It’s not easy to send a child to college these days. Costs keep spiraling, debt rising and grants harder to chase.
For kids in foster care, the outlook is far more dismal.
“A very small percentage of children from the foster care system complete college,” said Rachel Kinder, M.S.W., the Permanency Coordinator for Frameworks, an agency which finds families waiting to adopt children out of the foster care system. “It’s about three percent nationally.”
In an effort to combat the problem, State Treasurer John Perdue’s office is staging a 5-K run/walk 8:30 a.m. Saturday, May 30 at 1116 Smith St. That address is the Charleston Area Alliance’s parking lot, situated near the Capitol Market. The course winds onto nearby Piedmont Road, to the State Culture Center and back.
Each entry fee goes to SMART529 scholarship accounts – save for a $3 race fee. The Hartford, which manages the plan’s funds, supplies the scholarship amounts. Scholarship accounts will be awarded to already-adopted children through a selection process administered by FrameWorks.
To register, go to www.wvtreasury.com. Regular registration is $30 and ends May 29. Same-day registration is $35 and begins at 7:30 a.m. An ice cream social and a packet pick-up is scheduled for 4 to 6 p.m. Friday, May 29 at the Capitol Market.
The event is formally known as the SMART5.29K run/walk, to promote national “529 Day,” traditionally designated on May 29. That 529 number is a nod to the section of federal tax code that makes such college savings plans possible.
“We are constantly looking for ways to improve and promote our program,” State Treasurer John Perdue said. “Kids in foster care face daunting challenges when attempting to attend college. We want to provide any help we can.”
FrameWorks’ efforts include recruiting families to foster/adopt, helping families to navigate the certification process and providing support to kinship caregivers.
“This is a great opportunity to educate the public about the need for foster and adoptive parents,” Kinder said. “There are more than 4,000 children in foster care in West Virginia. Approximately 1,000 children are waiting to be adopted. It’s also a wonderful chance for adoptive families to get the child off to a good start with a SMART529 plan.”
Kids in foster care have such low college-going rates because of the topsy-turvy nature of their lives. In addition to the constant emotional toil their lives exact, they are constantly changing schools and falling behind.
SMART529, meanwhile, remains among the nation’s leading college savings plans, particularly among “direct-sold” plans. Savingforcollege.com gives SMART529’s WV Direct plan a “five-cap” rating. It also places it seventh in three-year performance among all national plans sold without the need or involvement of a stockbroker.
West Virginia residents receive a state income tax break by investing in any SMART529 plan. The WV Direct plan requires no contribution to get started, nor minimal monthly contributions, though direct contributions are the best way to grow one’s money.