Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Thrifty Thinking: Oregon College Savings Plan

Oregon State Treasurer Tobias Read today announced the successful completion of the Oregon College Savings Plan’s school-based outreach program, Be College Ready, for the 2018-2019 school year. Wrapping up its second full year as a statewide program since the 2015 launch of the initial pilot, Be College Ready progressed toward its goal of reaching every elementary-aged student in Oregon and their families—with more than 80 elementary schools in over 40 school districts across the state participating.

The Be College Ready program aims to educate young families about the value of saving for higher education early in a child’s life, providing an easy means to begin that savings journey through the Oregon College Savings Plan. Schools participating in the program range from Medford to Ontario—partnering to reach tens of thousands of Oregon families.

As part of the program, parents with an elementary-aged child had the opportunity to win a $100 Oregon College Savings Plan account through the annual sweepstakes, which opens in the fall each year. More than 350 families entered the sweepstakes this year, with one hundred awards benefitting children in each congressional district—20 winners per district.

Through Be College Ready, elementary school teachers and administrators are able to distribute free homework folders, pencils and bookmarks to students and informational materials to parents about making higher education expenses more affordable. The program is open to all public and private elementary schools, as well as to homeschooled children of elementary age across the state. During the most recent school year, Be College Readyserved more than 34,000 families with almost 5,500 of those from Spanish-speaking families.

“We will continue investing in programs that increase awareness of college saving opportunities statewide—prioritizing outreach to underserved communities and making it easier for them to save,” said State Treasurer Tobias Read, who chairs the Oregon 529 Savings Board. “My goal is to make sure every Oregon child is saving for college so that nothing stands in the way of their dreams.”

During the 2018-19 school year, 43 school districts participated in Be College Ready, with an increase in Oregon College Savings Plan account openings of 8 percent over last year. Additionally, there was an increase in new account contributions of 9 percent, totaling more than $38 million in the participating districts alone. The Oregon College Savings Plan is making a measurable difference through outreach to families looking for a simple means to save and make college more affordable.

The Be College Ready capstone announcement follows a record-setting year for the Oregon College Savings Plan, which brought in more than $233 million in contributions to more than 111,000 accounts from across the state. 2018 also saw a notable upgrade to best-in-class Bronze status among national college savings plans by Morningstar, Inc., a global investment research and investment management firm. Today, the plan has more than 112,000 accounts, approaching $2 billion.

As we head into the 2019-2020 school year, Be College Ready will once again be a statewide school and community outreach program, but with some small adjustments compared to years past. In mid-August, every public elementary school will receive free Be College Readykits for their kindergarten students that will include (1) Fun school materials—bookmark, pencil and homework folder—and an Oregon College Savings Plan informational brochure (in English and Spanish); and (2) Information for parents of kindergarten students about the $25 available to open an account for their child as part of our new Kinder Grad program. Kinder Grad is available to students who do not already have accounts.

Schools will be able to order more Be College Ready kits for the entire school population after receiving the kindergarten kits, with every elementary family once again having the chance to win $100 for an Oregon College Savings Plan account. Additionally, Oregon College Savings Plan outreach staff are available to share information about the Plan at PTA/PTO meetings or other school events—answering any questions family members may have about the Plan.

Teachers and administrators can begin ordering their free 2019-2020 Be College Readysupplies for grades 1-5 on August 19, 2019 at www.becollegeready.net.

The Oregon College Savings Plan is a state-sponsored savings program that comes with special tax advantages and can be opened by just about anyone—parents, family, friends, even future students. The money saved in the Oregon College Savings Plan grows tax-free and can be used for qualified expenses at any accredited, post-secondary institution or trade school. It’s never too early or too late to start saving.

To learn more and to open an account, please visit www.oregoncollegesavings.com or call 503-373-1903.

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