HARRISBURG, Pa. (Erie News Now) — This week, state officials encouraged Pennsylvanians to prepare and invest in post-secondary education with PA 529 plans. PA 529 plans are designed to help families save for education after high school, because college can be very, very expensive.
“The cost of education has expanded and increased dramatically. My tuition was less than what it costs the kids today for books,” said. Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski (D-Luzerne), Vice Chairman of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania.
Officials say the sooner you start investing, the better, regardless of how much you contribute.
“Children with these savings accounts are three times as likely to enroll in post-secondary education and four times as likely to graduate than those without any savings designated for their education,” said Pennsylvania Treasurer and Bradford County native, Stacy Garrity. “As a lifelong resident of Bradford County, one of the most rural counties in the state, I’m dedicated to making sure that every corner of the commonwealth understands the benefits of PA 529 plans,” she added.
Garrity says planning is now easier, and more accessible, than ever before.
“We eliminated the minimum deposit to open an account. We cut the minimum contribution to just $1. We reduced fees for the PA 529 investment plan accounts, and we waived state fees for the 529 guaranteed savings plan accounts,” said Garrity.
However, rural areas are not taking advantage of the plan as much as urban areas. Officials are looking to make sure everyone is aware of the benefits. A recent study conducted by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania indicates a gap between rural and urban areas when it comes to planning for higher education.
“The utilization of these programs, these plans, is less in rural Pennsylvania then in the more urban areas of Pennsylvania,” said Sen. Gene Yaw (R-23), Board Chairman of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania.
According to the analysis, urban counties use 529 accounts at nearly double the rate of rural counties. Now, the Center for Rural PA is spreading the word about 529 plans and how they can benefit all students, even if a four-year degree isn’t the best option.
“They can be used at two-year institutions, technical schools and for apprenticeships,” said Dr. Kyle Kopko, Executive Director of the Center for Rural PA.
“Every Pennsylvanian deserves access to quality postsecondary education opportunities – whether that means a four-year university, community college, technical school or an apprenticeship,” said Garrity. “This report shows that we’re doing the right thing by increasing our outreach to our rural counties, which are all too often forgotten in Harrisburg,” she added.
You can learn more about PA 529 plans here.