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New program will help pay for spiraling college costs

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

Posted on October 20, 2000:

Senator Dyson There’s no question about it, college costs are rising -- substantially. Costs to send our children to institutions of higher learning -- a necessity in the 21st Century -- are growing faster than the rate of inflation. If this trend continues, many young children today will never achieve their dream of a college education.

Needless to say, spiraling college costs have parents worried. Especially when they find out that the average cost of sending a child to school is estimated at nearly $25,000 a year. That estimate is for a child currently in the 10th grade. Now consider this: the projected cost for a four-year college education for an infant born in 2000 is $64,352; a student currently in second grade, $40,475; a student in 6th grade, $31,390. Those numbers are enough to petrify parents. I wish I could say they were inflated, but I fear they are the best-case scenarios.

Parents are confronted with a dual crisis. Do they save a major portion of their income to send their children to college or do the one thing I fear the most -- decide not to save for their children’s future education and hope they’re raising Michael Jordan, Bill Gates or Tiger Woods so they don’t have to worry about paying for college. Unfortunately, the odds of that happening are about a million to one.

In 1997, the General Assembly realized both realities. College costs are rising out of control. So, they went about doing something about it. They established the Maryland Prepaid College Trust program.

The program is designed to provide families with a way to save for their children’s future college tuition by locking in today’s contract prices. Parents can choose the number of years they want to purchase in the plan, the type of college they want their children to attend be it a junior or four-year school and a payment plan that can be reasonably budgeted. Payments will be determined by the child’s age or grade.

Today’s contract prices are based on the cost of tuition and fees for the 2001-2002 academic year.

The state’s role will be to pay the full in-state tuition and fees at any Maryland public college. If your child chooses to go to school out-of-state, the trust will pay the weighted average tuition.

I was a big supporter of this program in 1997 and am even more enthusiastic about it now because it is secured through a legislative guarantee established in this past year’s General Assembly session. A legislative guarantee requires the governor to submit a request for the Trust in his or her annual budget if the Trust experiences a shortfall in any given year.

The General Assembly and the Glendening administration have been particularly effective at proposing a series of scholarship opportunities for college-bound students. The Maryland Pre-Paid College Trust is not a scholarship, but it is an excellent partnership between the state and the parents in helping to make sure parents are not stuck with the prospect of outrageous costs when its time to send their children off to college.

The State of Maryland has released an excellent informational and enrollment booklet that explains this program in depth that is understandable to the layman. It also provides you with the material to get started in this program right away.

Government is often accused of being to wasteful in its spending or too invasive in our lives. To a degree, I believe that criticism has some merit. But the Maryland Prepaid College Trust program is an example of good government in action. This is an excellent program.

For more information on this program or to receive the enrollment booklet, call toll free at 1-888-4MD-GRAD or access it on the web at: www.prepaid.usmd.edu. Enrollment deadline is February 28, 2001 and that date will be here sooner than you think.

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

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