Money Monday: Start saving for your child's college tuition - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Money Monday: Start saving for your child's college tuition

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BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) -

The cost of one year of education at a four year university, including room, board, books, and supplies, is an average of $15,000 in Louisiana.

Because paying for college can get so expensive, state officials are touring the state to publicize the START program for "National College Savings Month."

Melanie Amrhein is the Executive Director of the Office of Student Financial Assistance.  She is also a mother of a graduate student who has not taken out any student loans.

"I started saving for my child's college education when I was four months pregnant," Amrhein said.

She may have started saving early, but Amrhein also had some help.

"Your heart beats a little faster and you wonder how you're going to do it.  Well this is the perfect way."

Amrhein is talking about the START program which stands for "Student Tuition Assistance Revenue Trust."

It is a program State Treasurer, John Kennedy says is the last middle class tax break left.

Kennedy is especially encouraging low to middle income families to use START because the state will match up to 14 percent of their deposits and parents can control how much they put in the account. 

Louisiana is one of the few states with those incentives and users do not have to pay any extra fees.

"The program has grown a lot," Kennedy said.

"12 years ago, there were 3,300 accounts; a grand total of $4.8 million. Today, we have 44,000 accounts.  Right about $395 million…almost $400 million."

Kennedy says he wants those numbers higher because college is so important.

Recent reports show students in Louisiana are borrowing $1 billion every academic year so the time to "START" is now.

"We say it's the best kept secret in Louisiana and we really want everyone to know about it and take advantage of it," Amrhein said.

There is a calculator and more information on the START website to help parents and grandparents with their college savings just go to www.startsaving.la.gov.

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