By Joan Marshall
Executive Director, College Savings Plans of Maryland
July 12, 2013

There is no “off season” when it comes to promoting the benefits of saving for college! Those of us who manage 529 plans are passionate about meeting families wherever they are to help them learn about how important it is to save for college and how easy it is to save in a 529 plan.

Most states have staff members or ambassadors that staff exhibits and information tables throughout the year at events that draw large numbers of families. In the summer, that’s likely to be at a fair or festival near you. In my state of Maryland, we will have ambassadors at town and county fairs throughout the summer. Other states will also have fairly elaborate booths, displays, and promotions at their State Fairs.

Since summer recreation is largely about having fun, we will have a presence at festivals that focus on our state’s heritage, from our African American Festival where we will be in “Community Row”; to our Seafood Festivals (yes, we have more than one of those!); to our Barbeque Bash (sorry, but we only have 1 of those since we are not Texas!).

Sports are also an important part of summer recreation so many states reach out to families at baseball games, both with major league and minor league teams. Minor league games are a personal favorite of mine, because many families feel more comfortable bringing infants and toddlers to these smaller, more affordable and child-friendly venues. Of course, these same parents of young children are exactly those who we want to help start their college savings plans! We have even worked with some of our minor league teams to combine our outreach with sponsorship of the team’s summer reading program. Children who read the required number of books get a free ticket to a game and we will be there to congratulate them – and educate their parents on saving for college.

As the summer starts to draw to a close, we will shift gears again towards Back-to-School fairs and New Teacher Orientations. It’s fun to see new college graduates who are just beginning their teaching careers think that they no longer need to know about saving for college, until we inform them that they are now role models for their students and they can become advocates for college savings with parents of their students!

So as you can see, there is no “rest period” for delivering the message about saving for college and reducing future student loan debt. Those of us in this business would not have it any other way since we are always searching for new opportunities to deliver our message.

About the Author:
Joan Marshall is the Executive Director of the College Savings Plans of Maryland, which offers both a 529 prepaid tuition program and a directly-sold 529 savings plan. Together, the plans have more than 207,000 beneficiaries with investments of more than $3.6 billion as of December 31, 2012. Marshall is currently the Past Chair of the College Savings Plans Network (CSPN) and is Co-Chair of the CSPN Federal Initiatives Committee.