Of the many wonderful gifts that I have been given by my parents over the years, perhaps one of the most valuable gifts was being able to graduate from college 100% debt free. I hear so many stories about people with huge student loans that loam over them for years after graduating and starting a family, and yet I was blessed to never experience this.
I am a proud to say that when I was young my parents took advantage of the opportunity to enroll me in a Florida Prepaid plan so that by the time I graduated high school my college tuition was 100% paid for. (Plus, I was able to secure a scholarship too, so even my books and boarding was covered!) They purchased my Florida Prepaid plan with money received from an inheritance, and it was a wonderful investment in my future. Such a treasured investment that I enrolled my daughter in a Florida Prepaid plan the year she was born.
If you don’t know how the Florida Prepaid plan works, it is basically a way to start paying for college now (regardless of the age of your children) at TODAY’s tuition rates. Let me say that again, you pay TODAY’s rates. College isn’t getting any cheaper, that’s for sure, so the ability to lock rates in the year a child is born is like saving 18 years of rate hikes!
While you can enroll your child at any age, up to the 11th grade, registration is only open part of the year. Current enrollment ends January 31, 2011. So if this is an option you are considering, this is your last week to do your homework and get registered. (FYI – your first payment would not be due until April 20, 2011.) Why enroll now? Because when open enrollment opens again next, you risk a rate hike. (In fact, this happened to us. We locked in part of my daughter’s plan, but waited a year for the second half. When enrollment opened again, there had been a +300% rate hike! While I doubt we will see another giant increase again, 10-20% annually wouldn’t surprise me a bit. We are still kicking ourselves for not doing it all at once…) With flexible payment options, you could choose to pay it in a lump sum, monthly over 5 years or monthly until your child reaches 18.
While the plan only pays for tuition in Florida in full, if your kiddo should chose to attend school out of the state, your money can be applied toward the out-of-state tuition, you just won’t receive the benefit of locking in a lower rate. And what happens if you change your mind or your child chooses not to go to college? You receive a full refund (less $50 if it is within the first two years of opening the plan).
So obviously, I am a fan. But ultimately, you have to do what is right for your family. However, if you don’t at least look into the plan for your little one while it is open, you may be kicking yourself later. Visit www.myfloridaprepaid.com or call 1-800-552-GRAD (4723) to learn more about the plan and/or to register your future student.
Even if you don’t go with this plan, at this time, if you have kiddos think about what you can do to help save for their future. It truly is a wonderful gift!
BTW – if you don’t live in Florida, Google your state’s Prepaid College Plan to get the facts and know your options. I am not familiar with other state plans, but it’s worth a look.
FYI – This NOT a sponsored post. However, I feel that it is important information that every parent should arm themselves with even if you choose not to take advantage of it.