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LaGrange County Promise Program gains support

People are lining up to help young folks plan ahead for some education after high school. The LaGrange County Promise program is one of three pilot programs being started in Indiana this year and is modeled after a program started in Wabash County last year.

The program involves opening a CollegeChoice 529 account, participating in age-appropriate college and career discovery activities in the classroom, invites champions to provide encouragement and make an investment in their personal CollegeChoice 529 account, and participating in a “Walk Into My Future” event on a local college campus.

Any LaGrange County student in grades K-3 who attends Prairie Heights, Lakeland or Westview school systems is eligible for community incentives. Students must be enrolled by August 30, 2014. Other students can establish the accounts but they are not eligible for the incentives.

A parent needs to enroll the student in the program and make a $25 initial deposit into the account. Incentives to date include a $25 match from Parkview Health, students will identify and ask five or more champions (friends, family, neighbors) to make a gift of $5.29 or more into their college savings account, and students who raise $25 or more will receive a community matching grant.

County commissioners are on record as supporting the project and suggesting that the council appropriate money from either Major Moves (interest earned) or Economic Development Income Tax (EDIT) in the amount of either $15 or $25 per student that enrolls.

The amount of the matching grant will be determined by local fundraising efforts. The match fund is now at $38,000 and growing. The latest announced gift was $15,000 from the LaGrange County Chamber of Commerce.

The funds raised are being directed toward the LaGrange County Community Foundation and will be tax deductible.

Students (parents) remain in control of their funds and in the event the student does not eventually enroll in an institution of higher learning will be able to recoup the funds the student invests when the child reaches an age of graduation from high school. The community match funds and earnings will remain in the corpus of the CollegeChoice account and be distributed to others.

Sponsors of the program estimate about 1,700 students are eligible for the first year of the program and they are expecting 70 percent to enroll.

The project is being sponsored and pushed locally by the LaGrange County Economic Development Corporation (EDC), Parkview Health, and the Cole Foundation. Jen Will of Parkview Health and Keith Gillenwater of the EDC have been making local presentations regarding the program.