Saving can boost the value of your higher education investment

Higher education options in 2021 look like a big city subway map. From four-year liberal arts universities to apprenticeships and certificate programs, there are plenty of routes available to teenagers. With the variety of education options comes a range of tuition costs and earnings potential.

Parents can help their children evaluate how they approach the future by exploring the variables of the cost and value of education. To help families find positive outcomes for both variables, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox provided my529, Utah’s educational savings plan, a renewed declaration stating that September is College Savings Month. Saving can alter the equation of education cost for the better.

The declaration highlights Utah’s 529 plan and why it is valued.Whereas, the State of Utah and its economic vitality benefit from an educated, well-trained workforce; Whereas, higher education is integral for Utah children to compete in the local, national and global economy; Whereas, my529, Utah’s educational savings plan, was established in 1996 by the Utah Legislature as a federally qualified 529 plan to encourage Utahns to save for future higher education; Whereas, in 2021, my529 celebrates 25 years of helping families prepare for the cost of higher education ….”

Marketing Director for Utah’s educational savings plan Bryn Ramjoue’ noted, “While the declaration is formal, it comes down to this: No matter how your family will obtain higher education, saving for it is like the best time to plant a tree: 20 years ago or today.”

Savings options

College savings has as many pathways as there are routes to a higher education. According to a recent survey conducted by my529, a majority of Utahns who save for education use a bank savings account to do so. Unfortunately, bank savings interest rates hover just above 0%. Other options, such as certificates of deposit, may earn slightly more. 529 plans may earn more than a bank savings account. With a 529 plan—established as a tax-advantaged way to save for college—you can put your money in a range of investments with higher earning potential than a savings account.

“Even a small dollar amount set aside systematically over years can add up,” adds my529 Executive Director Richard Ellis.

In addition, earnings in the account will not be taxed if used for qualified education expenses, which include tuition, fees, books, computers and room and board at eligible educational institutions in your home state, across the U.S., and even abroad, as long as the institution accepts federal financial aid

Education options

As parents and teens explore possible education destinations, they will be at peace knowing their 529 funds can be used at trade or tech schools, as well as traditional liberal arts colleges and universities. Think, “One, two, four, or more,” as in a shorter-term certificate program, a two-year degree, a four-year degree or a longer-term advanced degree. The flexibility of a 529 plan also extends to those going back to school as adult learners and retirees.

Tuition is a loaded word, and so is value. Tuition is both a locked gate and the key. If you have the funds, you’re in; if not, you’re locked out. The value of education is the exchange of tuition for quality learning and the lifetime earnings potential based on the degree obtained. For example, according to Study.com and Brookings.com, the median starting income with a bachelor’s degree is around $66,000 and around $60,000 for certification in a trade. However, the cost of education for each of those can be radically different. It helps to do your homework to understand the costs and value of an education. But remember, value can also be measured as a quality of character reached through education.

A call to save

Preparing for future education costs early gives your money more time to grow and benefit from potential market gains and compound interest. Every dollar saved is one fewer dollar you have to pay back with interest.

“Saving is one of the most important and simple things a family can do to prepare for the future. You can start small with your savings goals and habits; you just need to start somewhere,” Utah Treasurer Marlo Oaks said. “College Savings Month is a great reminder to set your higher education savings goals, choose your savings vehicles, and begin the process of putting money away.”

Saving early has a value beyond your future pocketbook. Saving can motivate children to start and complete college, according to William Elliott, co-author of the book, Making Education Work for the Poor.

This is why my529 encourages saving and endorses College Savings Month.