In today’s economy, doing something after high school is a necessity for students who are ready to enter the job market, as they look to earn a good enough living to raise a family.
Research by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that individuals who complete some level of higher education have more opportunities and higher earnings potential throughout their lifetimes.
It’s also estimated that 60% of all jobs in Nevada will require some form of higher education by 2025. So, whether it’s trade school, an apprenticeship program, community college or a four-year college degree, we need Nevada’s students to pursue these various higher education options, if we want our workforce to remain competitive with other states in the ever-changing global economy.
But let’s face it, the costs of higher education just keep getting more expensive. And for some families, that dream of helping your kids go to college, to put them on the best path to a good-paying career, is slowly slipping away.
Across the country and here in Nevada, higher education costs have steadily increased over time, almost tripling since 1980. Of course, as these costs to attend colleges and universities have gone up, students have been increasingly forced to take out student loans to make ends meet.
Over the past decade, student loan debt has become the largest source of consumer debt in our country. In Nevada, roughly 347,000 borrowers have roughly $11.8 billion in outstanding student loan debt, for an average debt burden of $33,743 per borrower. To make matters even worse, our state also has one of the largest student loan default rates in the entire country.
Taking out a student loan is one of the biggest financial decisions we allow 18-year-olds to make in their lifetimes, and oftentimes they are burdened with interest payments on these loans for decades.
To assist borrowers in navigating their student loans, both the federal government and state of Nevada have been stepping up to help individuals gain access to much-needed loan forgiveness programs and income-driven repayment plans.
In 2019, Nevada created its first student loan ombudsman in the Treasurer’s Office to assist borrowers in understanding their loans, identifying strategies to help them pay off loans more efficiently, and helping students qualify for various public-sector loan forgiveness programs.
Additionally, the White House has been working to try to provide borrowers with thousands of dollars in student debt relief over the past year. Unfortunately, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down President Joe Biden’s student loan debt relief plan last month, many borrowers have become increasingly worried about the impact that outstanding student loans will have on their finances.
With higher education costs continuing to increase, many families across our state are worried about their children’s ability to succeed and whether or not they will have to take out significant loans that will follow them for the rest of their lives.
Fortunately, there is a way to avoid this entirely for Nevada families, since they can help prepare their children for lifelong opportunity and the future job market by planning ahead for their higher education costs.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Nevada Prepaid Tuition Program, which is one of only 12 programs of its kind in the country. Prepaid tuition allows families to prepay their child’s higher education costs, by locking in today’s rates for in-state college tuition, so their child or grandchild can use it in the future when they are ready to attend school.
Since its creation, the program has helped over 23,000 families affordably prepare their children for higher education, and it is the most well-funded program of its kind in the country.
Additionally, the program offers flexibility and portability, while providing a number of payment options that are workable within every family’s budget.
When you sign your child or grandchild up with a prepaid tuition plan, the money you contribute is invested responsibly over time, and when they graduate from high school and attend college, the program will pay the in-state rate of credit hours at two- and four-year public colleges and universities in Nevada, or transfer the in-state rate of credit-hours to any eligible institution on behalf of the student.
In other words, when your child is ready to attend college, the number of tuition credit-hours purchased years ago will be ready and waiting and for them. This provides families with the peace of mind that their child’s education is taken care of.
Every kid in Nevada should have the opportunity to follow their dreams and pursue whatever higher education option allows them to earn a good living without having to worry about how the bills are going to be paid.
As Nevada’s chief investment officer, it is my responsibility to keep our state on solid financial ground and take advantage of good investment opportunities to help move Nevada forward.
Investing in a prepaid tuition plan is one of the best investment decisions a family can make when they are thinking of ways to plan for, save for and pay for their child’s higher education. For more information, and to sign up for prepaid tuition, visit NVigate.gov.
Zach Conine currently serves as Nevada’s 23rd State Treasurer.
This story originally appeared in Las Vegas Weekly.