Student loan debt is at an all time high, an average of $26,000, according to the Institute for College Access and Success. Now, thousands of Nebraska families are saving for college in a different way than we've seen in the past.
Paige, 7, and her brother Reed, 3, aren't concerned about college quite yet, but their parents are.
"Student loans come every single month and eats into our budget,” said Maggie Butterfield, mother of Paige and Reed.
Maggie and her husband Jeff are paying back their student loans. Their parents, like most, didn't save enough.
"Back in the 70s when we were born, it wasn't common for people to own mutual funds or individual stocks," said Jeff Butterfield.
By the time the Butterfields started their own family, Nebraska started the Nebraska Education Savings Trust, better known as NEST.
"It's grown from basically zero to up to over 3 billion dollars currently invested and over 200,000 accounts nation wide," said Don Stenberg, state treasurer.
NEST is an investment plan with mixed portfolios of stocks, bonds, and mutual funds solely for education.
The state allows $5,000 worth of tax deductible contributions. It goes up to $10,000 next year.
"The beneficiary can be a niece, nephew, or grandchild," said Stenberg.
First National Bank of Omaha is the program manager, but you actually don't have to go inside the bank to sign up. Like the Butterfields, you can go to nest529.com to sign up.
The Butterfields contribute $100 a month per child to their nest fund. By the time Paige and Reed graduate high school, they'll each have at least $21,000 saved. If they chose a conservative rate of 0.5 percent, the kids would roughly have $23,000, but they'll likely have more.
"With our kids young and a ways from college, we choose an aggressive growth type strategy," said Jeff Butterfield.
NEST is also flexible. The Butterfields can change the beneficiary, take money out any time for education, and it can be used at any accredited college in the United States and abroad that participate in federal financial aid programs.
"It doesn't have to be used at a four-year institution, it can be used at a community college or technical school," said Stenberg.
The Butterfields don't have an exact goal in mind, but they know their kids will better off after college than they were.
"Any help we can give will be a benefit for them in the future," said Maggie Butterfield.