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All Kindergartners in Nevada Given College Savings Accounts

In Nevada, starting kindergarten means starting to save money for college.

A college-savings plan with $50 is established for each student under the Nevada Kick Start Program, which began as a pilot program in 2013 and was recently expanded.

"I think it's time to facilitate a college-bound culture. And the way to do this is to start young," said Nevada state Treasurer Kate Marshall in a phone interview.

Marshall points to research showing a child with a college-savings account is up to seven times more likely to attend college than one without an account, regardless of family income, ethnicity, or the educational attainment of the child's parents.

The Kick Start Program, first piloted in 13 rural Nevada counties, was expanded statewide in February of 2014. Last week, Marshall announced another round of 529 savings accounts (about 35,000) would be set up for this year's incoming students.

San Francisco had a similar program for students, but Marshall said she doesn't know of any other statewide initiative—although she's gotten calls from officials in Maine, North Carolina, and elsewhere about replicating the program.

"You have to start young to tell children: You have a post-high-school plan. You have a goal," said Marshall. "Starting with a tangible asset like an account delivers that message."

The 529 college-savings accounts are established automatically by the state treasurer's office and held in a master account, managed by Upromise Investments Inc. The money comes from fees paid to the treasurer's office by the private companies that serve as program managers for the College Savings Plans of Nevada, along with donations from community partners to pay for the accounts.

Parents can only withdraw money from the account for higher-education-related expenses when the child is entering college, a trade school and technical college.

As part of the program, elementary schools have been given outreach materials, including fliers, brochures, and posters to share with families about the savings program.

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