Before the back-to-school calendar fills up, remember September is National College Savings Month, the perfect time to add another course to the fall schedule: College Savings 101. Sallie Mae — the nation's saving, planning, and paying for college company — has a syllabus of dollars-and-sense strategies to help families ace their college savings. And, for extra credit, Upromise by Sallie Mae is offering a cash bonus to new customers who open a Upromise GoalSaver account during the month of September.

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Sallie Mae's "Ace Your College Savings" pop quiz (Graphic: Business Wire)

Sallie Mae's "Ace Your College Savings" pop quiz (Graphic: Business Wire)

"Our research shows American families believe a college education is more important than ever, but not enough are saving money for it," said Martha Holler, senior vice president, Sallie Mae. "National College Savings Month reminds families about the importance of saving for college, and we've got tips, tools, and resources to simplify the process and help them get started on the road to savings success."
Here is Sallie Mae's course syllabus for College Savings 101:


Get started. Designate a savings account specifically for a college fund, and get in the habit of contributing to it regularly. It's never too early or too late to start; "how often" is more important than "how much." A little bit added every month can become a meaningful amount over time.


Put savings on auto-pilot. Set up direct deposit to automatically transfer a portion of each paycheck to the college fund.


Set a goal. The goal can be a dollar amount, a percentage, a timeframe, or a combination. Families can use Sallie Mae's College Planning Calculator to research expected college costs; factor in other considerations, such as the number of years until college starts; and build a long-term customized savings plan to fit their goals.


Use cash-back rewards programs to fuel your savings faster. Look for programs like free-to-join Upromise by Sallie Mae that let members deposit cash-back earnings directly into a college savings account. Upromise by Sallie Mae members can receive cash-back rewards by making online purchases at more than 850 retail partners, dining at more than 10,000 restaurants, and booking trips with travel partners like Travelocity and Expedia.


Use a goal-based savings account. A Upromise GoalSaver account, for example, takes dollar amount goals and deadlines, calculates how much must be saved each month to reach the goal, and allows families to track their progress. Families can set up multiple goals in a single account, an advantage for those who prefer to set separate goals for tuition, books, living expenses, and other college costs.

New Upromise GoalSaver customers who open an account during the month of September will receive a $10 National College Savings Month bonus along with the robust benefits GoalSaver already offers, which include a $10 annual bonus for account holders who use direct deposit, and a $100 loyalty bonus for those who maintain a balance and save at least $5,000 by the third anniversary of the account opening. In addition, GoalSaver account holders who are also members of Upromise by Sallie Mae are eligible to receive a 10 percent match on the cash-back rewards they earn. Upromise GoalSaver accounts are FDIC-insured, have no fees, and feature a competitive variable interest rate, currently 0.85 annual percentage yield (APY).


Invest in a tax-advantaged account like a 529 college savings plan. In many states, a 529 plan can be opened with as little as $25. In addition to tax benefits, many 529 plans offer matching grant programs, and some offer scholarships. Learn more about 529 plans and other types of tax-advantaged, dedicated college savings plans at


Get creative. When gift-giving occasions arise, ask for contributions to the college fund instead of a more traditional gift. Upromise members can link their cash-back rewards to a college savings account.

Get more saving-for-college ideas when Sallie Mae and America Saves, an arm of the Consumer Federation of America, co-host a Twitter chat on Sept. 12 at 2 p.m. EDT. Use hashtag #CollegeSavings.

For more information about Upromise GoalSaver or to open an account and earn the National College Savings Month $10 bonus during September, visit For more information about saving, planning, and paying for college, visit

Sallie Mae (NASDAQ: SLM) is the nation's saving, planning, and paying for college company. Whether college is a long way off or just around the corner, Sallie Mae offers products that promote responsible personal finance, including private education loans, Upromise rewards, scholarship search, college financial planning tools, and online retail banking. Learn more at Commonly known as Sallie Mae, SLM Corporation and its subsidiaries are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.

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