Grandfather’s gift of prepaid college tuition keeps giving
Soon after Alex Brace began walking, his grandfather set him on a path toward earning a degree from Michigan State University.
Allen Brace bought a Michigan Education Trust (MET) prepaid tuition contract when Alex Brace was a toddler, ensuring cost wouldn’t stand in the way of his grandson’s higher education.
And since his grandfather worked as an assistant director of land management at MSU and Brace grew up in Greater Lansing, there was never much doubt that he’d attend the local university.
“There was no real debate about that,” said Brace, now 31.
With his tuition and mandatory fees already covered thanks to his MET contract, and his choice of college largely preordained, the only remaining consideration was paying for books, room and board and other expenses.
“I only had to mainly worry about books and housing,” Brace said. “It was a huge relief.”
He easily managed those costs through scholarships, working and economizing by living at home.
As a result, he was able to graduate debt-free from MSU in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. And although his grandfather died that same year, he lived long enough to see his grandson earn a degree, paid for by the MET contract he had purchased.
“I was always really grateful to my grandpa for that,” said Brace, a 2004 graduate of Lansing Sexton High School. “I think that a lot of the kids I went to school with had to get loans for their undergrad degrees.”
Avoiding the accumulation of debt is a primary motivation for purchasers of MET’s prepaid contracts, said Robin Lott, who manages the Michigan Department of Treasury program. In operation since 1988, MET allows families to lock in future college tuition at current-day prices.
“The MET families we work with tell us that they see tuition going nowhere but up, and they understand that buying a contract now will save them money in the long run,” Lott said. “They also say they don’t want to see their child or grandchild weighed down with student loans once they leave college.”
For Brace, the lack of debt also made his decision to attend graduate school easier.
“Having the MET benefits relieved a huge burden for me,” he said. “Taking out loans for both undergrad and graduate degrees would be daunting.”
It could have even discouraged him from attending grad school, he said. But with no pre-existing undergraduate debt, he had no qualms about taking out loans to fund his master’s degree in counseling, which he earned from MSU in 2010.
Avoiding a mountain of college-education debt also paid off in nonmonetary ways. Because he didn’t have to worry about meeting big monthly student loan payments, he didn’t feel compelled to land the job with the highest salary upon graduation.
Instead, his main considerations were whether the work was meaningful, made him feel good and brought joy to his life. The Small Talk Children’s Assessment Center of Lansing, which conducts forensic interviews with children who have experienced abuse and offers them counseling, met all of his criteria.
“Working in human services is not going to make you a multimillionaire, although you can live comfortably. I was OK with that,” said Brace, who began as a counselor at the center before ascending to the executive director’s position.
Brace and his wife, Dominique, don’t have children yet, but they’re already committed to sending any offspring to college, he said.
“We’ve had several conversations about how we’re going to save,” he said. They have yet to decide on a method, but MET will certainly receive long consideration, he said.
More information about MET is available atwww.SETwithMET.comor 800-MET-4-KID.