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August 31, 2010

September Is College Savings Month
Illinois Student Assistance Commission Encourages Residents to Consider a 529 Plan

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) has joined other states in declaring September “College Savings Month” in an effort to increase awareness among families about the importance of saving for their children’s higher education expenses with tax-advantaged plans such as the College Illinois!® 529 Prepaid Tuition Program.

“Our children deserve the brightest futures possible. That is why it is so important for families to start saving for higher education with a program like the College Illinois! 529 Prepaid Tuition Program,” said ISAC Executive Director Andrew Davis.  “College Illinois! is a powerful tool to help families save for college without incurring market risk. Parents can combat tuition inflation averaging approximately eight percent a year by locking in prices with a College Illinois! contract, and the sooner they begin, the better.” 

Unlike other college savings plans, 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. Prepaid tuition benefits keep pace with the increases in tuition and fees equal to those found at in-state, public institutions. When a beneficiary is ready to go to college, he or she can choose to attend almost anywhere because benefits can be used at all Illinois public universities and community colleges or applied at most public and private institutions nationwide.

With over $1 billion in assets, the College Illinois! 529 Prepaid Tuition Program is solid.  Since the program’s inception in 1998, families have trusted the program to provide tuition and mandatory fee benefits for more than 66,000 future college students.  In fact, nearly 14,000 students have already utilized College Illinois! benefits to pay for college at nearly 800 campuses across the country.

Although enrollment is open year-round, prices adjust on the first day of each new month, so it pays to purchase before October 1.  Purchase as few as one semester at a community college or as many as nine semesters at a public university. Various payment options are available, including monthly and annual installments.

College Savings Month is a time for families across Illinois to consider the value of higher education. It is vital for parents to realize how much a college degree can impact a child’s life. According to the College Board, median family income in 2008 for those with a bachelor's degree or more was $101,099, compared to $49,414 for those with just a high school diploma.  The Center for Social Development says youths with college savings plans are almost four times more likely to attend a four-year college than those with no account, so enroll today at www.529prepaidtuition.org, or call toll-free at (877) 877-3724 for program information, materials and enrollment guidelines. 

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.

About College Savings Month
Originally started by the College Savings Plan Network, more than 40 states have declared September "College Savings Month.”  Section 529 plans make it easy and affordable for the average family to plan ahead for the cost of college attendance and are available in 49 states and the District of Columbia. In fact, the 108th Congress of the United States officially recognized September as College Savings Month in 2003.  Across the nation, many activities are held to recognize the importance of saving for college during the month.

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.


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