Helping education dreams come true for 20 years


This year, I am delighted to participate in the celebration of the 20e anniversary of IDeal, Idaho’s official 529 college savings program. It is remarkable to see how far we have come and it is exciting to imagine how we can continue to grow to help realize the professional and educational hopes and dreams of Idahoans.

In 2000, Idaho’s elected leaders decided to help families and individuals plan for the rising costs of college and training programs. A board of directors was established in 2001 and IDeal began opening its first accounts for savers across the state. Since its inception, IDeal has helped parents, grandparents, loved ones and employers save for higher education, transformed the lives of Idahoans who pursued their dreams, and contributed to a larger workforce. educated and qualified.

Much of this story is told in the numbers. During its first year, nearly 800 people opened 529 IDeal accounts. Over the past two decades, that number has grown to over 60,000 savers; in 2020, a record number of 4,912 new accounts were opened. Account assets have grown significantly thanks to monthly contributions from account holders and sound financial management from our investment partners, helping families save over $ 720 million for their education goals.

Our accomplishments are also measured by real stories from Idaho. Grandparents who have struggled to afford their own children’s school fees fund accounts for their grandchildren. Young mothers save so they can one day pursue higher education while paying for their children’s higher education. New graduates use their accounts and tax benefits to reduce student debt.

As savers grew, the program itself evolved, making participation easier and more beneficial for Idahoans.

Initially, lawmakers approved an annual tax deduction of $ 4,000 for individuals or $ 8,000 for couples applying jointly. This deduction was increased in 2017 for both categories, allowing families to keep more of their funds for school.

In 2018, the legislature incorporated new federal legislation allowing 529 funds to be used for K-12 tuition. A year later, the rules were changed to allow the use of funds for federally certified apprenticeship programs, to benefit high school graduates interested in learning essential job skills for Idaho employers trying to fill well-paid positions.

Last year, the Legislature approved a tax credit for employers who contribute to 529 employee accounts. Employers can get a 20 percent tax credit, up to $ 500 per employee. According to a survey by Gift for College, 72 percent of employees said a voluntary benefit like a 529 would increase loyalty to their employer. This policy change can be both a great tool for economic development and a big boost for families saving for their education dreams.

We are proud to celebrate twenty years of growing participation, assets and educational dreams made statewide. As we look to the future, we are excited to continue this growth through education and creative partnerships with community leaders, employers and financial professionals. Anyone can play a role in promoting the Idaho College Savings Program as a proactive tool to help families and individuals thrive and prosper.

If there’s one takeaway from all we’ve learned in 20 years, it’s that setting expectations matters. Researchers at the University of Washington have shown that just having an education savings account can profoundly influence whether students continue and finish training after high school, making them up to seven times more likely to do so. Without a doubt, planning and saving are really the things that dreams are made of.

Be a part of this lasting and life-changing legacy by creating or contributing to a loved one’s IDeal 529 account today at

About Christine Stoll

Christine Stoll is the executive director of IDeal, Idaho’s 529 college savings program. She spent 19 years working in education and received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Boise State University.

Read more stories from Christine Stoll »

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