First graders have new opportunity for college, officials say

First graders have new opportunity for college, officials say
(Source: KAIT-TV)
(Source: KAIT-TV)

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - A press conference took place on A State's campus on the Student Union lawn on Wednesday morning, to announce a pilot program that could help young people start off their education on the right foot.

A pilot program was announced between the Crowley's Ridge Development Council and the Arkansas State Treasurer's office.

Executive Director of the Crowley's Ridge Development Council, Tim Wooldridge, said this program is going to have a profound effect on Region 8's future.

"We are going to seed accounts," Wooldridge said. "529 savings accounts for every first grader in Poinsett County. This is an outstanding program and it has great potential."

Arkansas State Treasurer Dennis Milligan said this is a program that is important to him.

"We're here to talk about our Arkansas 529 College Gift Investing Program," Milligan said. "This has been a passion of mine since I've taken over as Treasurer of State. It's administered by my office, so we're here in the Northeast part of the state meeting with some great folks we're partnering with to help enhance and get this program further along."

Wooldridge said he believes education is the key to solving many issues.

"Crowley's Ridge Development Council is in the business of trying to create opportunity," Wooldridge said. "To help those that are facing disadvantage to alleviate causes of poverty. And I am a proponent of believing that education is the key that unlocks doors to opportunities. So, I believe we can really break cycles of poverty and break cycles of disadvantage when we create within children a culture of believing, understanding and recognizing that they have the value and the ability to go to college or to receive some sort of advanced training for school."

"Education is extremely important," Milligan said. "That's a word we hear all the time. Financial education is even more important. So, naturally being the Treasurer of State, but ultimately the 529 Gift Investing Program is a means for Arkansans to help finance their kids' college. And to do it in a way that is easy to do and will produce the results that we want to produce for our children."

Wooldridge said he feels this program will produce a lot of benefits.

"We think if we can get this program started," Wooldridge said. "We think it will have a profound effect not only on those children and their families, but on the Delta. And of course, all of Arkansas. I knew about the program through the years and it was something I wanted to bring to CRDC," Wooldridge said. "Our role every day is to help families facing disadvantage. And I think we can break that cycle of poverty with the opportunity to have an education. And I believe every child should recognize that they have that ability. And if we can create that culture for first graders to think and to know that someone believes in them enough that a 529 savings account has been established in their name, I believe they'll do better all the way through school. And I believe another benefit will be that perhaps the families will understand the importance of saving and contributing and helping that child. So, I just think there are many benefits."

But Wooldridge said they hope to expand the program beyond Poinsett County.

"We're excited to work with the treasurer's office," Wooldridge said. "And while we're piloting this in Poinsett County, we represent eight counties in Northeast Arkansas, and we hope that viewers and donors will help us come up with the resources to replicate this in all eight counties the CRDC serves."

For more information about the CRDC, click here.

For information about the 529 Gift Investing Program, click here.

Copyright 2017 KAIT. All rights reserved.

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