COLLEGE SAVINGS 101

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Five reasons competency-based education might be for you
http://www.savingforcollege.com/articles/five-reasons-competency-based-education-might-be-for-you-668

Posted: 2014-09-03

by Kathryn Flynn

The class of 2014 carries the largest amount of student debt in history, with average loan balances around $33,000. Many young adults will have a difficult time finding a career that will allow them to afford an independent lifestyle and be able to pay off their loans within 10 years. Americans are beginning to question whether a traditional college degree is even worth the cost.

But just because the idea of a 4-year university may be out of reach, you donít have to give up on the idea of college all together.

A new trend in online higher education has been evolving that aims to make a college degree more easily attainable. Competency-based education is quickly gaining popularity, as President Obama has cited the program as an innovative way to make college more affordable, and the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed legislation to advance the initiative.

Competency-based education clearly isnít for everyone. In fact, there are a number of high earning careers, such as engineering, where your salary pays for your degree within a reasonable amount of time. But these new online programs cater to those who may have financial or time restraints that prevent a traditional college experience. Here are five reasons a competency-based college program might be for you:

Start slideshow

1. You Can Still Use Your 529 Savings

  • A 529 college savings plan offers a professionally managed investment with tax free growth when the funds are spent toward qualified education expenses.
  • Some states also offer additional tax breaks for residents who invest in their home stateís plan.
  • Qualified education expenses include tuition and fees for any eligible institution. This includes Western Governors University and other reputable competency-based programs.
  • You can still take advantage of state tax incentives even if you havenít started saving yet. For example, if your state offers an income tax deduction on contributions, you may be able to claim the deduction even if you deposit funds today and withdraw them next week as long as they as used toward qualified expenses.
  • 529 plans are very flexible and allow you to change the beneficiary without any tax consequences. So if you save enough for a 4-year school, but decide that an online program better suits your schedule you can simply change the beneficiary to someone else who can use the funds for college.

Clearing Up the Confusion: Five Popular 529 Myths

2. You Might Graduate Faster

  • Competency-based programs let you take advantage of what you already know, allowing you to test out of a course if you can prove youíve mastered the content.
  • Unlike traditional post-secondary education programs that have specific lengths and credit hours, with competency-based programs students take as much time as they need to complete their degree.
  • For example, someone who has been in the workforce for sometime will likely be able to master skills in their field and earn a degree faster than a student who recently graduated high school.

5 Types of Students who Benefit from 529 Plans

3. You Will Likely Spend Less on Tuition

  • According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition, fees, and room and board for the 2013-2014 school year was $18,391 for a public 4-year school ($40,917 for private school!).
  • Most traditional college tuition is paid per credit hour. However, competency-based programs are not credit hour based.
  • These programs tend to charge a flat rate over a set period of time, such as every six months. Youíll only pay for the time it takes you to master the required skills for your degree.
  • Students only pay tuition for the time it takes them to complete the program.
  • This is an incentive for many students to work harder, since the faster you progress the less you end up paying.

4 Ways Families Are Tackling High College Costs

4. You Can Work Around Your Own Schedule

  • More and more college students are juggling other important obligations while they try to earn a degree.
  • According to the U.S. Department of Education, more than one-third of college students attend on a part-time basis and almost 20 percent have full time jobs.
  • With most competency-based programs, students have the flexibility to work where they want and when they want, allowing them to achieve a college education without sacrificing their jobs and family lives.

Top Four Savings Essentials For Young Families

5. Competency-Based Programs Are Results-Driven to Prepare You For a Career

  • According to researchers at Georgetown University, by 2020 over 60 percent of jobs will require some form of post-secondary education.
  • Competency-based programs offer personalized learning opportunities that offer content that is relevant to a studentís individual needs and responds to evolving industries such as healthcare.
  • New Hampshire Universityís College for America program, another reputable competency-based program, has partnered with McDonaldís, ConAgra, and Blue Cross Blue Shield to assist their workforce in obtaining college credits.

How Much Do You Need to Save for College? [Infographic]

The class of 2014 carries the largest amount of student debt in history, with average loan balances around $33,000. Many young adults will have a difficult time finding a career that will allow them to afford an independent lifestyle and be able to pay off their loans within 10 years. Americans are beginning to question whether a traditional college degree is even worth the cost.

But just because the idea of a 4-year university may be out of reach, you donít have to give up on the idea of college all together.

A new trend in online higher education has been evolving that aims to make a college degree more easily attainable. Competency-based education is quickly gaining popularity, as President Obama has cited the program as an innovative way to make college more affordable, and the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed legislation to advance the initiative.

Competency-based education clearly isnít for everyone. In fact, there are a number of high earning careers, such as engineering, where your salary pays for your degree within a reasonable amount of time. But these new online programs cater to those who may have financial or time restraints that prevent a traditional college experience. Here are five reasons a competency-based college program might be for you:

Start slideshow

1. You Can Still Use Your 529 Savings

  • A 529 college savings plan offers a professionally managed investment with tax free growth when the funds are spent toward qualified education expenses.
  • Some states also offer additional tax breaks for residents who invest in their home stateís plan.
  • Qualified education expenses include tuition and fees for any eligible institution. This includes Western Governors University and other reputable competency-based programs.
  • You can still take advantage of state tax incentives even if you havenít started saving yet. For example, if your state offers an income tax deduction on contributions, you may be able to claim the deduction even if you deposit funds today and withdraw them next week as long as they as used toward qualified expenses.
  • 529 plans are very flexible and allow you to change the beneficiary without any tax consequences. So if you save enough for a 4-year school, but decide that an online program better suits your schedule you can simply change the beneficiary to someone else who can use the funds for college.

Clearing Up the Confusion: Five Popular 529 Myths

2. You Might Graduate Faster

  • Competency-based programs let you take advantage of what you already know, allowing you to test out of a course if you can prove youíve mastered the content.
  • Unlike traditional post-secondary education programs that have specific lengths and credit hours, with competency-based programs students take as much time as they need to complete their degree.
  • For example, someone who has been in the workforce for sometime will likely be able to master skills in their field and earn a degree faster than a student who recently graduated high school.

5 Types of Students who Benefit from 529 Plans

3. You Will Likely Spend Less on Tuition

  • According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition, fees, and room and board for the 2013-2014 school year was $18,391 for a public 4-year school ($40,917 for private school!).
  • Most traditional college tuition is paid per credit hour. However, competency-based programs are not credit hour based.
  • These programs tend to charge a flat rate over a set period of time, such as every six months. Youíll only pay for the time it takes you to master the required skills for your degree.
  • Students only pay tuition for the time it takes them to complete the program.
  • This is an incentive for many students to work harder, since the faster you progress the less you end up paying.

4 Ways Families Are Tackling High College Costs

4. You Can Work Around Your Own Schedule

  • More and more college students are juggling other important obligations while they try to earn a degree.
  • According to the U.S. Department of Education, more than one-third of college students attend on a part-time basis and almost 20 percent have full time jobs.
  • With most competency-based programs, students have the flexibility to work where they want and when they want, allowing them to achieve a college education without sacrificing their jobs and family lives.

Top Four Savings Essentials For Young Families

5. Competency-Based Programs Are Results-Driven to Prepare You For a Career

  • According to researchers at Georgetown University, by 2020 over 60 percent of jobs will require some form of post-secondary education.
  • Competency-based programs offer personalized learning opportunities that offer content that is relevant to a studentís individual needs and responds to evolving industries such as healthcare.
  • New Hampshire Universityís College for America program, another reputable competency-based program, has partnered with McDonaldís, ConAgra, and Blue Cross Blue Shield to assist their workforce in obtaining college credits.

How Much Do You Need to Save for College? [Infographic]

 

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