Learning is the only thing the mind never exhausts, never fears, and never regrets.
Leonardo da Vinci
I am a firm believer in the importance in education, and CollegeAdvantage grants the “gift” of education to so very many. I learned about CollegeAdvantage in a Columbus Dispatch article and visited the agency’s website. After learning more about the college savings program, I realized that 529 accounts offered a stable plan for college education for our younger generations.
I committed to assisting with my younger sister’s three daughters’ college education after a change in family circumstances guaranteed that there would not be funding available for college. These bright young ladies deserved that chance at higher ed, so I opened three 529 accounts when they were in grade school.
Their college savings accounts were an investment in them and their future, and consequently, investments in our society as well. My nieces were familiar with the adage, “knowledge is power”; but what they learned was the fact that the more you know, the more options you have. I wanted them to have options. Gifts of clothing, technology gadgets, or entertainment are so fleeting. Whereas, granting a gift of knowledge is both positive and permanent – their futures change with small gifts added to their college savings accounts on festive occasions.
Through their 529 accounts, my nieces’ tuition as well as room and board were covered. The CollegeAdvantage accounts were all used in Texas as my sister had relocated her family to Houston. I was pleased to discover that Ohio’s 529 Savings Program can be applied to colleges outside the state. The university was pleased with the ease of receiving the funds from CollegeAdvantage for tuition and other payments.
Each of my nieces worked part-time during their college years, to learn the importance of money and help towards their out-of-pocket expenses at school. Two of them also received scholarships to stretch the 529 accounts out further. It was with the scholarship development that I learned that you can always use the money in the account; you can transfer it to another member of the family. So, the funds in one of my niece’s account were transferred to her sister’s as the former had received better scholarships. These bright young ladies shared the gift of college – the gift of their future.
With every semester, I had a chance to speak to my nieces to ask what classes they were taking and what was going on their lives when we were arranging payments from their 529s. It was an opportunity to interact and stay connected despite the distance.
My nieces realized their 529 accounts were a gift and they took appropriate care of this advantage. One niece graduated summa cum laude from the University of Houston in education and is continuing to earn her master’s degree; another niece graduated from the University of Houston summa cum laude from the department of arts and social sciences and is pursuing a writing career; and the youngest niece graduated from the University of Houston magna cum laude in biomedical engineering and is continuing her education at the University of Texas Medical School in Galveston. Three industrious young ladies choosing very different paths to success and fulfillment, yet they were all supported by their college savings fund which was started before they were walking.
Since their undergraduate costs were covered, my nieces had more options for furthering their own education in graduate and other post-secondary education. The gift of their 529 plans allowed them to think forward to the future and decide what they would truly like to pursue for a career. So they pushed themselves and strove for more. Also, as there was less financial pressure on them, they were better able to enjoy the whole college experience.
My advice: Don’t put off starting a 529. Make realistic goals and learn about the joy of delayed gains. It’s good for the parents to sit down with their children to discuss the costs involved with sports, clubs, and other extracurricular activities so they understand the fees, uniform costs, lodging prices, tournament fees, and traveling costs. As a family, you can decide whether it’s better to set money aside for these extracurricular expenses or for future college costs. It can become a goal for which the entire family to aim.
Your plan was so very easy and works very efficiently. CollegeAdvantage puts the beneficiary’s destinies in their own hands; and it gives them a positive experience with responsibility. Planning greatly increases education possibilities and future orientation. Saving in a 529 plan is much simpler than you think and much more rewarding than you expect.
Dr. Chrisanne Gordon
Executive director of Resurrecting Lives Foundation