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April 7, 2010

College Illinois!® Sponsors Baseball Reading Programs
Partners with Peoria Chiefs, Kane County Cougars baseball to promote children’s literacy programs, college savings

SPRINGFIELD, Ill.— The College Illinois!® 529 Prepaid Tuition Program is joining with the Peoria Chiefs and Kane County Cougars to promote college savings and early literacy in their respective communities. 

Homer’s Reading Club (Chiefs) is a partnership with schools and libraries in central Illinois with over 13,000 participants in 18 counties within a 75 mile radius of Peoria, with most coming from Peoria, Tazewell, McLean, Woodford, Marshall, and Fulton counties.  Each student reads to earn a free Peoria Chiefs ticket and will be recognized at the game.

Ozzie’s reading club (Cougars) reaches more than 400 schools in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, McHenry and Will Counties. Students completing the program receive a free ticket to a game recognizing their school’s partipants.

In addition to supporting the two minor league baseball teams’ goals of encouraging students' reading development, the reading clubs allow the College Illinois! 529 Prepaid Tuition Program to promote saving for college during summer months when the program previously was not open for enrollment and also reach families in their homes through the reading program in elementary schools.

“In baseball, it’s easier to score when you take a big leadoff.  Saving for college is the same way. The earlier you begin, the better off you are,” said Andrew Davis, executive director of the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC), the agency that administers the program.  “With enrollment open year-round, these partnerships allow us to reach families during the crucial summer months–before enrollment prices go up in the fall–allowing us to inform parents and grandparents of this tax-advantaged way to save for college.”

As reported in the 2009 Trends in Higher Education report published by the College Board, tuition throughout the United States has increased an average of 4.9 percent, faster than the increase of the two previous decades. In Illinois, tuition has averaged an almost eight percent increase each year for the last 20 years.  A child born today is projected to incur college costs of more than $180,000 at a four-year, public university. 
 “College tuition has been going up significantly faster than the core consumer price index.  On both a relative and an absolute basis, it’s getting more expensive all the time,” continued Davis.  "By locking in prices for tuition and fees today, parents are able to better plan for a fixed cost to attend college."

Unlike a college savings plan, a College Illinois! 529 Prepaid Tuition Program contract between the purchaser and the state of Illinois provides tuition and fee benefits for college, regardless of fluctuations in the market. The beneficiary can choose to attend almost any college because benefits can be used at both Illinois public universities and community colleges or applied at most public and private institutions nationwide.

Secure a child’s educational future at the lowest prices today by enrolling at www.529prepaidtuition.org, or call toll-free at (877) 877-3724 for program information, monthly pricing discounts and enrollment guidelines.  There’s no better time to lock in prices than now, as prices will increase May 1.

Administered by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, the College Illinois! 529 Prepaid Tuition Program is a secure college funding option because benefits do not fluctuate with the stock market.  Since the program’s inception in 1998, more than 66,000 prepaid tuition contracts with a value of more than $1.6 billion have been purchased. ISAC’s commissioners are responsible for the overall management of the program and its investments, including hiring a qualified slate of investment managers and other professionals.      

More about College Illinois!® 529 Prepaid Tuition Program Pricing and Plans
A tiered pricing system called SmartChoice, introduced in 2008, makes plans even more affordable than ever before. SmartChoice pricing provides three distinct price and benefit levels (Community College, University and University+) with different payment options. The plans are completely flexible and let the purchaser choose a pricing option that best matches their financial needs and realities. Combination plans including four semesters at a community college and four semesters at a university level are also available. Various payment options include monthly and annual installments and multiple down payment levels. In addition, program beneficiaries can choose to attend college anywhere because benefits can be used outside of the state at public and private institutions nationwide.

Upon purchasing a contract, Illinois taxpayers can annually deduct up to $10,000 per individual or $20,000 for married couples filing jointly, and all plan earnings are exempt from state and federal taxes. Neither ISAC nor the College Illinois! 529 Prepaid Tuition Program can provide legal or tax advice. Please consult a professional tax advisor concerning federal and state tax implications before purchasing a contract.

To enroll in the College Illinois! 529 Prepaid Tuition Program, visit www.529prepaidtuition.org, or call (877) 877-3724 for program information, materials and enrollment guidelines.

About the Illinois Student Assistance Commission:
The Illinois Student Assistance Commission provides students of all ages and backgrounds with the resources and support to obtain financial aid for higher education. A state agency, ISAC has paved the path to post-secondary education with innovative programs for more than 50 years. The commission continued its mission to make college accessible and affordable for Illinois students by administering over 183,000 grants and scholarships totaling over $430 million in FY2009 alone. 

The Commission provides educational funding with student loans, as a loan guarantor and via numerous public programs such as the Monetary Award Program (MAP), the Illinois Veteran Grant and the College Illinois!® 529 Prepaid Tuition Program. Students and families have free access to a wealth of financial aid and college planning information at ISAC’s family of websites available at www.knowhow2GOIllinois.org and www.529prepaidtuition.org.

About the Kane County Cougars and Ozzie’s Reading Club:
The Kane County Cougars is the Class A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics.  As the only Major League-affiliated minor league team in the Chicago area, the Cougars have produced more than 100 major leaguers.  The 2010 season will be their 20th year of operation.

Ozzie’s Reading Club tracks the progress of a student’s reading around the bases of a baseball diamond with the three bases and home plate representing two weeks worth of reading. Each teacher may determine his or her own reading requirements for each base. Students completing the program’s requirements “hit a home run” and earn a free ticket to an April or May Cougars game designated by their school, where they’ll march in a pregame parade. Other rewards may include a bookmark, a voucher for a hot dog and soda as well as an official Ozzie’s Reading Club t-shirt.

About the Peoria Chiefs and Homer’s Reading Club:
The Peoria Chiefs are the Class A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs and provide the best and most affordable family sports entertainment value in central Illinois. Over 260,000 fans experience great baseball up-close and personal in the state-of-the-art O'Brien Field.

Homer's Reading Program is incentive-based and encourages central Illinois school students and summer library readers to have fun as they read. Each administrator of the program creates their own parameters or goals to fit the individual needs of their students. Each student reads to earn a free Peoria Chiefs ticket. Additional rewards include a bookmark, a kid's meal from Applebee's, free children's Peoria Zoo admission with paid adult and a pre-game parade around O’Brien Field led by Homer .


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