Piggy Bank With Graduation Cap

With a passion for helping her community, Arizona Treasurer Kimberly Yee is promoting the Arizona Education Savings Plan in hopes of helping families financially prepare for their children’s academic future. 

AZ 529 is Arizona’s Education Savings Plan that allows parents to create savings over time that can be used for their child’s college, vocational and workforce training, apprenticeships or private K-12 education. Additionally, the funds can be used toward tuition, books, computers, and room and board. 

The Arizona state treasurer’s office is the state agency that administers the program. 

Yee said since her team took over the program in October of last year, she has been working to expand its reach and talk to families who have never gone to college, whose focus has never been on saving early.

“It’s amazing how you can start saving early,” Yee said. “There are so many options that you can do. But what we have heard from just our new outreach is how few people have heard about this and it’s been around for so long, but once they hear about how easy it is to open, they are just right on board.”

Yee said the investment in a child’s future should start early, as it sets the child up for success. She mentioned an example of setting aside $50 a month at a 6% annual interest rate over the span of 18 years will equate to $18,686. 

Yee said the numbers speak for themselves, including the number of parents, guardians, grandparents, or aunts and uncles who have opened savings plans.

Since Oct. 1, 6,600 additional savings plans have been opened. Additionally, assets of the plant have grown by 14.5%.

“That’s huge. And, again, this was just last fall in the middle of 2020,” Yee said, referring to the pandemic. 

Yee isn’t stopping there. Her team has released brochures and other marketing materials in Spanish and is working with the Navajo Nation to put it in Navajo, all to reach as many families as possible.

“We want this outreach to be in every single ZIP code. Particularly, for me, it’s a passion to reach families who might not have otherwise had this experience in going to higher education so that they have money set aside,” she said. 

This plan is for anyone looking to save early, and Yee hopes to especially reach those who haven’t yet considered starting to save for their child’s college education. 

“Many don’t have that savings aside and then they find themselves in debt, and we don’t want a young person to start their future careers already behind the ball,” Yee said. “We really want to help families early on and start planning long term so that the opportunities are endless once they do have these education plans in place, and then they can choose their desired pathway on education once they’re ready.”

To promote AZ 529, Yee launched an essay contest for fifth graders throughout the state. Students will have the chance to win $529 toward a new or existing AZ 529 Education Savings Plan. 

Students’ essays must answer the question, “What is your dream job and how do you plan on achieving it in the future?” Entries are accepted through May 29.

Twenty vouchers, each worth $529, will be awarded toward a savings plan, one from each of Arizona’s 15 counties, with an additional five awarded between Maricopa and Pima counties.

In total, more than $10,500 will be provided to 20 students to assist in saving for their plans beyond high school. 

“It’s exciting to see their ambitions and what they’re planning in their future careers. Especially coming out of 2020, this is something that is inspiring and very positive,” Yee said. 

As someone who was born and raised in Arizona, Yee said her passion and commitment is for the community she has grown to know and love. 

In terms of her policy area of choice? Yee didn’t hesitate to choose education. 

“My mother taught in the public schools in Phoenix for 38 years. I am really trying to make a difference in what we can do for our classrooms but particularly our teachers and our students in moving that needle,” she said. 

A major part of that effort lies with Arizona’s Educational Savings Plan. 

“It really will allow for that child to plan ahead and have as many opportunities as possible that are available because you now have the money in place. Your options will be that much greater in choosing what you want to do after high school, and then also the tax savings are a huge benefit for any family who is willing to put money aside,” Yee said. 

For more information, to start an AZ529 Education Savings Plan, or to learn more about the essay contest and how to enter, visit az529.gov.