State Treasurer John Perdue kicked off the sixth year of the Smart529 ‘When I Grow Up’ essay contest on Wednesday at Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary School in Charleston.
The program urges students in Kindergarten through 5th grade to think about their future career plans and then write it down on paper.
Those essays will be judged. The finalists from 15 regions across the state will each be awarded a $500 SMART529 scholarship. The winner will receive $5,000 to put toward their SMART529 plan. Teachers also have the chance to write an essay and win money for their classrooms. The Treasurer’s office will hand out $20,000 this year.
Perdue says the essay contest is a way to reach out to students and their parents to think about saving for a college education early.
“[An education] is not going to get any cheaper. We’re trying to encourage parents to realize that it’s time to start putting that money into a SMART529 plan to save for your child’s education,” explained Perdue.
Currently more than 30,000 parents and grandparents are putting money into a SMART529 plan for West Virginia students. Previously, to open an account, you had to put in a minimum amount. Perdue says West Virginia is one of only a few SMART529 programs across the country that has gotten rid of that requirement. Now all you need is $1.
“We’re rated as one of the best in the country because we’ve dropped the minimum fee, eliminated a lot of the cost to get in the program and made it a lot easier,” he said. “That’s what it is all about, getting parents to put that money in there and getting their kids to college.”
The ‘When I Grow Up’ essay forms will be available at elementary schools all across the state in the next couple of weeks. The deadline to return those forms is February 22.