Higher education investment now can be crucial

From: The Times and Democrat
30 Nov 2015

South Carolina students are doing well in gaining assistance to pay for higher education.

Scholarships and/or financial aid are imperative for nearly every student in order to pay the tab with any hope of avoiding prohibitive student debt for years after earning a degree.

S.C. Superintendent of Education Molly M. Spearman announced that for the fourth consecutive year, a survey shows South Carolina students have earned more than $1 billion in college scholarships.

The class of 2015 totaled $1,344,307,493 in college scholarships, which includes the amount awarded from the South Carolina Education Lottery.

Lottery scholarships accounted for 34.6 percent of the total amount of scholarships earned, while all other scholarships accounted for 65.4 percent.

The previous five years’ scholarship totals were $917 million (2010), $966 million (2011), $1.063 billion (2012), $1.15 billion (2013), and $1.11 billion (2014).

Since 2010, South Carolina students have earned $6.546 billion in college scholarships.

This is a great accomplishment for our students, Spearman said of the 2015 total. Teachers, principals, and parents are encouraging our students to take that next step in their education, and our students continue to meet the high expectations we have set for them. I am very proud of what the class of 2015 has achieved and wish them the very best as they continue their freshman year.

Meanwhile, another state official is doing his part to foster higher education, aware that even with scholarships and financial aid, most students and their families will have to pick up costs associated with college.

Treasurer Curtis M. Loftis Jr. wants South Carolinians to be proactive in planning for the costs of higher education, not waiting until students in future classes must make decisions about college. He advocates South Carolina’s Future Scholar 529 College Savings Plan as the ideal tool and has some solid reinforcement in his endorsement.

The Future Scholar 529 College Savings Plan has earned a Bronze rating by Morningstar, a leading provider of independent investment research. South Carolina’s plan was recognized likely to outperform its peers on a long-term, risk-adjusted basis.

Morningstar evaluates college-savings plans based on five pillars process, performance, people, parent and price -- and assigns medal ratings, or neutral and negative ratings. South Carolina’s Future Scholar plan maintained its 2014 Bronze rating.
We are pleased Morningstar continues to rate our college-savings plan as one of the best in the country, Loftis said.We’ve reduced program management fees and expenses for South Carolina residents.

Money invested in the 529 plan can be used to pay qualified education costs at eligible institutions in any state, and some international schools. These include two- and four-year public and private colleges, graduate and professional programs, and certain vocational and technical schools.
The Future Scholar 529 College Savings Plan is a smart way to save money for your child’s college education, Loftis said. Funds can be used for tuition, fees, room, board and other education-related expenses.

The Future Scholar 529 College Savings Plan is sponsored by the State of South Carolina and administered by the South Carolina State Treasurer’s Office.

Saving for college is important for students at any level, but dedicating funds when children are still years away from completing high school allows every dollar set aside for college to grow into more dollars. The money represents insurance for a child’s college education that, hopefully, leaves the graduate without strangling debt that is plaguing so many today.

Loftis says, One of the most important ways we can help our children achieve success is to clear a path toward a debt-free higher education.

To open an account or to get more information about the Future Scholar 529 College Savings Plan, visit www.futurescholar.com or call 888-244-5674.