Latah County residents have about $1 million more saved up in their family's college funds than they did last year, according to a press release from the Idaho 529 college savings program, IDeal.
According to the press release, north Idaho led the state in year over year IDeal account growth between 2016 and 2017. Families in the northern region now have $5.9 million more in their IDeal college savings accounts than they did a year prior. Across the state, Idahoans have about $47 million more in their accounts.
IDeal Field Representative Nick Thiros attributes that growth to overall market performance, but said the program's representatives have also made increased efforts to be present in the northern region in the past few years, attending local Idaho Smart Women, Smart Money conferences and partnering with Palouse Pathways, an organization that assists
families and students to prepare for life after high school.
“Anytime we have the opportunity to be there, we’re there to make sure we can help,” Thiros said.
Acting as Idaho’s only 529 program, IDeal is an education savings plan offered by the Idaho College Savings Program Board, put in place to help families set aside funds for future college costs. It is named after Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code, which created such savings plans for families in 1996.
Idaho’s program launched in 2001 and has since been peddled by Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, who visited the University of Idaho in 2014 to push for the program.
A person who opens an IDeal account may make contributions to the account, which grow tax-deferred. All money saved is federally and Idaho state tax-free, so long as the money is used to pay for college expenses, in or out of state.
Dan Davenport, director of student financial aid services at the UI, told the Daily News he opened his own 529 accounts for his two daughters, for one before she turned 5 and the other when she was born.
Davenport said one daughter is currently a sophomore in college, while the other has managed to obtain a bachelor’s degree debt free and move on to graduate school, due in large part to the account Davenport set up when she was a child.
“I like it because it does a couple of things,” Davenport said. “Most important, it starts you saving early, and that’s the key.”
From a financial aid standpoint, Davenport said he very rarely sees students who have all of their college expenses paid for by scholarships. Money that is awarded, he said, could be combined with money collected in a savings account.
“It is something parents will never regret doing,” he said.
According to the news release, eight in 10 Idaho parents and grandparents are not aware of the available state tax deduction for contributions to IDeal.
Davenport concurred with the idea that many people might not be aware of the benefits of the program, or of the program at all, saying many parents are just not thinking about their child’s college expenses when they are young.
Kim Salisbury, academic budget officer for the UI Budget Office, said she opened accounts for both of her 11-year-old boys about five years ago.
“I heard about it while working at the University of Idaho, and I heard that you could set it up as a payroll deduction, and that made me look into the program a little bit more,” Salisbury said.
She said the program has been a fun way to show her children what exactly they are investing in and to teach them how to invest themselves.
“It’s kind of fun to get your kids involved in that,” Salisbury said.
Latah County residents now have approximately $9.1 million saved in IDeal accounts. In the last year, they withdrew about $777,000 of saved money to pay for college expenses.
“That makes us very excited because that is what the plan is designed for,” Thiros said.
Taylor Nadauld can be reached at (208) 883-4630, by email to email@example.com and on Twitter @tnadauldarg.