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PA Treasury savings plan helps parents avoid the rising cost of college tuition

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HARRISBURG, Pa. -- College students getting ready to go back to school may have more on their minds than just their studies.

The rising cost of college is often a concern for students and their parents.

Students who attend one of Pennsylvania's 14 universities in the state system of higher education, will see a tuition rate hike on September 1.

Parents can help reduce the costs of a college education, even if their kids are still in diapers.

As tuition rates continue to rise, many college kids on campus may have received an offer from their parents that was too good to refuse.

Parent John Worhach made a deal with his two daughters.

"If you're going to be a student, a college student, that's you're job, and what I'm paying for in your tuition is your pay. So, I don't want you working to make money to pay for your tuition. I want you to be there learning, and I'm going to pay you for that," Worhach said.

The Pennsylvania Treasury Department offers the 529 Guaranteed Savings Plan as a way to help parents such as Worhach save.

"I think the program started when my daughter was born, at the same time, so that's when I started. That's like 24, 25 years ago," Worhach said.

deputy state treasurer Jack Stollsteimer said "treasury invests the money. We do so well, we've got a ten percent return this past year, that we're able to make sure that every kid in Pennsylvania who signs up and enrolls in this program is able to get the tuition at the day their parents invested for them. We pay for that."

It's a chance to invest in your child's future, and lock in the cost of college credits.

"The state system of higher ed schools are going to charge an extra 3.5 percent starting in September. If you have a GSP account for your kid, now's the time to put some extra cash in. If you don't, open one today. You can beat inflation today," Stollsteimer said.

Parents only need $15 to get started in the program.

"It's the time value of money. So, even if you're only able to save a little bit, but to save it over a long period of time, those monies add up. They're going to make a significant difference when you're child is looking to go to higher ed," Stollsteimer said.

The money saved may help keep students in school, and out of debt.

"People are going to be left behind unless they start saving for higher ed. Pennsylvania, unfortunately has the second highest debt level. Kids coming out of school in Pennsylvania owe on average, $34,000 a year," Stollsteimer said.

"The amount of college debt kids were taking out of school, and how long it took them to get rid of that, they wouldn't be able to buy a house forever. They'd be paying rent, and you wouldn't be able to accumulate anything," Worhach said.

Worhach has one daughter who already graduated, and another still in school. It's why he's thankful he signed up when he did.

"We would probably, we would have been the ones in debt, not them but we're not. Neither of us are so it's pretty good," Stollsteimer said.

The program isn't limited to Pennsylvania state system schools, or even Pennsylvania.

Parents can pick a level of education from community college up to Ivy League, and take that tuition money to any school in the state.