Prepaid college tuition ‘priceless’ for Michigan family with three sons

Tom and Laurel Henkel can almost see the finish line.
Their three sons were in elementary school when the Battle Creek family first heard about Michigan Education Trust (MET). MET, the 529 prepaid college tuition plan administered by the Michigan Department of Treasury, allows families to pay for future college costs at today’s rates.
The Henkels were inspired by longtime friends Mark and Debbie Dickson, who purchased a full MET contract in 2005 for their newborn daughter, Andrea.
“I had MET envy. We really liked the idea of locking in future college tuition costs at 2008 prices,” said Laurel Henkel, a registered nurse.
The Henkels, who own Henkel Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep in Battle Creek, understand the economic unpredictability of the auto industry. So, while paying on three MET contracts for seven years wasn’t fun, they said the peace of mind was priceless.
Today they’re nearly in the home stretch: Logan, their eldest, graduated from Western Michigan University with a business degree; Grant is a WMU senior; and Cole, their youngest, just started his freshman year at Michigan State University.
“Year after year, you’d read about college prices going up,” Laurel Henkel said. “But that never affected us because our costs were already locked in. It was a really great feeling and reaffirmed that we did the right thing for our family.”
Overwhelmed? Every bit helps
Financial planners say that parents (and other loved ones) should start accumulating college savings as early as possible.
But that’s not always easy – especially in these turbulent economic times. According to a recent statewide survey commissioned by MET, 57% of nonsavers feel “overwhelmed” by the prospect of setting money aside.
For those who can’t come up with a chunk of cash to start a college savings account, MET’s Pay-As-You-Go purchase option is a possible solution. Pay-As-You-Go allows an initial purchase of a single credit hour versus an entire semester’s worth of tuition. After that, you can add as little as $25 to it whenever you want.
MET also sells contracts through lump-sum and monthly purchase plans that require minimum purchases of a semester’s worth of tuition. Contracts can be used at Michigan public and private colleges and universities, as well as out-of-state schools.
“Whether it’s a little bit at a time or in bigger lump sums, MET allows families to save at their own pace,” said Robin Lott, MET executive director. “The important thing is to start saving as much as you can as soon as you can.”
$100 match in September
September is College Savings Month and has grown into a popular time for Michigan families to start setting aside cash for higher education.
To promote college savings, MET is offering a $100 match and online enrollment fee waiver for the first 300 new prepaid tuition contracts purchased starting Sept. 1.
“We try to make saving for college as easy as possible for Michigan families, and we’re hopeful our September match will encourage folks to begin setting at least some money aside,” Lott said.
Now is also a good time to act because MET will close enrollment on Sept. 30, as it does every year, in order to review and adjust pricing. Enrollment is expected to resume in December.
“Every dollar a family saves is a dollar they or their future college student won’t have to borrow,” Lott said.
Laurel Henkel says she can’t say enough good things about MET and its staff – especially when her sons were starting college and it was time to activate their MET contracts.
“I love MET. They’ve been good stewards of our money and their working relationship with the colleges is flawless,” Henkel said. “We are so grateful to our friends the Dicksons for first telling us about MET, so we try to share the MET message whenever we can.”
Have questions? More information is available or 800-MET-4-KID.