By Shannon Cotsoradis
Kansas Action for Children President and CEO
Last week I had the privilege of touring colleges in the Midwest with my daughter. While I spent more than a few minutes contemplating the price tag -– oh my gosh — and being thankful we only have one child to put through college, the thing I thought about the most during our more than 30 hours in the car was how difficult it is for children in Kansas and across the nation to access higher education. Sadly, many children never see college as a possibility. And, for young adults fortunate enough to complete a college degree, they often find themselves at the end of that road saddled with a mountain of debt.
The solution lies, in part, in saving for college education. For some children, college savings opens up a world of possibilities and changes the conversation about their future prospects. For other children, it may mean the difference between completing college with a manageable amount of debt or completing college with overwhelming debt that makes it difficult to buy a first home, have children or save for retirement.
Yet, as families struggle to make ends meet with the rising cost of gasoline, groceries and health care among other things, finding a few extra dollars to save for each child’s college education isn’t easy. Programs like the KIDS Higher Education Savings Match Program, which matches contributions from low- and moderate-income families up to $600 per year, not only maximizes a family’s potential savings, but also incentivizes their saving behavior.
Given the challenges families are facing as they struggle to recover from the recession and help their children to afford higher education, it’s surprising that the Kansas Legislature is considering eliminating the KIDS College Savings Match Program. This is the time to shore up Kansas families, not the time for lawmakers to break their promise and short-circuit the hopes and dreams of children whose families are already participating in the program.