McRae: Scholarships and Savings

November is National Scholarship Month. With graduation within sight for many high school seniors, the search for scholarships that ease tuition’s burden is in full swing for many families. There is no question academic, athletic, and community scholarships put college within reach for many Mississippians, but it shouldn’t be the only financial tool your family looks to when funding a child’s education.

A 2020 Sally Mae/Ipsos survey found scholarships and grants typically cover about 25 percent of college costs. The other 75 percent is paid through savings and loans.

Given the national conversation about the burden of student loan debt, more and more families are leaning away from borrowing and toward a savings strategy. In fact, during the 2018-19 school year, just 44 percent of families had a plan to pay for their child’s education. In 2019-20, that number jumped to 52 percent. This year, that number increased again to 58 percent.

How much are these families saving? According to, the average family with a college savings account puts away about $7,929 before their child turns six. By the time the child is 12, the savings have grown to $15,359, and by the child’s high school graduation, the average family has $27,559 stowed away. Are you on par with the average? A little behind? A little ahead?

Wherever you are in your savings journey, the Mississippi Treasury is here to help. We offer two 529 college savings plans to get you started. MACS is the easiest and cheapest to begin; just $25 will get you started. You can continue contributing to your MACS account as your child ages. When they head to college, apply the money to books, tuition, and even certain room and board expenses.

Then, there’s MPACT. This plan allows families to lock in today’s tuition rates and prepay their child’s college tuition. If your child gets one of those coveted full-ride scholarships, don’t worry. You can either hold the benefits for future use or have the funds refunded back to the purchaser. If your child receives a partial scholarship, MPACT will still be there to cover the remainder of tuition and mandatory fees and any unused benefits can be held for future use.

I encourage every Mississippi family to pursue as many scholarship opportunities as you can, but be prepared to cover what the scholarships will not with a College Savings Mississippi plan from your State Treasury. To learn more, visit