HARRISBURG, PA (WTAJ) – The results of a study analyzing the differences in how rural county residents use and benefit from the PA 529 College & Career Savings Program compared to urban county residents were presented by PA Treasurer Stacy Garrity , announced.
Joining Garrity to announce the results were Center for Rural Pennsylvania Executive Chairman Sen. Gene Yaw (R-23), Center for Rural Pennsylvania Vice Chairman Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski (D-121), and the Executive Director of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, Dr Kyle C. Kopko.
The analysis, conducted by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania on behalf of the Pennsylvania Department of Treasury, concluded that PA 529 account beneficiaries in urban counties have more post-secondary education savings than rural account beneficiaries, even after accounting for different ones statistical factors.
Treasurer Garrity said the report shows the importance of emphasizing outreach to rural counties throughout Pennsylvania, which is something she has focused on since taking office.
Between January 2018 and March 2022, more than 60 percent of all contributions to PA 529 accounts went to PA 529 Investment Plan (IP) accounts in the 19 counties defined as urban by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania.
The report “Differences in Rural and Urban PA 529 Education Savings Accounts, 2018-2022” also found a sharp increase in PA 529 contribution amounts in the third and fourth quarters of 2021. This followed action by the US Treasury Department, advances on the child tax credit, which allows parents filing less than $400,000 together to receive a portion of their CTC reimbursement as monthly checks.
However, the report concluded that more evidence is needed on whether these policy changes contributed to the surge.
“Every Pennsylvanian deserves access to quality post-secondary education—whether it’s a four-year university, community college, technical school or apprenticeship,” said Treasurer Garrity. “This report shows we are doing the right thing by increasing our reach in our rural counties that are all too often forgotten in Harrisburg. As a lifelong resident of Bradford County, one of our most rural counties, I am committed to ensuring every corner of the state understands the benefits of PA 529. I have visited every county in Pennsylvania over the past two years and I always speak about the benefits of PA 529 and how saving with PA 529 can help families achieve their educational goals.”
To better reach rural communities across the Commonwealth, the Treasury expanded its outreach team in 2022, adding a Director of Outreach and Marketing and creating three regionally based outreach positions. The outreach team attends county fairs, senior citizen fairs, legislative programs and other events to connect directly with people. They also connect with community organizations and educational institutions to build stronger partnerships.
Treasurer Garrity has made many changes to make PA 529 accounts easier to access and to boost savings for families using the program. She eliminated the minimum deposit required to open a PA 529 account and lowered the minimum contribution to $1. PA 529 IP account holders have received a federal fee reduction, while PA 529 GSP account holders have waived asset-based fees for the current fiscal year and qualifying GSP accounts received a $100 deposit last summer resulting from the Excess income from the GSP fund was funded.
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“The Center for Rural Pennsylvania was pleased to work with the Treasury Department to analyze its data and release this new research,” said Chair Sen. Yaw. “This report will help raise rural residents’ awareness of PA 529 accounts and how these accounts can be useful for them to save for future education and training needs.”
For more information on PA 529 accounts, visit the PA 529 website.