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‘Thanks, Mom’: NOVA Student Heads to College with Tuition Paid

Jeanette Woods and son Carl

More than 44 million Americans owe more than $1.5 trillion in federal and private student loan debt. And while student loan debt is a very real fear for parents sending their children off to college, for Jeanette Woods following a budget and purchasing Prepaid529 contracts helped her create a very different reality for her recent high school graduate son Carl.*

This fall Carl is attending Northern Virginia Community College, where he’ll complete his first two years of college before transferring to a 4-year Virginia public university to earn a bachelor’s degree. Tuition may typically be the most expensive component of higher education, but by enrolling in the Prepaid529 program Jeanette was able to pay off her son’s tuition and mandatory fee bills before he had even stepped on a college campus.

Prepaid529 helps remove the uncertainty of tuition inflation. Each Prepaid529 semester purchased covers a full future semester of in-state tuition and mandatory fees at two-and four-year Virginia public colleges or universities. Since Carl chose to start at community college, the eight semesters that Jeanette purchased should be enough to cover two years at a two-year college and an additional two years at a four-year college.

 “I’ve heard about parents taking money out of their retirement to pay for their children to go to college, but I didn’t want to have to do that,” the Haymarket, Va. resident said.

“When people ask me how I saved for college and I tell them I used a Prepaid529 plan they give me the ‘Oh, I wish I had done that’ look.”

Various solutions to the student loan debt crisis have been offered to families nationwide, including urging them to borrow less. But Jeanette said her savings success is a timely reminder that no matter what your budget is, your child’s future is worth saving for.

“I was a single mom,” she said. “You don’t know what your financial situation is going to be.

“In my family when it was my time to go to college, there was no money. There was no point even asking. I had to pay for college myself and it took me seven years to get my bachelor’s degree because I had to stop and start back when I could afford it. The last thing I wanted is my son worrying about where the money is coming from.”

According to Forbes Magazine, less than 18 percent of children under the age of 18 have a college savings plan.  Jeanette said she would urge parents with children of any age to make the investment now by opening an account with Virginia529.

“The longer you wait the more you’re going to regret it,” she said. “The tuition bill is going to come regardless of whether you’ve saved.”

Even before Carl began his college education, Jeanette said the value of getting an education and the cost of college had been regular conversation points in the Woods household.

“I talked to him about his Prepaid529 contracts when he was in middle school. We talked about how we are going to put money aside for college every month.”

“When he came to me his junior year in high school and asked ‘where should I go?’ I was able to tell him that he could make that choice himself.  There was no need to worry about tuition because Prepaid529 takes care of the worry.”

Together the two have mapped out a plan where Carl saves on additional expenses by living at home while he completes his general education requirements at Northern Virginia Community College.  This gives him more time to determine what he ultimately wants to pursue as a college major.

As for Jeanette, she continues to save for her son’s future and model smart money skills. What’s next?  A stock portfolio that she’s investing in to gift Carl when he graduates from college.

“In a couple of years he can cash out, use the money as a down payment for a house or continue to save. I learned to live without the money I was putting aside for college. The itch for ‘things’ is temporary.

“I’m teaching my son to pay into his future.”

How is Virginia529 making it easier for you and your family to save? Your experience could inspire another family to make their loved one’s dreams of higher education come true. Share your story today!

*This account owner’s experience with her Virginia529 account may not be representative of other account owners.

Resources to help you learn

Frequently Asked Questions

Find answers to the most common questions about 529 plans.

Smart Savers Academy

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Invest529 Portfolio Performance

Review and compare historical returns of Invest529 portfolios.