TWIN FALLS • It’s never too early or too late to start saving for college.

That was the message that representatives from IDeal, a state college savings program, had for children at an after-school program Tuesday at the Twin Falls Salvation Army.

State Treasurer Ron Crane missed the visit to Twin Falls because he was ill, said Christine Stoll, executive director of IDeal.

Crane was to spend this week talking with families at schools and after-school programs throughout Idaho about the importance of saving now for higher education. The next stop for the IDeal program tour is Pocatello.

“Today is part of our tour of awareness, and we are here to talk to students about making it (higher education) attainable,” Stoll said. “It’s not just for little kids. It doesn’t matter if your child is 16 years old or you are going back to school. It’s never too late to start saving.”

The cost of a college education has risen 1,120 percent over the past 30 years, says a recent study by Bloomberg news service. That has resulted in increased reliance on public aid.

IDeal is a 529 college savings plan, operated by state or educational institutions, designed to help families set aside funds for college costs. The program offers tax-deferred growth, generous contribution limits, investment options and professional investment management, says its website, www.idsaves.org.

“As your child matures, the investment matures,” Stoll said. “If you don’t start thinking about it now, it will come sooner than you think.”

The IDeal tour is in concert with Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s proclamation of September as Idaho College Savings Month.

Stoll and Travis Schaat, secretary of IDeal’s board, sat with children at the Twin Falls after-school program to talk about the importance of saving.

Names were drawn for three prizes, two tickets to the Faulkner Planetarium and $500 to start an IDeal account.

Isaac Lopez, 9, and Sophie Bartlett, 6, won the planetarium tickets. Austen Snow, 11, won the $500 IDeal account.

Children who have education savings accounts are seven times more likely to pursue higher education, Stoll said.

What does Snow want to be when she grows up? A teacher or a veterinarian.

And what would Snow tell her parents when she got home? “I need to save up for college.”

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