'529 Challenge' offers a year of college tuition as prize

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Michigan's 529 plans - the Michigan Education Trust (MET) and the Michigan Education Savings Program (MESP) - are challenging parents to learn about saving for college during September, National College Savings Month. Those parents who take the "challenge" will have the chance to win a one-year full-benefits MET contract, valued at approximately $10,000.

The Michigan 529 Challenge, which will run from September 1, 2007, through October 31, 2007, offers a fun, interactive environment in which parents can learn about the rising cost of college and how these two programs can help them save toward this critical goal.

Michigan's changing economy and double-digit increases in college expenses have highlighted the urgency of saving for college - and starting early.

"Time flies," said Robin Lott, director of MET. "The best time for parents to start saving for their children's college education is when the children are young."

"We are very excited about the 529 Challenge," said Bruce Sheinhaus, MESP program director. "We really want to help parents take that first step toward providing their children with a college education and a brighter future."

For complete rules and to enter, parents and grandparents can go to the 529 Challenge web site. The grand prize must go to a student in eighth grade or lower. The Web site offers information about MESP and MET and downloadable activity sheets for kids. In addition to the grand prize, there will be 100 instant win prizes in the form of $50 Futuretrust MasterCard gift cards. Futuretrust is a rebate program that helps people create additional savings through everyday shopping and dining experiences.

Like most states, Michigan established its 529 plans to encourage parents, grandparents, and other family members to save for college expenses. The August 2007 issue of Money magazine calls 529 plans the best way for families to save for college and recommends that families look to their own state's plans first.

MET, which was the first prepaid program in the nation, allows parents to prepurchase tuition at state universities and colleges. MESP is a savings program that covers qualified college expenses including books, supplies, required fees, and certain room and board costs.

"We are proud to offer such terrific savings opportunities to Michigan families," said State Treasurer Robert J. Kleine. "MET and MESP provide significant savings on their own, but also work well in tandem, should families want to utilize both options."

"My advice to parents is to start when your children are babies and save monthly," said Laura Sosnowski of Brighton, MI. She and her husband, Scott, opened MESP accounts for their two children - Madeline, 11, and Sean, 9 - two years ago. "We should have started when our children were babies."

MESP and MET will offer free webinars in September and October to assist parents and others as they explore savings options. You can visit the MESP and MET Web sites for more information and to register for a webinar.

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