As those kids make their way through school, things will be very different for them than their parents. These days, instead of overhead projectors and chalkboards, lessons are being taught on computers. And that's not all that's changed.
Due to budget constraints, many schools have cut enrichment classes such as art, music and physical education. Many schools are turning to parents to help pay for field trips, athletic uniforms and basic learning tools such as pencils, paper, markers, chalk and glue.
Think education is expensive now? According to the College Board, a nonprofit membership association whose mission is to connect students to college success and opportunity, the average cost for tuition and fees at four-year public institutions has increased nearly 51 percent over the last 10 years (after adjusting for inflation), and these costs will almost certainly continue to rise. While the cost of college has skyrocketed, families are not saving enough.
The good news is that every little contribution helps. Parents should be aware of some simple steps they can take now to jumpstart their children's college savings for the future:
♦ Consider a tax-free 529 savings account and start contributing to it regularly. If you deposit just $50 into the account every month, at the end of the year you'll have built up $600 in principal. Add in gift checks from grandparents and a portion of things such as bonuses received at work, and you could be putting away a couple thousand dollars a year. Investment earnings could boost that number even higher. The great thing about 529 accounts is they are tax-advantaged and anyone can open one.
♦ Your children can participate in saving for college by putting a portion of their allowance in a piggy bank. At the end of the year, they can add up their savings and deposit it into a special bank account. When the time comes for college, the money they have saved can go toward the extras they want for school.
♦ Become an Upromise member and begin earning college savings rewards with online purchases from hundreds of retailers, as well as on purchases at grocery and drug stores, gas stations and even restaurants.
"Since 2001, Upromise has been dedicated to helping families get started saving for college. We now have 8 million members and hundreds of top retail brands partnering with us in this mission to help make college more affordable," says Upromise President David Rochon.
The latest addition to Upromise, the Upromise Schools Program, helps families save more for college and helps schools raise much-needed funds. So far, more than 9,000 schools across the country are registered with the Upromise Schools Program.
"The Upromise Schools Program is a no-brainer. There is not another fundraiser out there that doesn't cost any money, puts money into parents' pockets, and makes money for the school. It's a win-win all the way around," says Angie O'Farrell, parent volunteer in Level Creek Elementary, Suwanee, Ga.
To sign up for a free membership and start saving today, visit www.upromise.com.