Tuesday, March 8, 2011


For Five Long Years, hubby and I have scrimped, saved, and scrimped some more to fully fund our son's college fund.  I had started researching college plans when my now-17-year-old was about 3 years old.  I searched and searched for the best college savings vehicles, and the College Illinois 529 prepaid tuition plan appeared to be the best one.  I sent away for the materials/application and I read and re-read it over and over again.  I called the Plan Office and bugged inquired about everything that I could think of.  But, *sigh,* it appears that all of my hard work might have been in vain. 

According to this Chicago Business.com article, Illinois has the deepest shortfall of any such fund in the United States and is plowing money into unconventional — and some financial experts say high-risk — investments to close the gap. Great....Just Great.....My son is just now finishing his Junior year in high school and he is on track to graduate in May of 2012.  The plan is for him to enter college the Fall of 2012.  This is definitely NOT the type of news I wanted to read today!

This is an overview of the Illinois college (prepaid) savings plans:

When I signed for this plan, I was assured, by the Plan Office, that this money was safe, secure, and would be there when I needed it.  I was told that this was a Contract and the only way it could be broken was if I (a) did not pay my monthly Plan Payment or (b) I initiated the paperwork to cancel the contract and take my money out (minus interest, of course). 

I feel cheated and robbed at this point.....BUT, those of you who read this blog regularly know that I am not going to take this bad new lying down.  I am going to call, and call, and call until I get some answers.  Because, the only way to be informed, and stay informed, is to get the information "straight from the horse's mouth."  So, that's what I'm going to do. 

I'll keep you posted on what I find out. In the meantime, I would suggest that College Illinois take this phrase, "The pot of gold at the end of your child's college rainbow. Prepay and save on college tuition" off of their page.  Because, the "pot of gold" might turn out to be coal..... 

In the meantime, do any of you participate in your State's Prepaid College Plan?  If so, is your money safe?



  1. dang. I can't afford to prepay, pay or postpay college for my kids... My parents had 8 kids and told us that if we wanted to go to college, we had to pay for it all ourselves. We got loans, grants, small scholarships, work study, etc... I don't know if our finances will help them out or not...
    I'm banking on a full ride scholarship for my 16 year old... And she very well might get one!

  2. Just the news no parent wants to hear!
    I would hazard a guess that all the pre-paid plans are in trouble, just like all the state govts. are in financial trouble.
    If it all collapses, the state schools will too if no one can afford the cost of the schools and the price of loans. The schools will have to close or lay off/fire workers/teachers/admin./etc. so they can lower the cost to attend.
    If you wait it out long enough, the schools that are left will get cheaper, right?lol
    Go chew on this interesting article.... http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/07/opinion/07krugman.html?_r=1
    Though I don't agree with some of his assumptions at the end of it, it raises alot of questions on the wisdom of getting a degree nowadays.
    Hang in there and fight the good fight!!

  3. Thanks for the comments, guys...they made me smile!

    I know what you mean, McVal...my sister and I went to Jr. College, back in the 80s, on a Pell Grant and a small student loan. I was able to work and go to school and I didn't have to touch my loan.

    But, since we only have one child that is going to College, I wanted to be able to at least help out with the tuition. If I had more than one going, this would not have worked out...way too expensive!!!

    Sluggy...I am going over to go and read that link that you posted! And, you're right...maybe the "silver lining" in all of this is that schools will be forced to lower their costs! :)

  4. Don't panic, pally. I think there is going to be some hell to pay about the mismanagement of that fund.

    We put our money into mutual funds for the kids' college. It was all great until the market collapsed just as Colin was heading to college. And yes, I freaked out too.

    While you probably won't be able to give your child a full ride, you will be able to get him to college. And while you are freaking out now, somehow it works out. Between some scholarships (local and from the school he will attend), grants, loans, and some cash, college is doable. Really. It isn't as bad as I thought it would be and we aren't rolling in it.

    Colin works on campus to pay for books and everyday expenses. We chip in, but he will have some loans as well.

    Don't count on full rides (McVal). They are few and far between. Smart kids are a dime a dozen and brains rarely get you the full ride anymore. You have to have something else that earns you that full ride and even then, schools don't give them out like they used to.

    If you ever want to talk about college--let me know. I can call you and ease your mind a bit.

  5. Lin, thanks for the comment!! I predict that I'm going to need to talk to you before he starts college! :)

    I am still REALLY MAD about this whole College Illinois thing. REALLYMAD!!!!!!!

  6. You have my phone number, A.Marie. Anytime I can ease your mind, just call me. :) I'll talk you off the ledge! Hahahaha!

  7. Well Alisa, I have one done with college, one in college and one starting college. And Dan and I both got our degrees in the last 5 years so yeah, Ive researched alot of college stuff.
    Sheri got a free ride because she studied special education and then taught at a particular school. Hubby got almost free ride thru work. I got loans that I hope to pay off in the next month (yeah). Spencer is hoping for a DCFS scholarship that will be a free ride. We will know in about 2 months. He is also looking at other scholarship options.
    Now Tom... oh my Tom.. even though he has received a 50 percent tuition reduction due to his talent, and he had not had to pay room/board because he works as an RA, he is going to have quite a bit of debt because of where he attended. I hope that he will get a grant for his sr year that will cover the remaining half of his tuition.
    Only 2 more kids to go

  8. I'm a parent in the same boat with College Illinois ... any new info?

  9. Anonymous, I found this link on the College Illinois site:

    It does address the question of what happens if the funds are not available.

    The State says that the tuition program (through College Illinois is stable; however, financial planners are urging caution. This uncertainty is causing fewer families to invest in College Illinois and causing more families to cancel their contracts.


    One financial planner stated that parents should take the money out of College Illinois, the closer the child gets to graduation from high school, and invest the money conservatively until it is needed. I think that this idea is totally NOT feasible. Because, no matter how you slice and dice it, what a family pays for the contract, once cashed out, will NOT cover college costs. That is what prepaid means: to pay today's rates and use it in the future!

    So, that is the newest info that I have now. If I get anymore current info, I'll update. My son is starting college in the Fall of 2012; when is your child starting?

  10. Any update on this? My son is only in 1st grade and I keep paying each month. Should I stop?

    1. You'll have to copy and paste the link that I provided. :)

  11. Dear Anonymous, my daily paper had this as the headline yesterday morning:


    I intend to contact College Illinois by phone and ask them some questions. I will update you on my findings!!