State offers college savings account

Ron Stark calls it a “slam dunk” towards getting your kids to college.

Ron and Vicki Stark sent their four kids to college with nearly $100,000 in savings because they took advantage of a state-run college savings program.

“It eases their minds,” Stark said about his kids having a head start towards college costs. “It’s easy. Everybody should do it.”

Nearly 25,000 Idahoans have invested a record $310 million in IDeal, a savings program highlighted by Gov. Butch Otter this week as he proclaimed September college savings month.

“This makes sure higher education is an option for all Idaho students,” said IDeal executive director Christine Stoll.

The Idaho Legislature established IDeal in 2000, the same year Stark started investing in the program with about $200 a month. The four accounts for his four children each had more than $20,000 and 25 percent of that money was earnings. The earnings are exempt from state and federal taxing and contributors can deduct up to $4,000 a year.

“We’re going to make it easy and incentivize people to make college savings,” Stoll said.

The program is governed by the Idaho College Savings Program Board, which is made up of Idaho’s seven constitutional officers. The only staff is Stoll so administrative costs are small, less than 1 percent of investments.

The money can be used for tuition and school supplies and the plan allows a beneficiary to be anyone in the family. The money can be used at any accredited school in the United States and can be used for traditional, advanced or professional technical certifications or degrees.

“It’s never too late to start saving, even at $25 a month,” said Stoll. “People can leverage that financial growth in ways that is hard to do in other avenues.”

Stark’s oldest graduated from college, his second child is working on a professional technical certificate while his younger two are both enrolled in college.

“The number one plan shouldn’t be scholarships,” Stoll said. “A college account empowers families to drive the vehicle themselves and make sure higher ed is an affordable reality.”

Stark said: “Every little bit helps.”

 IDeal scholarship opportunity ends this month

IDeal has launched a social media-driven video contest, running through September. Entrants will have the opportunity to win one of three $529 awards toward a college savings account by submitting a video that answers the question, “How will college help you achieve your big dream?”

Entrants need to create and upload a 30-to 60-second original video (via the contest link at ) explaining their big plans for the future, and how post-secondary education can help make those dreams a reality. After entering, contestants can share their videos via various social media platforms to drive friends and family to vote for the video.

The three entrants with the most votes by 11:59 p.m. on Oct. 6 will win.

Entrants must be 18 years of age or older and be Idaho residents. Kids may “star” in the video; however, parents and guardians must enter on behalf of children under the age of 18. Votes will be tabulated in three age categories:

  • Kindergarten through sixth grade.
  • Seventh grade through 12th grade.
  • Adults, who can enter on behalf of themselves or the children in their lives, including grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

IDeal will award a fourth prize of $529 to a K-12 Idaho public school based on the entrant with the most votes, in an effort to encourage public schools to participate.

The contest is part of College Savings Month, a national campaign to encourage families to use college savings accounts to help pay for post-secondary education.

Jennifer Swindell

Jennifer Swindell

Managing editor and CEO Jennifer Swindell founded Idaho Education News in 2013. She has led the online news platform as it has grown in readership and engagement every year, reaching over two million pageviews a year. Jennifer has more than 35 years of experience in Idaho journalism. She also has served as a public information officer for Idaho schools and as a communication director at Boise State University. She can be reached at [email protected].

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