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Today is August 12, 2020

Your third-grader is halfway to college: Are you ready?

By David McRae

As the dad of a third-grader (soon to be fourth-grader), it’s an eye-opening moment to realize my daughter is more than halfway to college. For most of us, the first question we ask is: “How did they grow up so fast?” But once you get through that shock, most start to wonder: “Are they going to be ready? Do we have enough saved to send them to college?”

Today, about 60% of Mississippi’s high school graduates go to college, but unfortunately, most will leave with around $30,000 of debt — and that number is only growing! In fact, student debt is growing faster in Mississippi than in almost any other state in the nation.

Nonetheless, a college plan is still an important one. Those with a four-year degree earn, on average, about $15,000 more per year than those without. At the same time, jobs that require a two-year degree are the fastest growing in America, an important factor to consider.

But it’s hard for many to commit to such degrees when they’re asked to also commit to the debt that can accompany them. In so many cases, young people end up having to delay major life milestones, like getting married, buying that first home, and starting a family as a result of student debt.

That’s why the State Treasury is working to help lift the financial burden on families. More specifically, we offer affordable college savings options through two important programs: The Mississippi Affordable College Savings Program (MACS) and the Mississippi Prepaid Affordable College Savings plan (MPACT).

We can go into a lot of depth on these options, but for today, I just want to answer a few of the most frequently asked questions. If you have others or want to start a plan for a child in your life, please visit treasury.ms.gov or contact my team at CollegeSavings@treasury.ms.gov.

 

What kind of plans are available?

There are two basic options: MACS and MPACT. MACS operates like a savings account (with some nice tax advantages), while MPACT allows you to lock in tuition rates and pre-pay your child’s time in college.

 

How much does it cost?

You can start a MACS account with as little as $25! MPACT varies, however, depending on your child’s expected graduation date, among other factors. But here’s a pro-tip with either program: once you open an account, friends and family can contribute to it as well.

 

Who can start an account?

Almost anyone! Parents, grandparents, relatives and even friends can open an account and make contributions.

 

What can the money be used for?

MACS dollars can be used for tuition, books, supplies and certain room and board expenses, as well as elementary and secondary tuition expenses for younger students. MPACT, however, lets you prepay tuition and any mandatory fees.

 

Where do I get started?

Visit treasury.ms.gov or contact my team. We are here to answer questions and walk you through enrollment. Email us at CollegeSavings@treasury.ms.gov or call at 1-800-987-4450.

 

David McRae is Mississippi’s state treasurer.

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