ALBANY, GA (WALB) - College can be expensive.
The College Board say tuition and fees for public and private higher education institutions for this year ranged from just under $10,000 to more than $30,000.
Although the Board of Regents decided not to increase tuition for the next school year at Georgia's public institutions, college can still be a financial burden for families, especially for those choosing to attend private institutions.
That's why state officials are urging Georgia families to start saving for college early, and are encouraging them to take advantage of tax time by opening a Path2College 529 Plan account.
Families who open a 529 account before the tax deadline each year become eligible for a state income tax deduction on contributions of up to $2,000 per year, per beneficiary.
Scholarships and financial aid can cover part of educational expenses, but Executive Director Mitch Seabaugh urges parents to start saving now to cover out-of-pocket costs.
"We want people to be prepared to be able to have the money to be able to go to school and to reduce the amount of debt they might have," Seabaugh said.
"It is sad to hear stories of individuals who want to go to college, but they just don't have the resources to be able to do what they want to do."
Seabaugh says families can open an account by the April 18 tax deadline and still receive the tax deduction for their 2015 taxes.
Families can open an account by visiting the Path2College website. It takes $25 to create an account, and additional funds can be deposited at the family's discretion.
Savings in the program grow tax-free and can be spent for higher education expenses tax free.
Path2College 529 is almost 15 years old. It was started in 2002 as part of the Governor's statewide education initiative. It's seen growth, but Seabaugh says he wants to see more families participating.
This year, Path2College 529 has accounts open for 136,000 individuals in the state of Georgia. Seabaugh says that may sound like a lot, but says it's a small number considering the 2010 Census counted 600,000 children in Georgia under the age of 6.
"We've been trying very hard to get outside of the Atlanta Metro area and get through all parts of the state of Georgia because it is a statewide plan and we want people to be aware of it," he said. "I've had the opportunity to go and speak to Civic organizations and do other interviews and almost everywhere I go, I get people look at me and go, 'I didn't know we had that here.'"