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Secure your child’s education with a 529 Plan

When they’re young, children dream about becoming doctors, artists, teachers, veterinarians, and many other things. But in order for those dreams to come true and for kids to actually become professionals, it’s important for them to attend and finish college.

A good college education can lead to that dream career. Though it’s a major investment, there are flexible payment plans that can help.

529 Plans

Known as the “College Savings Plan,” 529 Plans let you start investing early for your children’s future college career. These plans are generally sponsored by the state, state agencies or educational institutions.

There are two types of 529 Plans:

1. Prepaid tuition plans. Also called “guaranteed savings plans” in some states, this plan locks in future tuition rates at public institutions. Some private universities also offer similar plans.

2. College savings plan. This one is similar to a 401K retirement account, but the money you invest is only used to pay for your child’s education. You can choose the amount (free of taxes) to be deducted from each paycheck. The amount saved will be used to pay for college when the time comes, or it can be used for related expenses, such as housing, books or school supplies. 

To open a 529 Plan, contact your state’s program administrator.

Benefits

Depending on your choice, your 529 Plan will let you:

  • Select a plan regardless of your income or age of your children.
  • Transfer your plan from one state to another. You can use this online tool to compare state plans.
  • Have control of your money and manage it the way you want.
  • Allow anyone to contribute to the savings plan, whether it’s a family member or friend.
  • Transfer your plan to help someone else pay for school.

529 Plans are tax-free, as long as the money is used to pay for college. If, for any reason, you decide to use the savings for something else, you can withdraw the money as long as you pay the taxes due.

Resources

Use the College Savings Calculator to figure out the amount you must invest each month to cover all your child’s educational costs. The budget calculator will help you compare school expenses against your income and financial aid.

Read this post in Spanish.

Five Tools to Help You Eat Healthier at College

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Between late nights cramming for exams and the overwhelming number of food selections in the dining hall, trying to make healthy food choices on a college campus can be daunting. For the second week of National Nutrition Month, we rounded up some resources to help you avoid packing on the pounds during your college years.

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To make sure you’re the first to get all the healthy eating resources we’re sharing this month make sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and sign up to get email updates sent right to your inbox.

Stay Healthy at College with MyPlate On Campus

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By Sasha B. Bard, MS, RD, USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion

In March 2013, the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion launched the MyPlate On Campus initiative to help spread healthy eating messages to young adults during their college years. What makes MyPlate On Campus unique is that it not only empowers students to improve their own eating and physical activity habits, but also encourages them to bring their peers along for the ride.

The college environment can be hard to navigate and students may need a little help. Students are learning to manage a busy class schedule, make food decisions in all-you-can-eat settings, and live on their own for the first time. MyPlate On Campus shows young people how to build healthy habits with practical tips and tools.

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Here are a few simple steps to stay healthy on campus.

  • In a dorm room, stock the mini-fridge.

  • Have a variety of pre-cut and pre-washed veggies on hand. Try carrots, peppers or sugar snap peas.

  • Hummus, salsa and nut butters used as dips make veggies even tastier.

In the dining hall, re-think your drink!

  • Americans drink about 400 calories everyday from sodas, cappuccinos, energy drinks, sports drinks, etc.

  • Drink water to manage your calorie intake.

Stay Active.

  • Vow to take the stairs to class instead of the elevator.

  • Join an intramural team.

  • Choose a fitness class as an elective.

For more healthy campus-living ideas, refer to the Mini-Fridge Makeover , Be Choosey in the Dining Hall and Stay Fit on Campus resources, from the 10 Tips Nutrition Education Sheets. These tip sheets can be placed on a refrigerator or bulletin board for a healthy reminder.

Students interested in promoting health and wellness to others in their campus communities are invited to sign up as a MyPlate On Campus Ambassador.

This partnership program is designed to motivate students to take on a leadership role at their school by teaching others about nutrition and physical activity. Ambassadors complete an online training and have access to a MyPlate On Campus Toolkit which helps them get started. The Toolkit contains resources specific to college students and offers tips for Ambassadors as well as the faculty/staff supporting them.

There are currently more than 1,700 Ambassadors taking action on campuses in all 50 states. Cooking demos, grocery store tours, and health fairs are just a few activities Ambassadors are using to spread MyPlate across their campuses.

In addition, Ambassadors are using SuperTracker, a free online tool that provides users with a personalized nutrition and physical activity plan. SuperTracker allows Ambassadors and their peers to track their food choices, set activity goals, and monitor progress.

Follow MyPlate on Twitter @MyPlate and on Facebook to learn more about the MyPlate On Campus initiative.  For more information visit ChooseMyPlate.gov.

Is That Online Degree Really Worth Anything?

Growth in technology has made it easier for more students to have access to online courses to fit higher education into their already busy lives. The flexibility of online courses makes it easy for students to attend class, complete assignments and get their degrees.

But when you’re not meeting with a professor face-to-face or attending classes on a campus, it can be hard to tell a legitimate online college from a fraudulent one. The Internet has made it easier for more and more of these “diploma mills” to spring up and take your money, while granting you a worthless degree.

Diploma mills, so dubbed by the Department of Education, operate without supervision from a state or other professional organization. The degrees they grant are either fraudulent or completely worthless because of a lack of proper educational standards.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) suggests that consumers protect themselves from diploma mills by doing the proper research ahead of time. The BBB also suggests looking for these red flags to alert you to a fraudulent institution:

  • Degrees that can be earned in less time than at an accredited postsecondary institution, an example would be earning a Bachelor’s degree in a few months.
  • Tuition paid on a per-degree basis, or discounts for enrolling in multiple degree programs. Accredited institutions charge by credit hours, course, or semester.
  • Little or no interaction with professors.
  • Names that are similar to well known reputable universities.
  • Addresses that are box numbers or suites. That campus may very well be a mail drop box or someone’s attic.

Learn more about diploma mills and what to watch for before you enroll in an online university.

Not sure how you’re going to pay for college? The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a guide to help you figure it out.