Big hit! How MET helped Michigan native land dream job in the majors
With only one year of Little League under his belt, Nick Armes never imagined he’d one day be honing his craft for Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays.
In fact, it wasn’t the Livonia native’s prowess on the diamond at all that enabled him to land what he calls his dream job — something he calls “way too much fun” to be considered work.
Armes, 31, is director of fan experience at Tropicana Field for the Rays. He is responsible for a staff of nearly 100 who make up the organization’s guest services team, including ticket takers, ushers and fan hosts who help with special game-day promotions and activities like kids running the bases during Family Fun Days.
On the job since May 2022, Armes says he loves interacting with fans and seeing kids’ eyes light up as they walk into the stadium’s large atrium and gaze down at the field, a reaction he attributes to the magic of baseball.
Armes’ journey to the big leagues didn’t start with his first glove, a new bat or a pitching regimen in his backyard. It began the day his parents started saving for his higher education with the Michigan Education Trust (MET).
MET is the state’s 529 prepaid tuition savings program that lets users pay today’s prices for future education costs. Section 529 plans are named after the section of the Internal Revenue Code that allowed for their creation.
“I was in sixth or seventh grade when my parents sat me down and told me that if I continued to work hard and focus on school, then the cost of my education would be taken care of,” Armes said. “I remember thinking, ‘Oh, wow — this is huge.’”
Armes lived up to his end of the bargain. He continued to excel academically at Southfield Christian High School while running cross-country and track and engaging in other extracurricular activities.
During his junior year of high school, Armes visited Central Michigan University with his mom during CMU and You Day. He spent the day touring the campus and learning about the university’s various academic programs. He stopped by the public relations table and spoke with an adviser for about an hour. He had never really heard of public relations before, but after learning how it was a field that blends writing and interacting with people, he decided that it was something that he really wanted to pursue.
He enrolled at CMU, participated in the Disney College Program in Orlando during his sophomore year and went back to Disney for a second time to do an internship in guest relations. He graduated from CMU in four years with a Bachelor of Arts in integrated public relations.
He was the first person in his immediate family to have earned a bachelor’s degree. And he did it debt free.
“My parents used MET to truly set me up for success,” Armes said. “They invested in my future and really paved the way for my career path. I consider myself extremely fortunate, and I strive every day to be successful in my job and life as my way to repay them for the sacrifices they made for me.”
MET can open doors
Signed into law in 1986, MET was the first prepaid tuition savings program in the nation. More than 96% of high school graduates participating in MET have attended a college or university or received a refund of MET payments to pay for trade school or a certificate program.
MET Executive Director Diane Brewer says the prepaid tuition savings program offers parents, grandparents and others a safe, secure and flexible way to plan and save for a child’s higher education.
MET benefits are portable, transferable and refundable, and the program also offers tax advantages.
“For 35 years, MET has been providing families peace of mind as they work to help provide their children with a debt-free start to pursue their dreams,” Brewer said. “Children can choose many different education and career paths. While no one can predict a child’s future, we can definitely prepare for it.”
MET can be used for postsecondary education at universities and colleges. If a student chooses to attend a private Michigan school or out-of-state college or university, funds can be directed to that institution. A student may also choose to attend a trade school, and if they follow that path, MET funds can be paid to the refund designee and then used for school expenses.
MET benefits may also be transferred to other eligible family members or terminated for a refund to get back what you put in plus potential earnings if a child decides not to pursue higher education.
There are three types of MET plans: the full benefits plan, the limited benefits plan and the community college plan. Families can purchase one plan or mix and match options.
Contributions to MET plans are tax deductible on Michigan tax returns. Earnings are tax exempt if they are used for higher education tuition and mandatory fees at qualified institutions.
MET celebrates 35 years with $1.5 million giveaway
To help families start saving early for their children’s future higher education, MET is returning to a discounted, age-based pricing structure for the first time in more than a decade.
Brewer says that switching to that structure — as opposed to charging a single price across all ages — means families will realize significant savings the earlier they start saving with MET.
And the age-based pricing structure isn’t the only way MET is encouraging parents and caregivers to start saving early.
In celebration of the program’s 35-year anniversary, MET is holding a $1.5 Million Giveaway, a random, statewide drawing that friends and family can enter on behalf of a child for a chance to win one of 100 $15,000 prepaid tuition prizes.
Under MET’s giveaway, Michigan residents 18 years or older on Aug. 31, 2022, are eligible to enter on behalf of beneficiaries ages birth to 5 by the same date for a chance to win $15,000 in prepaid tuition. A person may enter only once, but multiple people may enter on behalf of the same child. The prepaid tuition prize may be used to pay for future tuition and mandatory fees at a community college, college, university or technical school in accordance with MET terms and conditions.
The giveaway runs until Aug. 31, 2022. Winners will be announced in a series of drawings beginning Sept. 12. Michiganders can enter the giveaway and review rules and eligibility criteria at www.METgiveaway.com.
Armes says that when he and his wife, LeeAnna, 31, are ready to start a family, they will definitely have a higher education savings plan in place for their children.
“Thinking about what my mom and dad did for me and the opportunities they made possible, I realize that investing in a child’s long-term success through higher education and providing a debt-free start in life are some of the greatest gifts a parent can give. I want to do the same for my children someday.”
Have questions? More information is available at SETwithMET.com, 800-MET-4-KID or treasMET@Michigan.gov.