Save for college while you shop

If you buy a new wardrobe at the local mall this fall, you may end up saving money for a child's education in the process.

In a new program by UPromise Inc., a Brookline, Mass., company, people who buy clothes, cars, computers, and a host of other items from companies that partner with UPromise will receive rebates. But consumers won't get cash directly. Instead, the money will go into tax-deferred college-savings funds. The company's goal is to generate $50 billion in college savings in five years.

UPromise has yet to reveal which companies are participating, but it expects about 200 companies to sign on, including major retailers, automobile companies, and computermakers.

If the program moves forward smoothly, customers who buy a $20,000 automobile, for example, would receive $1,000 in a tax-deferred account as a result of a 5 percent rebate.

UPromise says an average family could save $50,000 over 15 years using the program. By that time, it estimates a four-year college education would cost $73,000 per child at a public university and $158,000 at a private university.

While some critics say that the plan targets only upper-echelon spenders, UPromise disagrees. "Even someone with a lower income is spending on things like telephone, a car, a mortgage," said Bill Ford of General Atlantic Partners, a venture-capital firm that has contributed $15 million in funding to the help UPromise get started.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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