Valdosta Daily Times

Local News

February 14, 2013

Planning for college?

Georgia offers the answer

VALDOSTA — College is expensive and according to the current rate of inflation, it isn't getting cheaper any time soon.

“College costs in America are growing,” said wealth advisor and owner of Bush Wealth Management, Stacy Bush.

According to Bush, college costs have been rising roughly at a rate of 7 to 10 percent per year. Forbes found that since 1985, the overall consumer price index has risen 115 percent while the college education inflation rate has risen nearly 500 percent. For example, Bush's daughter is 6-years-old and by the time she's old enough for college, the cost will be approximately $180,000 just to go to Valdosta State University.

With these figures, Bush is advising that parents should start saving money for their child's college education immediately.

“Don't procrastinate, don't wait until (age) 13 or 14,” said Bush. "It's too late by then.”

In Georgia, there are resources available that make saving for college more manageable. In April of 2002, the Path2College 529 was established.

“It's actually a really good plan,” said Bush.

A 529 is the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) code that establishes the savings as a college account.

"Any money that is contributed to the account grows tax free," said Bush.

The Path2College 529 provides Georgians tax-deferred growth along the way, tax-free spending on qualified higher education expenses, and up t0 $2,000 per year, per beneficiary state income tax deduction just for saving.

"The savings can be used at Georgia colleges and universities as well as virtually any school in the U.S. along with many abroad," said Director of the Path2College 529 Plan Jennifer Wiggins.

According to Bush, grandparents can put money into the 529 as well and this is something that Bush encourages of his own clients.

"I encourage my clients to tell their parents not to give just toys," said Bush.

Grandparents and even parents can take a portion of a child's birthday, Christmas and more and put that money into the 529 to build up so they can utilize it for college in the future.

"There are so many people who are unaware this program exists and we want everyone to know the benefits available with Georgia's college savings plan," said Wiggins. "This college savings plan can be used to help them meet the cost of higher education for their children."

However, there are parents who have an older child and who have not had the means to put back for college. In this case, Bush suggests looking for scholarships.

"You need to skewer the landscape of potential scholarships," said Bush. "There's always a niche that you can get a few thousand dollars out of."

While the prospect of scholarships is every parent’s dream, it's idealistic when faced with the amount that college currently costs and the number of students competing for various scholarships and grants. Unfortunately, this has lead a large majority of students to take out student loans, a large contributor to the economic crisis when mixed with a depleted job market.

"Kids who come out of school with debt are at a tremendous disadvantage," said Bush. "But borrowing money is sometimes a reality."

In the case of incurring student loan debt, Bush recommends federal loans over private loans.

"I personally don't like the private stuff," said Bush.

For more information on the Path2College 529 Plan, go to www.path2college529.com. Along with resources, a college cost calculator is available that will provide hypothetical illustrations of the potential growth of your investment.

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