Helping to make private college education more affordable
by Scott McKeeverMr. McKeever is a Registered Representative and Investment Adviser Representative of Equity Services, Inc. Securities and investment advisory services are offered solely by Equity Services, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC, 123 N. Wacker Drive, Suite 600, Chicago, IL 60606, (312) 236-2500. Weyers McKeever Financial Partners and SAGE Scholars are independent of Equity Services, Inc. Each party is independently responsible for their own respective lines of business and activities.
Years ago, parents and students were able to fund a college education through a combination of grants, scholarships, savings, and student loans. However, times have changed, tuition rates have skyrocketed, and grants and loans have not always kept up with the cost of college expenses. As a result, more families have come to rely on alternative strategies to help cover the gap between the cost of attending college and any financial aid they may be awarded.
One company, SAGE Scholars, Inc., has partnered with several hundred colleges to offer matching tuition reward points for parents who invest and plan in advance for college savings through a SAGE affiliated financial advisor or institution. The program, entitled “SAGE Tuition Rewards,” offers families a way to gain student points by investing or working with SAGE’s participating business partners. The program is a unique private college savings program. Tuition Rewards Points are like frequent flyer miles – but for college tuition!
SAGE Tuition Rewards are discounts off of tuition at participating private colleges and universities. The Tuition Rewards Points represent the minimum discounts that an eligible student can receive if and when he or she attends a member school. Schools may count Tuition Rewards as part of their normal institutional aid. For example, if a family redeems 30,000 SAGE Tuition Rewards Points for a student, the student is guaranteed to receive a minimum of $30,000* in financial aid, spread equally over four years of undergraduate education. He or she may receive more but is guaranteed not to receive less.
Through participating in Tuition Rewards, students can earn guaranteed points which may be applied at nearly 400 participating private colleges and universities across America. Each Tuition Reward Point is equal to $1.00 in tuition discounts if the student attends a participating college or university. The accumulated points represent the minimum discounts (grant or other institutional discount) that the student will receive.
As stated, Tuition Reward Points accrue like frequent flyer miles and are typically earned by saving or investing with affiliated financial institutions – or simply by being employed by one of over 135,000 employers nationwide that offer Tuition Rewards. Eligible financial products and financial institutions can include 529 plans, banks, brokerage firms, credit unions, mutual funds and diverse financial services companies offering in cash-value life insurance products, retirement plans, reverse mortgages and other instruments. What makes Tuition Rewards even more unique is that you do not have to use the investment earning Reward Points to pay for college. How you pay for college is the client’s choice.
Earning Tuition Rewards Points by Saving or Investing
SAGE Tuition Rewards can be earned by saving or investing with one or more of SAGE’s participating financial affiliates. In most cases, Tuition Rewards accrue at a rate of 5% annually (or 2.5% semi-annually or 1.25% quarterly) based on the value the qualified asset(s) or account(s). As your assets appreciate, so do your Tuition Rewards Points.
Earning Tuition Rewards in the Workplace
Tuition Rewards can also be earned by employees at over 100,000 employers nationwide. Rewards can also be earned by opting for dental coverage or health care coverage through one of SAGE’s affiliated national insurance providers. Rewards can also be earned based on employer provided retirement plans such as 401(k) and 403(b), or by participating in, or opting in for, select voluntary benefits plans or enrollment events.
Earning Tuition Rewards Points by Other Means
Not all programs in SAGE’s Tuition Rewards require saving or investing through an affiliated organization. Tuition Rewards can also be earned by:
- Purchasing cash-value life insurance through a participating organization
- Working with an affiliated financial professional (individual or organization) who provides asset management, qualified product sales, annual financial reviews, seminars or workshops
- Maintaining membership in affiliated fraternal organizations
- Having a college funding plan created by an affiliated organization or individual
Some affiliated organizations and/or qualified products provide Tuition Rewards to account holders using other methods (such as annual flat-rate increases or one-time application of rewards). See the specific Terms & Conditions of the SAGE Tuition Rewards Program.
Sponsors – The “Account Holders”
SAGE Scholars frequently uses the term “Sponsor.” A Sponsor is usually the parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle who is the owner of the Tuition Rewards account. Sponsors are required to register on the SAGE website to be able to track and utilize their Tuition Rewards Points. Sponsors are responsible for adding students to their Tuition Rewards account, assigning Tuition Rewards Points to students and submitting Tuition Rewards Points to member colleges and universities.
Using Tuition Rewards Points
Tuition Rewards points are typically earned by the Sponsor and accrue in the Sponsor’s Tuition Rewards account. It is up to the Sponsor to assign (transfer) Tuition Rewards points from the Sponsor account to students listed on their account. Tuition Rewards must be assigned to a student by August 31st of the year that the student begins 12th grade. After that date, the student’s rewards value cannot be changed. When a Tuition Rewards student applies to a participating school(s), the student’s Sponsor must submit the student’s Tuition Rewards statement to that school. The statement(s) are submitted from the Sponsor’s “My Students” page.
The use of Tuition Rewards is limited to full-time, undergraduate tuition at participating colleges. Tuition Rewards are remitted solely as a reduction to the participating college’s full tuition bill and NOT awarded in cash. Colleges reserve the right to use the tuition reduction as part of, or separate from, any financial aid packages. Member colleges are not required to accept Tuition Rewards on transfer students.
If a student does not use his/her Tuition Reduction Reward – for example, if the student selects a non-participating college – most rewards can be refunded back into the Sponsor’s Tuition Rewards account and then transferred to a younger eligible student. If a student applies, is accepted, or is attending a college that is not participating in this program, but subsequently decides to participate, the college is under no obligation to honor his or her Tuition Rewards. If any college should decide to discontinue participation in this program, it has agreed to honor rewards accumulated for any student prior to the last day of the college’s participation.
The maximum discount from Tuition Rewards that a student can receive is 25% of the cost of tuition at a SAGE member college or university.** The Tuition Reward must be applied evenly over the years of undergraduate education (typically 4 years, but may be 5 years if student is in a co-op program). If the student completes undergraduate education in other than four years, it is up to the participating college to determine how the tuition reduction will be applied per year.
For student specific rewards (such as the Pennsylvania 529 College Savings Program), students will not earn Tuition Rewards after age 17, or after August 31st of the year prior to high school graduation – whichever comes first. Some rewards earned directly by a student, such as certain bonus points, are student specific and cannot be transferred to another student.
Summary of Important Dates
- Students must be in the Tuition Rewards program prior to the start of 11th grade
- Students cannot earn or receive Tuition Rewards after August 31st of the year that the student begins 12th grade
- A student’s sponsor (the Tuition Rewards account holder) must submit a student’s statement to any member school he or she applies to at the time of the student’s application to that school
To receive complete information about the SAGE Tuition Rewards program, the program’s financial aid implications, and the benefits of membership, please contact SAGE Scholars Tuition Rewards to request further information. ◊
*For undergraduate tuition only at participating colleges and universities beginning with the freshman year. The total tuition discounts are spread evenly over four years of college; enrollment may be deferred for up to three years following completion of high school. If the enrolled student does not attend a participating school, unused points may be available to transfer to younger enrolled family members; certain restrictions apply. “Guaranteed minimum scholarship” includes all non-loan (scholarships, discounts, grants, etc.) based financial aid provided by a member school. The maximum amount of Tuition Rewards that each school will accept varies by school – and currently ranges from approximately 10,500 to 53,505 points. The amount is never more than the cost of one full year of tuition. You can view and print out a list of member schools, along with the maximum amount of Tuition Rewards each will accept by logging into your account and selecting the “Participating Schools” link.
* Some schools may accept less than 30,000 points. This is an example only. The current maximum that any one school will accept is 55,290 points. For most schools the maximum obligation is based on the current published freshman year tuition.
** Some schools have a limit that may be less than 25% of the cost of tuition up to a maximum amount. You can view a complete list of member schools, along with the maximum amount each school will accept, from the Participating Schools page after logging in to your account.