on the home team (Go Mariners!) and hope that maybe ‘this’ will finally be their year. And accordingly, Mother Nature is showing signs of bright life: the sun starts showing itself again, flowers are in bloom and everything is turning green again! But what do baseball and the change in seasons have to do with college savings?

Just as start of the season involves a steep learning curve for a team, getting your college savings started is not always easy right out of the gate. You’ll experience some growing pains and it will take time to get a consistent game plan established. Despite these early road bumps, remember that this time of year is also the perfect opportunity for a fresh start and to try out a new approach. If you stay committed and keep working hard, it will continue to come more naturally, and your college savings plan will begin to blossom.

A hang up for many parents looking to start their college planning is where to start. When I’m out in the community sharing information about our program, I often hear “What should we be doing?” “How much do we need to be saving?” “Tell me what I need to do!” This line of questioning is understandable, as it can feel overwhelming to be looking ahead when you’re busy trying to raise kids and triage their day-to-day needs. While I’m able to provide these harried parents with resources and tools, the reality is that there is no single magic formula that works for everyone. Every family’s situation is unique and their goals for their children are equally varied. But the good news is that often parents just need to have these early conversations, and once in the right mindset, they’re ready to find their own way.

Although there is no one right way, there are some best practices that families can look to so they can ensure long-term savings success. First, start as early as possible when kids are still young so there is more time to add to your savings and watch them grow. It’s easy to compare different options on the CSPN website to see which plan or mix of plans will work best for your family. Just as importantly, don’t set it and forget it – keep adding as your kids grow and get family and friends involved. Finally, let your kids know what you’re doing to plan for their future and reinforce that college will be part of their future.

However you choose to save for college, remember that practice and routine are the keys to success. In the words of legendary Dodgers team manager, Tommy Lasorda: “There are three types of baseball players: those who make it happen, those who watch it happen, and those who wonder what happens.”

Written by Lucas Minor

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Now is the Time for Congress to Pass Legislation to Strengthen 529 Plans

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Yes_on_HR529

This past month both the US Senate and House of Representatives introduced legislation to make enhancements to 529 College Savings Plans. These tax-free plans are used by millions of families to save for their children’s future higher education expenses. These plans have proven to help limit or eliminate future student loan debt, while aiding to increase access to higher education.

This year, student loan debt reached an all-time high of $1.3 trillion, with the 2014 graduating class finishing college with an average of $30,000 in loans. Of the 37 million people carrying student loan debt, one-third are over the age of 40 and almost 2 million people  over the age of 60 are still paying off loans. It is important to take into consideration the simple fact that $20,000 in student loans paid over 20 years is actually more like $63,000!

When Americans are saddled with student loan debt, they are not able to buy homes, cars and other products that boost our economy. They are not able to innovate by putting their ideas into action by starting a new business. They are also limited in their ability to invest in their future by saving for retirement and other long-term goals.

On the flip side, 12 million Americans have saved approximately $250 billion in 529 plans; less than a quarter the amount of student loan debt in our country. It is the goal of all state 529 plans to reverse this trend and to someday have college savings out-pace student loan debt. The only way we can do that is to continue to improve 529 plans by offering more incentives for families to save.

Enhancements like those that are part of the proposed legislation in the Senate (SB 335) and House (HR 529) help all American’s see and understand the value of saving through 529 plans. These companion bills specifically call for:

  • Making computers an eligible expense;
  • Allowing the redeposit of funds without negative tax implications in certain extenuating circumstances (e.g. a student gets sick at the beginning of the term);
  • Updating outdated accounting rules.

Implementing common sense improvements to 529 plans so that more families see the benefits of saving will only help the overall health and well-being of our country over the long-haul. Simply put, when students graduate with little to no debt they have the resources to innovate, purchase, invest, volunteer and create. Now is the time to pass this legislation that strengthens 529 plans and if you agree, we encourage you to reach out to your Representatives and Senators in Washington D.C. to let them know of your support of these enhancements.

Written by Betty Lochner, Chair of the College Savings Plans Network (CSPN) and Director of Washington’s Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) Program.

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President’s College Plan: Well Intentioned with Misguided Funding Strategy

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529 form

During the recent State of the Union address President Barack Obama proposed some philosophical changes in the road to higher education, including a strategy that provides free community college for all Americans. The idea of creating greater access to higher education to strengthen our country’s economy, workforce and the number of career opportunities for our citizens is commendable and inspiring.

I think that as Americans, no matter your political affiliation, we can all agree that a better educated citizen-base is essential to helping our country prosper with more engaged, innovative and open-minded people that have the resources to purchase, invest, volunteer and create.

The biggest concern with the President’s plan is that it comes at the expense of one of few tax breaks for middle class families. The President’s proposal calls for the removal of the ability for Americans to use the money earned in their 529 college savings account on a tax-free basis. The rationale behind this plan is that additional income taxes collected from students could be one of the mechanisms for funding the free community college proposal.

With 12 million accounts open, 529 college savings plans are helping American families save for future higher education costs. Research shows children with a college savings account are six to seven times more likely to attend a four-year college, compared to children with no dedicated account.

Taxing college savings is detrimental and will have a chilling and resounding effect on the future of families’ investments in their children’s higher education. Even more families will be left to rely on student loan debt, which is currently at $1.3 trillion; nearly five times the amount ($250 billion) American families have saved in 529 plans. Loans and tax credits alone are not the solution to making college more affordable, so we should be doing all we can to encourage, not stifle, savings.

Even if the President’s plan for free community college is implemented, there will still be a huge demand and need for students with bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees. Further, students with an associate’s degree may also want to continue their education with a professional certificate at a technical or trade school. All of these advanced degrees will continue to be a significant financial investment that families will need to save for, especially during a time when the cost of a college degree has increased 12 fold over the past 30 years.

The concept of saving has and will continue to be the most critical step in creating access to higher education and making it more affordable to middle class families. If you agree that saving for college is important, I encourage you to reach out to your Representative and Senators in Washington D.C. to let them know how you feel about these proposed changes so that they can advocate on your behalf.

By Betty Lochner, Chair of the College Savings Plan Network & Director of Washington State’s Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) Program

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