Treasurer joins multi-state effort to address student debt issue

CHARLESTON – West Virginia State Treasurer John Perdue and the SMART529 College Savings Program have joined a 27-state effort to take on the student debt problem in a national campaign launching this week. The aim of the campaign, led by the 529 College Savings Plans Network, is to limit college debt for new generations by helping families plan ahead for higher education costs.

“Since starting West Virginia’s SMART529 program more than a decade ago, my goal has always been clear: to give every child in West Virginia a chance to benefit from some sort of education beyond high school,” said Treasurer Perdue. “Creating awareness about the benefits of saving for higher education is an ongoing effort, but I believe this national campaign will elevate the conversation about saving for college to a new level.”

The 27-state alliance, which includes Washington D.C., involves 46 partners, including state treasurers, higher education agencies, financial service firms and other state officials. The public-private partnership was formed on the basis of increasing awareness of 529s, the state-led college savings plans designed to help families save for higher education and lessen reliance on student loans. 

According to a poll conducted by the group last month, 68 percent of Americans have never heard of the state-led college savings plans. 

“More than 44 million Americans have student debt that eats away at paychecks, limits opportunities and leads them to put off buying homes and having children,” said 529 Campaign Chairman Young Boozer III. “On March 4 we started our march forth, joining together to set our kids and grandkids on a better path with 529s.” 

The movement’s 529 message will be amplified throughout 2019 and into 2020 under an agreement with Fred Rogers Productions, the company founded by Mister Rogers, the beloved advocate of children’s education. The campaign’s spots will air before and after episodes of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood nationally, including on West Virginia Public Broadcasting. The series is one of the highest co-viewed children’s shows between parents and young children and is based on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

529 College Savings Plans are state-offered, tax-advantaged investment plans that help families save for higher education and lessen the reliance on student loans. Savings grow free from federal and state income tax, and withdrawals remain tax-free when they are used for qualified education-related expenses at any accredited higher education institution in the country, including four-year universities, community colleges, and technical and vocational schools.