IDeal aims to make college less painful

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SANDPOINT — Saving for a family member's higher-education expenses can seem like an impossible task between tuition, fees, books and living expenses — saving over time can alleviate some of that pressure when the time arrives to send them off to college.

"Starting early really helps," said Kody Van Dyk of Sandpoint, who saved for his three kids' college tuition through IDeal, Idaho's state sponsored 529 college savings plan.

As IDeal celebrates its 15th anniversary, 37,500 families have saved for college through the program. Currently there are 29,256 IDeal accounts open. In Bonner County, 200 IDeal account owners hold 374 accounts.

Van Dyk said he began saving about 25 years ago to put his three kids through college. He opened an IDeal account shortly after its inception in 2001 and funded his children's college largely through contributions to the program. All three of his kids graduated college between 2010 and 2015. Two are civil engineers and one a medical administrator.

"IDeal is great because it can be used anywhere in the united states — it doesn't have to be used in Idaho," Van Dyk said.

While one of his children attended Boise State University, two attended Washington schools.

He said the best part about saving with IDeal is it was "painless" as it was a payroll deduction. Van Dyk made $100 contributions twice a month through payroll deduction. The second best part, he said is that it is a credit on Idaho taxes.

Idaho tax deductions of up to $4,000 per year, $8,000 if married and filing jointly, are available to account holders, and withdrawals are not subject to state or federal tax if used on qualified expenses. The tax deduction is available to any Idaho taxpayer contributing to the account, not just to the account holder. IDeal allows its account owners’ friends and family to contribute directly to the IDeal account. To date, $3.9 million has been gifted to IDeal beneficiaries.

Four in 10 IDeal accounts are opened because of the birth of a child. The average age of an IDeal beneficiary is approximately 13 years old.

An IDeal account can be opened with a minimum of $25, and contributions of $25 or more can be made at any time. A minimum of $15 is allowed with automatic payroll deduction.

More benefits of the IDeal savings plan include no annual maintenance fee and  the College of Western Idaho offers qualifying students a matching scholarship of up to $500 per semester. IDeal savings can be used for tuition, books and supplies, certain room and board expenses and other expenses related to higher education.

“We find that people save with IDeal because they hope that their loved ones will have more doors open to them as a result, more choices about where they’ll go to school, what they’ll study, and what they’ll do when they graduate,” said IDeal Executive Director Christine Stoll in a statement. “And regardless of what the family’s out-of-pocket costs will be, they can rest easy knowing that they’re chipping away at that cost a little at a time. We’re excited to celebrate 15 years of bigger and better opportunities for the Idaho families who have saved with IDeal.”

Information: www.idsaves.org or call 866-433-2533

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