Steuben County Joins Promise Program
March 19, 2015
Angola, Ind. -- For the youngest students in Steuben County, college is no longer simply a faraway place they imagine—it is a place they will visit and see for themselves. Steuben County has been selected as a pilot community for Promise Indiana, a college and career readiness program started in Wabash County in 2013.
The Promise helps spark conversation with youth about their dreams for the future during the elementary years. Every student in grades kindergarten through third in the county will be celebrated for steps they are taking today toward those dreams, including creating a college savings account at school registration events or back-to-school nights.
A college visit to Trine University will be part of college and career discovery activities for students through the Promise this fall. The program is currently being piloted in four Northeast Indiana counties, inspiring over 3,200 families to begin saving for higher education by creating a CollegeChoice 529 savings plan. 529 plans can be used toward certification or two- or four-year degrees at any eligible school around the country and abroad. Indiana taxpayers are eligible for a state income tax credit of 20% of contributions to a CollegeChoice 529 account, up to $1,000 credit per year.
"Students who have their own savings accounts are seven times more likely to attend college. They feel excited about their future and are engaged in what's going on in the classroom. We are creating hope for these students, and we're excited that communities like Steuben County are showing the passion to invest in youth and prepare them for those futures," said Clint Kugler, Chief Executive Officer of the Wabash County YMCA and Promise Indiana co-founder.
As a first-year pilot community, Steuben County will focus on the early steps families can take to help their kids establish a "college saver identity," first by providing a $25 enrollment incentive to start an account. Community leaders will also work to empower community members, organizations, businesses and churches to become "champions" for local youth. Champions invest by contributing to a child's growing account but also by providing words of encouragement about the future. Youth who raise $25 for their accounts from their champions will receive a community matching grant for their account.
One early champion in Steuben County was Breann Fink, Executive Director of the Steuben County Literacy Coalition. "We look forward to working with community partners to bring this opportunity to families and young children. Increasing awareness of post-secondary opportunities, and access for children, no matter their socioeconomic status, will not only benefit the students but our entire community," said Fink.
Source: Steuben County Economic Development Corp.