Letter to the Editor

Breaking down obstacles to higher education

Friday, October 23, 2009

To the Editor:

Our country is facing a crisis in education and in Indiana we are changing the way we think about what higher learning means to our future.

According to the U.S. Education Secretary, 55-60 year olds in the U.S. today have the highest high school and college graduation rates of any advanced economy in the world. et, among 25-34 year olds, we are below average for high school graduation and middle of the pack for college graduation rates.

Throughout our nation's history, parents always assumed their children would have ever-increasing educational opportunities. But now the statistics are clear, we're "dumbing down" and it's happening at a time of increasing technology.

To compete in the 21st Century global marketplace, we need to do much more to promote post-high school learning.

Toward that end, leaders of many of Indiana's higher education institutions, advocacy groups and education savings plans met this summer to help devise a plan. We concluded that change must begin by breaking down obstacles standing between everyday families and an education beyond high school. Whether students are considering a community college, a vocational school, or a four-year-private university, the primary challenge is the cost.

Too often the full expense of a higher education is not considered until the final two years before college enrollment. Success in saving for college lies in better planning, saving, and using all resources available to Indiana families. Yes, the economy is difficult today, but it cannot be used as an excuse for not saving.

Indiana's CollegeChoice 529 plan, for example, is a savings option designed specifically for education after high school. Money can be withdrawn tax free to pay for tuition, mandatory fees, books, supplies, and certain room and board costs. In fact, savingforcollege.com, an independent industry website, gave CollegeChoice 529 Direct Savings Plan a "5-Cap resident rating," (their highest) and a "4-Cap non-resident rating."

Everyone should be saving! CollegeChoice hosted the first ever "Walk In to My Future" pledge- walk on September 25. Our goal was about more than saving money, it was to inspire students to realize that a post-high school education is something they can achieve. We welcomed more than two thousand Indianapolis fifth graders to White River State Park and many of our participants may look back at the Walk as the first steps they took towards higher education.

Lessons from the Walk apply to students and adults pursuing retraining for a new career. First, saving even a little can make a difference. Second, you do not have to do it alone -- enlist the aid of your friends and family.

Finally and most importantly, take your future into your own hands.

Indiana's CollegeChoice savings plan is now recognized as a national leader.

We're proud to play a role in helping our Hoosiers and all Americans focus on higher learning.

State Treasurer

Richard Mourdock