Saving for college isn’t easy. Even though many of our state’s students qualify for the TOPS Program, that alone isn’t enough. To help with the increasing costs of higher education, Louisiana offers a 529 college savings plan called the Student Tuition and Revenue Trust (START). START has a new feature that makes it better than ever.

START has partnered with BabyMint, Inc., a micro-investment technology firm, to automatically deposit cash rebates into college savings accounts when account owners and their family members shop at any of the 700 participating retailers and 127,000 participating grocery stores. This new partnership turns everyday purchases into savings tools for college.

Here’s how it works. START account owners can get up to 25 percent in cash rebates on purchases using the company’s grocery coupon program. Various rebates are also available when parents shop online at the Gap, L.L. Bean, and Barnes & Noble, or when they purchase gift certificates at Macy’s, Pizza Hut or Starbucks.

BabyMint even offers a 5 percent monthly rebate on some long distance telephone service providers and an optional credit card with low APR, no annual fee, and 1 percent rebates on all purchases.

In addition to the new BabyMint features, START offers the following benefits:

– With $10, any member of a beneficiary’s family, any person or other legal entity (business, organization, church or association), or any student can open a START account.

– The program enables parents and other individuals to open college savings accounts for beneficiaries of any age.

– The interest earned on START deposits is exempt from federal and state taxes when used to pay for college.

– The state will match 2 percent to 14 percent of START deposits (depending on income), and accounts have historically earned 6 percent in interest.

– Account owners can exempt up to $2,400 in deposits per account per year from income reported on state tax returns.

As a START account owner myself, I can honestly say it is a sound, innovative and easy way for anyone to save for a child’s college education. I cant wait to register with BabyMint to take advantage of every possible dollar I can save for my sons education.

For more information, visit the State Treasury’s Web site at www.latreasury.comor call the Office of Student Financial Assistance at 1-800-259-5626, ext. 1012.