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More Maryland families save for college

Maryland has a more educated population than most other states, so it may not be surprising that a higher proportion of Maryland’s families are saving for college.

More than three-quarters of Maryland families are saving for college, compared to just over one-half of families nationwide, according to a report from College Savings Plans of Maryland, based on current statistics from Sallie Mae.

A vast majority of those Maryland families, 88 percent of them, began saving for college when their child is conceived or born.

According to a 2009 Census Bureau report, 35.7 percent of Maryland’s population has at least a bachelor’s degree. Only three states have larger proportions of college-educated residents.

The higher rate of saving is probably also due to Maryland families’ high level of income, said Mark Johnson, assistant professor of finance at Loyola University Maryland’s Sellinger School of Business.

“A typical Maryland household has more financial resources available,” he said, citing a recent report that ranked Maryland’s median household income as the highest in the country. “Arguably they can make a budget line item for college saving.”

Still Maryland has its share of families who are not saving for college — 24 percent of them to be exact. But 90 percent of those non-saving families still expect that they will send a child to a four-year university.

“Life takes over,” Lauren Shipley, public relations and marketing manager for College Savings Plans of Maryland. “Until it’s sitting on their doorstep when they’re applying for financial aid in school, it’s just one of those things that gets put on the back burner.”

A lot of families may also see the sticker price of college and be daunted by the task of saving, said Johnson, especially as the cost of education rises, Shipley said.

“A lot of people see that big goal and get paralyzed but don’t realize that even a little bit they save can make a big impact,” she said.

Both recommended that families save what they can for college, even if it will only cover part of the cost. That way students can borrow less and have a smaller sum accruing interest after graduation.

Johnson also recommends finding a public school or taking advantage of private schools’ financial aid programs, which may be more flexible.

“Don’t look at the sticker price and say it’s not possible,” he said. “I think that Maryland does a really good job of having something for every family and every budget.”