In the first year of a child’s life, parents are busy focusing on their infant’s growth and developmental milestones. They often aren’t thinking ahead to the future – like the beginning of a college career 18 years from now. However, a child’s college education should be top of mind from birth.
As the costs of higher education continue to rise, opening a college savings account is a must for families – and the earlier you start saving for college, the better.
That’s where the Michigan Education Trust, also known as MET, comes in. MET is a state-sponsored 529 prepaid tuition plan for undergrad tuition for Michigan children. Since you prepay, that means you’re able to lock in today’s tuition rates.
MET contracts are flexible, transferable and refundable. And, most importantly, they ease the financial strain of college tuition – particularly when families begin investing in a plan at birth.
If you start saving for college when your child is a baby, saving can be easier with smaller payments that add up over the course of his or her entire childhood.
Opening an account with MET is easy and boasts big benefits for parents and their future collegians. Here’s why.
How MET works
Buying tuition at a lower rate seems like a no-brainer, but payment options and contract details can seem confusing at first. Before getting started, it’s important to understand what 529 savings plans are.
A 529 savings plan is a state-sponsored college savings plan. The “529” simply refers to an Internal Revenue Service code that means it’s exempt from state and federal taxes.
Aside from tax incentives, MET’s 529 plan is portable, transferable and flexible – taking into consideration that things change for families and their students.
Students who opt to attend a Michigan private college or an out-of-state college may direct a refund to that college. Refunds are also available for students who receive a full scholarship, enlist in the military or opt of out college, as well as in the case of death or disability.
In addition, after the beneficiary of a MET contract turns 18 years old, all or some of the contract may be transferred to an immediate family member without any tax implications.
And students who need more time before college – perhaps they choose to take a gap year or experience a setback – have 15 academic years from their expected high school graduation year to use tuition benefits.
While the thought of paying for tuition is daunting, MET helps to ease the pressure through three payment options for families to choose from:
- Pay-As-You-Go plan: Buy at least one credit hour for any age. After that, add $25 minimum at any time.
- Lump sum plan: Buy one or more full semesters (15 credits/semester) for any age.
- Monthly plans: Commit to buy at least one semester of college over four, seven, 10 or 15 years.
Opening an account is simple and can be done solely online. Have other accounts for your child? You can roll money from other 529 programs (including the Michigan Education Savings Program), Coverdell Education Savings Account funds and qualified U.S. savings bonds into your child’s account, as well.
Birthdays and holidays are the perfect opportunity for your family members to get involved in your child’s college savings. Instead of gifting another toy or outfit, why not ask your child’s grandparents, aunts and uncles to contribute to his or her MET 529 college savings plan?
MET makes it easy for someone who wants to contribute to an existing account. If your child’s grandparents want to contribute to your child’s Pay-As-You-Go contract, they can add to the contract at any time. All that your family member needs is your child’s contract number to make an electronic payment via MET’s secure online payment site.
A friend or relative can also start a Pay-As-You-Go contract for your child. In fact, MET’s website features a Gift Declarations page, which allows family and friends to download their own MET contract purchase certificate to gift to a mom-to-be as a baby shower gift or present it upon the baby’s arrival.
For more information on the Michigan Education Trust, or to open an account for your child, visit SETwithMET.com.