Buffy Kuiper,
Senior Program Specialist
Education Trust of Alaska 

The holidays are fast approaching and the town is hustling and bustling with people frantically trying to find the best gifts and deals. With all the “this deal’s for you” noise, how can college savings plans across the country promote the idea of making a gift to a loved one’s college savings account?

Do all of our friends have college savings plans? Sadly, most don’t. Would the promise of a contribution incentivize a family to open an account? Maybe, maybe not. Is this what parents want and prefer? How can one incorporate the idea of making a child’s college dream a reality this holiday season? It’s not about the amount; it’s about taking action and setting an expectation while changing the mindset from “if” to “when I go to college…” Who wouldn’t want a child to have a bright future?

We recently had a unique opportunity to have a table at a holiday bazaar. Our theme was “gifting” and to help draw in traffic, we gave away a $2,000 scholarship account to a lucky child. The giveaway was successful in attracting families to the booth, as we would otherwise be lost among all the tangible items being sold. I was curious if the concept of “giving the gift of an education” would spark interest and curiosity. People gathered around the booth with confused looks on their faces, as if to ask what a 529 plan is and how does a college savings plan fit in with a holiday bazaar.

The idea was great because very few had ever thought about a college savings plan this way before. Having gifting conversations was like watching “aha moments” occur one after another. Giving the gift of an education (as opposed to the gift of toys, games, etc.) will have a positive and lasting impact on a child. Remind family and friends that anyone can make this everlasting gift.

I encourage everyone to promote gifting and begin to change the lives of the next generation of leaders. We must continually strive to think about college savings plans in new and unique ways. It is not about the dollar amount of the gift, but the fact that you’re setting a path to the future. Believing in a child is priceless.

About the author:

Buffy Kuiper is a Senior Program Specialist for the Education Trust of Alaska. The Education Trust of Alaska offers the UA College Savings Plan, the T. Rowe Price College Savings Plan, and the John Hancock Freedom 529 plan. The programs mange more than $6.5 billion for 325,000 accounts.