It's never too early to start planning for college. The more preparation and saving Hoosier families do today, the more affordable higher education will be for their students tomorrow.
This fall, I encourage students of all ages and their parents to start thinking about college costs and make a plan for the future.
Families with young children can start saving for college early by taking advantage of Indiana's CollegeChoice 529 savings plan. This plan offers flexible investment choices, affordable minimum contributions and tax benefits to help families prepare for post-secondary expenses down the road. Indiana taxpayers are eligible for a state income tax credit of 20 percent of their CollegeChoice 529 contributions. According to MSN Money, Indiana's 529 is the most generous program of its kind in the nation. Visit collegechoicedirect.com to learn more about this unique benefit offered in our state.
For families with students in middle or high school, start exploring different college options early to find a program that's both valuable and financially feasible. Indiana is home to dozens of great higher education institutions, ranging from four-year universities to technical colleges to online degree programs. Indiana's diverse education scene means more Hoosiers are able to find programs that meet their individual needs. This is increasingly important as Indiana's workforce adapts to a global, 21st-century economy – one that relies more heavily on industry-specific skill sets and technical training.
When exploring these different post-secondary options, I urge Hoosier families to consider costs and look for programs that offer the most bang for their buck.
Indiana's Department of Workforce Development keeps a running report of the 50 fastest-growing, high-wage jobs in Indiana on its website at in.gov/dwd. Finding a degree program that aligns with one of these career areas will help guarantee students find meaningful employment upon graduation.
According to Affordable Colleges Online, Rose Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Indiana Institute of Technology in Fort Wayne, Purdue University and Indiana University top the list of Indiana colleges that give graduates the best return on their investment.
Indiana's community colleges, like Ivy Tech Northeast, and various online institutions are also options to consider when looking for an affordable, timely, skills-focused degree.
To compare costs of different colleges and calculate financial aid estimates, visit indianacollegecosts.org.
For seniors in high school, it's time to look for scholarships and other funding support to help turn career aspirations into a reality.
Indianacollegecosts.org also connects students with local scholarship opportunities based on county of residence, academic performance, degree interests and several other factors.
In addition, Hoosiers should be aware that Indiana changed its financial aid system this year to benefit high-performing high school students. The Indiana Commission for Higher Education now offers larger scholarship amounts for incoming college freshman who graduate high school with an academic honors or technical honors diploma. Be sure to investigate the different diploma options offered at local schools, as well as any dual credit or Advanced Placement opportunities for college-bound students.
Earning an advanced degree is more important today than ever before, and planning for a worthwhile post-secondary experience starts earlier than some may think. Help your student secure a bright future, and get started now.