If you are trying to think through the complicated decision of how to save for your child's education expenses, you'll want to consider the Colorado CollegeInvest program. CollegeInvest, on the Web at www.collegeinvest.org, offers information about a variety of financing choices including savings plans, scholarships and student loans.

The Colorado 529 Savings Plan allows both federal and state tax benefits for savers. All of the CollegeInvest plan earnings are tax-free from federal and state taxes if used for qualified education expenses - plus every dollar you contribute can be deducted from state income tax (up to your adjusted gross income for the year). Your savings can be used at Colorado schools and at any eligible public or private institution in the United States.

Savings choices at CollegeInvest include a Direct Portfolio College Savings Plan managed by the Vanguard Group and based on index funds. This plan can be purchased directly from CollegeInvest. The Scholars Choice College Savings Plan is managed by a team of managers from Citigroup Asset Management and is available through investment advisers.

Savers who select the Direct Portfolio account receive a percentage of their eligible purchases as college savings from participating companies including grocery stores, gas stations, drug stores, restaurants, hotels, retail stores and online shopping merchants from the Upromise program. Savings can be transferred automatically into a CollegeInvest Direct Portfolio account. If you are a new saver with the CollegeInvest Direct Portfolio Savings Plan, you can open your rewards account at the completion of your online enrollment process.

CollegeInvest has a scholarship program. They will award 70 Opportunity Scholarships in the amount of $1,000 to students attending colleges, universities and vocational colleges in Colorado for the fall of 2005. In addition, 55 Service Scholarships of $6,000 each payable over two years will be awarded to students willing to complete volunteer work serving children. Names are drawn randomly from all scholarship entries with no GPA or essay requirements. Entry forms must be submitted online at www.collegeinvest.org/Scholarships/IndexScholar.htm by April 5, 2005.

CollegeInvest also provides loans for students and their parents. The Federal Stafford Loan (for students) and the PLUS loan (for parents) has several benefits including a 3 percent rebate of the borrowed amount when the loan is disbursed, a .25 percent reduction if the loan is automatically repaid from your bank, a 1 percent reduction for making on-time loan repayments for the first 24 months, and an additional 1 percent reduction if payments are on time for the next 24 months. The loan interest rates are set by the government and are the same at all lenders. Teachers working half-time or greater in mathematics, science, special education and linguistically diverse education in Colorado may qualify to get up to $2,000 a year repaid on their student loans.

If you decide to establish a savings account, you'll want to compare types of portfolios, performance data for each portfolio and fees and expenses. You can find this information at the CollegeInvest Web site.

You can establish an account online or you can call 1-800-448-2424 for a packet of information. Colorado's savings program is one of the best in the country. Check it out.

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