Saving For CollegeWhat A Concept!
by Timothy Lane
(NAPSI)Based on the latest expense figures from The
College Boards Annual Survey of Colleges, parents of a child born this year can
expect the average cost of a four-year college education for their bundle of joy to range
from $117,000 at public universities to nearly $260,000 at private universities by 2019.
This staggering projection is compounded by the fact that
parents have not been saving adequately. Consequently, more and more students are being
burdened with larger and larger loans. In fact, borrowed money now represents 59 percent
of all financial aid, compared with 41 percent in 1980.*
To help reverse this trend, most states have been introducing
college savings programs that offer attractive tax advantages to help parents and others
save for their childrens higher education. Called Qualified State Tuition Programs,
they are governed under Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code, and have a range of
helpful features and requirements:
Federal and state income tax advantages.
Ability in most states to invest
substantial amounts in various investment options.
No income limit for participation or for benefits.
Flexibility to choose among nearly all colleges and
universities in the U.S. and some abroad.
Account owner (typically the parent) control over
assets even after the beneficiary (eventual student) reaches the age of majority.
Estate and gift tax benefits.
Starting January 1, 2002, the new federal tax law will allow
earnings on qualified withdrawals to be free from federal income tax. Combine that with
the fact that earnings on qualified withdrawals are either tax deferred or tax free on the
state level and the benefit is obviousa much larger college nest egg.
But thats not all. Some states, such as Idaho,
Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri and New York, offer sizable state income tax deductions
for plan contributions.
The programs also offer gift and estate tax benefits that can
be significant. For instance, contributions can be treated as completed gifts that qualify
for the $10,000 annual federal gift-tax exclusion. In addition, an account owner (parent,
grandparent, relative) can deposit as much as $50,000 as a gift in a single year without
incurring tax consequences by simply taking the exclusion over five years. **
The core investment option of many state plans is a
managed-allocation, age-based approach, where assets are shifted from equities to more
conservative, fixed-income investments as college years approach. Key benefits of this investment
option include professional asset allocation and fund management with less of a
decision-making burden on the account owner.
Some states, in response to public demand, are offering
broader choices. Californias ScholarShare program, for example, has a diversified
100 percent equity option, a Social Choice equity option and a guaranteed option to go
along with its managed allocation option.
Do Your Homework
When researching these programs, parents should understand
their own appetite for risk and their childs likely educational needs. Other
important considerations are the state-specific tax benefits, including any available
deductions or matching contributions; management expenses and any other fees; the
experiences and investment track record of the program manager; and the type of investment
To learn more about Qualified State Tuition Programs,
call TIAA-CREF Tuition Financing Inc.a subsidiary of Teachers Insurance and Annuity
Associationat 888-381-8283 or visit www.tiaa-cref.org/tuition.
Timothy Lane is Vice President, TIAA-CREF Tuition Financing, Inc.
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