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Illinois Treasurer Makes NIU Stop During College Savings Month

Mike Frerichs meets with NIU President Lisa Freeman and NIU students to discuss paying for college.
Jenna Dooley
Mike Frerichs meets with NIU President Lisa Freeman and NIU students to discuss paying for college.

September is College Savings Month. Illinois Treasurer Mike Frerichs is visiting Illinois universities to talk about ways his office can help families save for the large expense. During a stop at Northern Illinois University on Monday, Frerichs heard stories from students who have struggled with the rising costs of higher education.

Among them was Devlin Collins. He's an NIU senior from Chicago.

He qualified for some financial aid as a freshman but says on-campus living expenses added to his debt. He supports the idea of planning ahead for college with 529 college savings plans, but says it’s not enough.

"I am also solid on what I said in the meeting that it’s not necessarily too late for those who are enrolled, or who are looking at college now," Collins said after the meeting. "There should be a program in place to really teach people as they go along up until graduation.”

Frerichs says his office oversees the state’s two college savings plans. They can be used for expenses like tuition, room and board, books, and a computer.

“These funds can also be used for graduate school. So even if community college is free in 10-15 years, they might want some education in addition to undergraduate.”

There are more than 762,000 accounts across the two plans.

Since Frerichs took office in 2015, families have used these accounts to pay over $5 billion in college expenses.

Jenna Dooley has spent her professional career in public radio. She is a graduate of Northern Illinois University and the Public Affairs Reporting Program at the University of Illinois - Springfield. She returned to Northern Public Radio in DeKalb after several years hosting Morning Edition at WUIS-FM in Springfield. She is a former "Newsfinder of the Year" from the Illinois Associated Press and recipient of NIU's Donald R. Grubb Journalism Alumni Award. She is an active member of the Illinois News Broadcasters Association and an adjunct instructor at NIU.