The dream of sending a child to college is becoming a reality for more Louisiana families. Thanks to the Louisianas Tuition Opportunity Program for Students(TOPS), more of our state’s top students are taking advantage of higher education opportunities.
However, TOPS is not a cure-all.

Many students fall short of the programs acceptance requirements, making them ineligible for the tuition stipend and burdening them or their parents with the full cost of furthering their education. And those students who are awarded the TOPS stipend are still expected to pay the costs of their books, supplies, equipment, and room and board. Sometimes these hidden sticker costs can prove burdensome as well.

To help families acquire the resources needed to educate their children after high school, the State Legislature has implemented a college savings plan known as START. The Student Tuition Assistance and Revenue Trust (START) works much like a savings account. Parents or grandparents deposit money into a START account. Investment professionals in the State Treasury then invest the money to get the highest rate of interest possible consistent with maintaining safety of the principal. The principal and interestare then used to pay for a childs post-secondary education at any eligible university, community college, state technical college or vocational institute.
A unique aspect of program is that it is the only education savings program that allows families to earn matching funds from the state.

The matching funds are called Tuition Assistance Grants, which are awarded according to the adjusted gross income of the person(s) who opens the account. For example, families earning less than $15,000 inadjusted gross income can receive a 14 percent match from the state. Thats on top of the interest earned by the account. Moreover, the earnings from START are exempt from state taxes, and federal taxes are deferred until the time of withdrawal. The program has no fees, so 100 percent of the deposits go toward earning interest, maximizing the amount of return on your money.

To receive more information about START, please contact my office at P. O. Box 44154, Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70804, or call 225-342-0010. You can also contact the Office of Student Financial Assistance at 1-800-259-5626, extension 1012, or visit the START website on the Internet at www.osfa.state.la.us.

It is never too soon to begin thinking about a child’s college education. Please encourage your family members and friends to pursue sound investment opportunities, to inquire about academic requirements for qualifying scholarships and grants, and to encourage our children to value the ability and opportunity to learn.