College savings for everyone

Beyond Housing partners with Normandy schools to provide students with funded college savings accounts

By Charlotte Beard

The Beyond Housing organization’s 24:1 Initiative to take on challenges in the 24 municipalities of the Normandy school district to foster stronger communities continues. For almost six years now, their two college savings programs, The Promise Account and the Viking Advantage Program, are continuing for Normandy students. Both are voluntary programs and not dependent on grades achieved while in school.

The Promise Account starts kids who enroll in the Normandy Collaborative’s kindergarten program with $500 in a Missouri 529 savings plan (MOST 529). The savings account helps off-set the costs of post-secondary education pursuits and gets its name from Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code, which specifies the plan’s tax advantages.

Chris Krehmeyer, President and CEO of Beyond Housing, states that a parent can sign their child up for the account at the time of enrollment in school.  It is Beyond Housing’s way of saying “we believe in you and you’re going to do great things with your life. Here is the community investing in you.”

Krehmeyer shared that there are almost 1,800 active accounts.

The Viking Advantage Program for Normandy High School juniors and seniors is Beyond Housing’s collaboration with Express Scripts Foundation and other funders to provide a match of $3 to every $1 saved in a student’s college savings account. Krehmeyer shared that the maximum match is against $500 which could yield a funding of $1,500 for one account. To sign up for the college accounts, students must complete an application, which is available through the high school guidance counseling office.

“The matched savings program is more limited in nature because of the need to find the match,” stated Krehmeyer. “We have a funder that funds the Promise Account, we don’t have a dedicated funder to fund the matched savings every year. We (must) raise dollars to put that program in place. We open as many of those accounts that we can with the funding that we have.”

At the beginning of every school year, Beyond Housing, Normandy and others assess what student contributions have been made towards accounts to determine what can be matched. Funder matches are deposited following contributions made to the savings accounts.

Krehmeyer shared that over 60 participants in the Viking Advantage Program have graduated from college and 75 percent of participating students are still in college or have graduated. Normandy shared that more than 320 students are enrolled in the program.

“We’re thrilled and excited for the kids, their great success and the ability to stick with it, which is not always the easiest thing to do,” stated Krehmeyer.

“This is an amazing opportunity for Normandy students,” said Dr. Charles Pearson, Normandy Superintendent of Schools. “The collaborative appreciates the support of committed organizations like Express Scripts, Beyond Housing and other generous donors. It is through partnerships like these we will continue to make strides toward our goal of full accreditation and providing a quality 21st century education for our students.”

“It’s a great program,” stated Krehmeyer. “Our staff is fantastic, too. A young man named James McGowan is our lead staff person on the (college savings) program. He is dedicated to the kids; he’s committed to their college success. He helps them with filling out the FAFSA form, which is a terrible form for parents to have to (complete) for financial aid. He helps them with understanding the award letters; those are complex and complicated as well. He takes kids on college visits.”

Krehmeyer shared that McGowan along with chaperons, recently took some students to Atlanta to do some college visits and toured the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.

“We try to provide financial support,” stated Krehmeyer, “but we also understand that financial support is not sufficient to make sure kids can be successful. The magic sauce is really the staffing that understands the challenges and builds relationships with the children and the resources to help the kids get over the top. This (college savings) is just one piece of a very exciting puzzle that Normandy, Beyond Housing and many other not-for-profits are putting together to ensure that the children of the district are successful in life and we’re excited to be a part of it.”

To learn more about Beyond Housing visit: https://beyondhousing.org.

CUTLINE: Photos courtesy Normandy Schools Collaborative

Cover-college1 Kindergartners give a presentation on career options at a 2016 school board meeting. Thanks to the College Savings Program, many Normandy students will have a little help in making those plans a reality.

 

Cover-College2 Members of the Class of 2017 (shown here) were able to take part in the Viking Advantage college savings program. Beyond Housing will match every $1 saved with a $3 match to be used college expenses.