The Nevada College Kick Start Program

In the fall of 2013, State Treasurer Kate Marshall launched an exciting new pilot program aimed at instilling the dream of a college education in the minds of Nevada school children.   The Nevada College Kick Start Program established 529 college savings accounts for all new fall 2013 kindergarten public school students in 13 of Nevada’s most rural communities.  In February 2014, the Nevada College Kick Start Program expanded statewide to include all public school kindergarten children in Nevada.  In all, nearly 35,000 students now have a college savings account in their name. In the fall of 2014, a new batch of kindergarten students will be included in the program.  The Board of Trustees of the College Savings Plans of Nevada has agreed to fund the program for three successive school years—through 2015-2016—and then review the impact of the Nevada College Kick Start Program in helping Nevada families prepare for future college expenses.

    The Nevada College Kick Start Program is using a portion of program manager fees, not taxpayer dollars, to open an SSgA Upromise 529 Plan college savings account with an initial deposit of $50 for each public school kindergarten student.  The funding is held in a Master Account, with the State Treasurer’s Office as the account owner.  The Master Account is managed by Upromise Investments Inc., the program manager for the College Savings Plans of Nevada Program.

      The accounts were established automatically based on information supplied by the schools to the Treasurer’s Office, including the child’s name and school district ID number. Withdrawals from the Master Account can only be made for Internal Revenue Code qualified higher education related expenses when the child is entering college, in most cases, 13 years later.  Nevada College Kick Start Program account funds can be used to attend any institution of higher learning in the United States, including trade and technical schools.

        To help Nevada families prepare for future higher education expenses, Treasurer Marshall worked with our program manager to lower the minimum account opening for a
        SSgA Upromise 529 Plan college savings account to a mere $15.  Through educational outreach efforts on many levels, Nevada families are being encouraged to consider opening a separate SSgA Upromise 529 Plan college savings account that will grow their child’s savings over time. These completely separate accounts are controlled and managed by the account holder, not by the Treasurer’s Office.

          The Treasurer’s Office has supplied elementary schools across the state with collateral materials, including fliers, brochures, posters, etc.  Information about the program is available at  Account owners are also receiving emails and regular mail about their account.

            Research conducted by the Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis outlined in, “The Role of Savings and Wealth in Reducing ‘Wilt’ Between Expectations and College Attendance,” found that children with a college savings account are up to seven times more likely to attend college than those without an account.   Similarly, a study conducted by the University of Kansas’ School of Social Welfare found that college savings send a strong message to children: “You are a college saver.  You are college-bound.” The study also concluded that “Even small accounts, in many cases inadequate to even buy books for a semester, increase perseverance and improve academic preparation.” It is important to note that such conclusions applied regardless of family income, ethnicity, or the educational attainment of the child’s parents.

              According to a study by Complete College America (Nevada 2011), by 2020, 58% of jobs will require a career certificate or college degree. As of 2011, only 28% of Nevada adults hold an associate degree or higher, one of the lowest college educated populaces in the nation.    Studies also show that the percent of jobs requiring a college degree will jump to 70% by 2030. As Nevada works to diversify the local economy, creating high level jobs with better pay and benefits will require a more educated workforce to fill those positions. In order to develop a workforce that is able to compete in a global economy, it is essential more Nevadan’s plan for higher education.

                Therefore, the concept behind the Nevada College Kick Start Program can play an important role in creating a “college-going culture” by planting a seed in the minds of Nevada kindergartners and their parents that attending and graduating from an institution of higher learning is a goal within reach.