College is getting more expensive. Tuition plus room and board at a four-year institution cost more than $23,000, on average, in the 2011-2012 school year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, about $10,000 a year more than the price tag in 1991-1992.
Paying for college takes a lot of planning, scrimping and saving. And no state does more to help its citizens save for their children’s future than Nevada.
A new survey of college savings plans known as 529 plans rated Nevada’s at the top of the heap, along with plans available to residents of Alaska, Maryland and Utah. The survey said those four states offer plans with the best potential investment options — and analysts singled out Nevada’s plan because its size helps reduce consumer fees through economies of scale.
State officials have gone even further to entice residents to save. Last year, state Treasurer Kate Marshall (D) established 529 savings plans for 3,000 kindergartners in 13 rural counties. The pilot program deposited $50 in each child’s account — a small amount, but the action could have a big impact.
In an interview, Marshall cited a 2010 study that found children who have savings accounts are almost seven times more likely to attend college than those without accounts. Having a savings account, the study found, was a better predictor of whether a child would attend college than race or his or her parents’ net worth.
“If you give a child a college savings account — even 10 bucks, it doesn’t matter — the child tends to have a view that they have a future,” Marshall said. “The whole idea is, how do we facilitate a college-bound culture?”
Nevada has room for improvement: Only 51.8 percent of high school graduates went directly to college in 2010, according to the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems. That’s one of the lowest rates in the country, well behind Connecticut, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Dakota and Minnesota, all of which sent more than 70 percent of graduating seniors directly to college.
Implementing a savings plan for kids at an early age, and giving residents a plan that offers the best returns, are some of the ways the Silver State is striving for gold.