Nevada's College Kick Start Program
Monday, February 10, 2014 4:00 PM
As a child, I thought the most I could strive for in life was to get a job with benefits. College just wasn't part of my picture.
It wasn't until a nun from my school showed up at my house to talk to my mother about me, and my future, that my outlook changed.
She told my mother about me, "This one can go; she can go to college." It was the first time I had thought it possible. And so, I did.
When you grow up in a family or in a place where college isn't openly discussed, a child needs to be told what possibilities there are for his or her life. Children need to be told they can reach further than just a job or just a job with benefits.
As I travel around Nevada, I get parents coming to me saying they just want their child to be able to have a job and to be secure. And today, to have that job security, you have to have a post-high school plan.
With that in mind, my office has launched an exciting new initiative aimed at instilling the dream of a college education in the minds of Nevada school children.
The Nevada College Kick Start Program (CollegeKickStart.nv.gov) has established 529 college savings accounts for all 2013-14 public school kindergarten students attending school in Nevada with an initial deposit of $50.
Studies have shown when a child has a savings account with their name on it - no matter how much is in the fund - that child is seven times more likely to go to college. College savings send a strong message to children: "You are a college saver. You are college-bound." That is true, regardless of your family income, where you grew up, your ethnicity, or whether your parents went to college.
The accounts were established with fees paid to the state by private investment firms, not taxpayer dollars. The funds can be used for any institute of higher education, whether it's culinary, technical, TMCC, UNR, UNLV, Harvard, or any accredited institution of higher learning. It cannot be used for any other purpose than to pay higher education expenses.
We have also partnered with our Nevada College Savings Plans program manager, Upromise, to drastically reduce the minimum amount needed to open an SSgA Upromise college savings account. Parents can set up a 529 college savings account with as little as $15 - reduced from $250. And for those families making less than $75,000, the state will match up to $300 a year for five years, within the availability of funding.
Parents or other caregivers can open this parallel account and deposit whatever they can afford into that account so they'll be better prepared when the time comes for their child to attend an institution of higher learning.
But it's not just parents who can help. Others can make tax-deductible donations to help more kids get matched contributions. Our Community Support Partners initiative allows people, businesses and organizations to donate money for specific schools, district or statewide.
An educated workforce is critical as we work to diversify our economy and create higher-level jobs with better pay and benefits. It is essential more Nevada families begin discussing and planning for college now so that more of our youth will attend and graduate from an institution of higher learning.
We need to let every child know they can go to college. Let's put everyone on the same starting line and make a college education a reality for thousands of Nevada's children.
Kate Marshall is Nevada state treasurer.