Guest Opinions

IDeal 529 College Savings Program: 15 years of opportunity

Christine Stoll
Christine Stoll

This year marks the 15th anniversary of Idahoans having a 529 college savings program of their own to plan and save for higher education. Created by the Idaho Legislature in 2000 and launched in 2001, IDeal — Idaho 529 College Savings Program allows families to save and invest for higher education while enjoying state and federal tax advantages. Our state is working hard to boost our college go-on rates, and IDeal is happy to celebrate some success stories that have been enabled by Idaho’s 529 College Savings Program.

Since the plan launched, over 37,577 Idahoans have benefited from having the opportunity to further their education by saving with IDeal. Families using IDeal have saved and then used more than $170 million for higher education. Currently, there are nearly 30,000 IDeal account beneficiaries hailing from every county in the state, including 15,111 in Ada County.

Recently, we invited Idaho families to tell us about their experiences with IDeal. The responses pointed to one very clear takeaway: Families seeking a brighter future for their loved ones use IDeal to achieve those goals. By reducing or removing the financial obstacles to education, the families that save with IDeal show their loved ones that higher education is an expectation.

For example, Tony Billiard, a grandfather of four, started saving for his newborn granddaughter nine years ago when his employer, Idaho Power, happened to hand out literature on the program. He recently asked his granddaughter what she wanted to do after high school, and she shared with him that her mom — a single mother of three — seemed to be worried about whether she would be able to help the kids pay for college. Tony was able to reveal to his granddaughter that he had been saving for her, and that there was no question that she was going to be able to go.

Stories like these reveal that learning about IDeal can be a profoundly impactful experience for Idaho families, so we are reaching out to communities in every corner of the state to ask for help in spreading the word. We want families to know that IDeal is a partner to help them achieve the dream of sending their child on to higher education, and we want all Idaho students to have the assurance they need that college can be in their future. Getting more students to further their education is an important goal that affects individual families along with Idaho’s economy, so it’s a goal that we’ll all have to work on together. We encourage community leaders, employers, educators and neighbors to help families learn about IDeal.

IDeal’s anniversary represents 15 years of helping Idaho families and their students reach for bigger and better opportunities, 15 years of helping grow our state’s college-going culture, and 15 years of peace-of-mind for families who hope to see their loved ones go on, knowing that they’ve helped make that dream a reality by planning for the future.

Here’s to many more years of opportunities for Idaho’s kids.

Christine Stoll is executive director of IDeal — Idaho 529 College Savings Program.