Why I’m on a Mission to Get More Families Enrolled in the SAGE Scholars Tuition Rewards Program

March 8, 2018 | By Bob Bacarella

If I told you there is an easy way to earn scholarship money that can cover up to a quarter of your child’s or grandchild’s college tuition, you may think it sounds too good to be true. And if I told you that this same program offers scholarships simply by opening an account and enrolling a child with no requirement to demonstrate “financial need” or academic achievement, you’d really be skeptical. But the reality is, this program exists through the SAGE Scholars Tuition Rewards program.

I’ve always been passionate about helping kids learn about money so they can make smart financial decisions when they’re older. I’ve taught financial literacy classes for kids for decades and strived to instill good financial habits in my own children and now grandchildren. This is why we launched the Monetta Core Growth Fund (formerly the Monetta Young Investor Fund) over 11 years ago. Our goal was to provide young investors with an appropriate, diversified investment vehicle while at the same time providing financial education for kids and their parents.

As we worked with families over the years, we discovered the SAGE Scholars Tuition Rewards Program, with which we formed a partnership in 2008. Since the partnership with SAGE began, Monetta has sponsored 768 students in the SAGE program. In 2017 alone, Monetta shareholders earned approximately 900,000 points through their enrollment in SAGE. And while we’ve seen success with the program, I’d love to see more students and families participate to support their efforts in saving for college.

While our kids are grown and I no longer need to think about college tuition for my immediate family, I continue to think about it for my grandchildren and our shareholders. College costs continue to march steadily higher.  I personally value my own college education and know how expensive four years of private school tuition can be.

The SAGE Scholars Tuition Rewards Program was established in 1995 to encourage more families to save for higher education and to make college available to more students. A core group of colleges created a points-based model—not unlike frequent flyer miles—to reward families who save for college. Today nearly 400 schools participate including top institutions such as Bradley University, Creighton University, University of Dayton, Rensselaer Polytechnic and Valparaiso.

Nationally, more than 515,000 students are enrolled in the program with 63,000 new students added in 2017. Tuition Rewards Points valued at $80.7 million were submitted by SAGE high school seniors through 5,700 applications to 354 member colleges. That’s an average of 14,169 points representing $3,542 per year. The use of Tuition Rewards is limited to full-time, undergraduate tuition at participating colleges. Tuition Rewards are remitted as a reduction to the participating college’s full tuition bill—and NOT awarded in cash.

Here’s how it works:

  • When you open a Monetta Core Growth Fund account (individual, joint, or custodial) with a minimum investment of just $100 or an automatic investment program of just $25 per month, you qualify to enroll in the SAGE Scholars Tuition Reward program. You can even enroll two or more children in relation to the same Monetta Core Growth Fund account.
  • To earn SAGE tuition rewards points, simply complete a separate registration at this link. Anyone can register—an individual, parent or grandparent.  When you register, you name a child who will be the recipient of the tuition credits; 1 credit equals $1. Just by registering a student, 500 credits are awarded.
  • Credits accumulate as your account grows. Credits also accumulate via SAGE’s point system:
Every birthdate ages 1-13 1,000 points each year
Every birthdate ages 14-17 2,000 points each year
Completion of profile form during the student’s junior year 2,500 points
  • A student can accumulate up to $21,500 in tuition credits
  • SAGE tuition credits can be used at neartly 400 private colleges and universities throughout the US. Students can earn up to one quarter of the cost of any one year’s tuition. Over four years, that could cover a full year of tuition.
  • Students apply to participating sponsors like the Monetta Young Investor Fund to receive the points by August 31st of the summer before their senior year in high school.
  • There is no obligation to attend a SAGE school, and nothing is lost by signing up.

What if your child chooses a school that isn’t in the program? Just because you sign up for the free, no-obligation SAGE program doesn’t mean you are required to attend a SAGE school. Every child is different, and while SAGE is accepted at many terrific schools—80% of schools in the program are on US News & World Report’s “Best of” listing—your child may choose another route. In the years since we’ve been involved with SAGE, the program has expanded significantly. Just because a school is not on the list today doesn’t mean it won’t be on the list in the future. An average of 20 new schools are added each year.

Consider that the average student loan debt load of graduating students with bachelor’s degrees today is $25,000[i]. While SAGE doesn’t fully cover the costs of college, it does enable students to offset college expenses by up to $21,500.  So I like to think that those who actively participate in SAGE could potentially earn enough points and tuition rewards credits to come close to graduating without any debt!

Not long ago, a shareholder called me and told me his son was attending a SAGE school and he was kicking himself for not having signed up.  I don’t ever want to get a call like that again.  Don’t make the mistake he did and leave potential dollars on the table for your child or grandchild’s college education. It just takes a few seconds to sign up, and you won’t regret it.

Send me a note to tell me your story. Nothing pleases me more than knowing the SAGE program has helped one of our shareholders reduce the cost of college.

 

[i] http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/08/24/5-facts-about-student-loans/

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