Spend Now, Save On Tuition Later

College Tuition, Education Costs, Cost, Expense, Money, University, School, Student
Blaise and Lauren Aguirre have a house in the suburbs, a mortgage, two cars, three children and the same concern most young families have.

"We're very worried about the cost of college and how rapidly it's going up," Blaise Aguirre said.

They have good reason to worry, reports CBS News Correspondent Tony Guida. In just the past 10 years, the average cost of tuition and fees at four-year private colleges has spiked 38-percent. The same goes for four-year public schools, a jump much higher than the rate of inflation.

To combat the problem, a year ago the Aguirres enrolled in two rebate plans that automatically kick back a small portion of all their purchases to a college kitty. Call it a kind of "frequent buyer program."

"We put all our purchases on the credit card," said Lauren Aguirre. "The kids' summer camp, the swimming lessons, Blaise's judo, the groceries."

The rebate plans, Upromise and Baby Mint, are Web-based, free to join and dedicated to the proposition that what Americans do best is spend money. The programs have cut deals with thousands of companies -- Wal-Mart, AT&T, GM and The Gap are just a few -- to rebate a percentage of what members spend with them.

The savings can even be deposited into a special tax-free college account called a 529. Both plans also offer their own credit cards, with rebates, as well as the option of asking anyone -— say a grandparent -- register and link their rewards to your college account, Tony Guida reports.

"It's a pain-free way to save because it's always stuff we're going to buy anyway," said Lauren Aguirre.

That's the trick, says Richard Flaherty, president of College Parents of America. He urges parents not to change spending habits just to chase the rebates, and he adds, "We think that parents should be aware that they cannot pay for college just with a rebate program."

Guida says everyone agrees that anything that focuses parents' attentions on the need to start saving early for college is worthwhile. What is also worth considering is the enviable database these plans are collecting: the spending habits of millions of young families.

That may be the greater education.