November marked the beginning of enrollment for the state's prepaid tuition plan, called College Illinois!
The punctuation is part of the registered trademark. But despite the clever branding, excitement about the plan seems to be waning, thanks to the ongoing state budget impasse. Eric Zarnikow, director of the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, says contract sales fell to just 500 last year, down from 650 the year before.
He says people need to know that the funds are held in a separate trust and managed by independent investors. Furthermore, if the beneficiary chooses to leave Illinois, Zarnikow says the funds travel with them.
"Although the plan is tied to the public universities and community colleges, the benefit of the program or the value of the program can be used at almost any in-state private school or private or public out-of-state school as well."
He adds that the plan still provides parents and grandparents with a way to ensure kids get to go to college. Namely, starting monthly payments while children are young.
"You pay a fixed amount today and then we cover whatever those future tuition and mandatory fees are for the schools in the program that you purchase," Zarnikow said.
Open enrollment in the plan runs through May, while registration for newborns last through August.