By: Treasurer David McRae
Your State Treasurer’s office administers two college savings plans designed to help Mississippians save for college. MACS is the Mississippi Affordable College Savings Plan which allows families to save for college starting with as little as $25. MPACT is the Mississippi Prepaid Affordable College Tuition Plan which allows families to prepay college tuition to lock in today’s rates and avoid skyrocketing tuition increases that are outpacing the rate of inflation in most places.
Today, the average Mississippi student graduates with around $30,000 of student loan debt – and that number is only increasing. In fact, it’s rising faster in Mississippi than in any other state. This debt can have a major impact on our children – often delaying life’s major milestones, such as getting married, buying a home, and even starting a family.
That’s why our office conducted a survey recently to learn more about Mississippi parents’ plans when it comes to saving for college. More than 1,700 Mississippi parents responded to our survey, which revealed a significant gap between those who want to help pay for college and those who have actually started saving to pay for college.
While 69 percent of parents plan to help pay for college, only 42 percent have begun saving. What is even more alarming is that it was parents with high-school-aged children who were least likely to have begun saving. In fact, just 39 percent of families with children in Grades 9-12 had started, compared to 49 percent with children in Grades 3-5.
Regardless of how old your child is, now is a good time to start preparing for college financially because costs are on the rise. Between 2008 and 2018, costs at Mississippi’s public universities increased by 42 percent. Not surprisingly, student debt increased 58.5 percent across Mississippi during that time as well. College is expensive, but the investment can pay off. Research shows that weekly pay for college graduates is 80 percent higher compared to workers with only a high-school diploma.
While it is never too late to begin, the earlier families start, the easier it is to achieve savings goals. Our savings plans make it easy for families to save money, earn interest, and get tax advantages. Moreover, it’s tax refund season, and there are few better ways to put your refund to good use than by helping send a child or grandchild to college.
If you are interested in opening a college savings plan for a student in your family, please call our office. We would love to help you start a plan to make a college education more affordable for your loved ones. To learn more, visit Treasury.MS.gov/CollegeSavings or call (601) 359-3600.