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Plan aims to SOAR college savings for low-income Lowell students- Lowell Sun

 

 

UPDATED: 03/14/2017 07:24:09 AM EDT

By Kori Tuitt, ktuitt@lowellsun.com

LOWELL -- Middle-schoolers may be contemplating which careers they want to pursue, but how many are thinking about the money needed to make their dreams come true?

State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg is encouraging middle-schoolers to start thinking of saving up for their higher education through a two-year pilot program called SoarMA, which will establish savings accounts for these students through the Federal Reserve Bank. She spoke at the Stoklosa Middle School in Lowell Monday afternoon.
 
The program is meant to help low-income middle-schoolers in the commonwealth in Lowell, Pittsfield, Springfield, Worcester and Haverhill.
"This effort today builds upon the work that we started when I first became treasurer," Goldberg said.

State Treasurer Deb Goldberg accepts a check for $187,500 at Stoklosa Middle School during the Launch of SoarMA in Lowell from Bob Hildreth, left, the chairman of Inversant. Helping to hold the check, at right, is Charles Desmond, the CEO of Inversant. Looking on at rear is state Rep. Rady Mom of Lowell. Watch video at lowellsun.com.SUN/JOHN LOVE
"But, you know what? One of the reasons I ran for treasurer is so that we could do this program because we wanted to not only provide a college savings plan, but we wanted to make sure that it wasn't just a stand-alone program." Those parents who enroll their children in the program will also have access to training in financial planning, saving, banking and retirement saving through learning circles in the community. These learning circles are made possible through community partners. A $50 deposit will be put into a savings account for parents who enroll their children. Bob Hildreth, chairman of Inversant, presented a check for $187,500 to go toward the program. The Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority (MEFA) will also help to make the program possible.

 

Students at Stoklosa Middle School raise their hands to ask State Treasurer Deb Goldberg a question during the Launch of SoarMA in Lowell, a college-savings program for low-income middle-schoolers. SUN/JOHN LOVE
 
Goldberg said this is a product of a "fantastic public-private partnership."
 
According to a report by the Center on Budget and Policy priorities updated last year, many states continue to cut higher education funding while public colleges and universities have been increasing tuition across the country. The report, titled "Funding Down, Tuition Up: State Cuts to Higher Education Threaten Quality and Affordability at Public Colleges," said increased tuition costs deter some from attending college, namely students from low-income backgrounds.
 
Tom Graf, executive director of MEFA, said planning and saving for college increases the college-going rate. "Each dollar saved is a dollar less that you have to borrow," graf said. "College savings is something we believe every family in Massachusetts needs to do."
 
Stoklosa Principal James Cardaci said he was thrilled to hear of the program. "I thought it was a wonderful opportunity for us," Cardaci said.
Also present at the event were Mayor Ed Kennedy, U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas, state Rep. Rady Mom and Lowell Schools Superintendent Salah Khelfaoui.
 
At the end of the event one student in the auditorium asked what happens to the money saved if the student decides against going to college. Goldberg said the money could be used for vocational training. In response to another student's question, she also said the program was not grades-based, so any student could enroll. When another student asked if undocumented students would have access to the program, Goldberg said "absolutely."
 
The goal of the program is to get young students to save money for their education, reduce the amount of money they would need to borrow to pursue their education and to become financially literate.
 
"Your dreams can be met," Goldberg said. "We're here to help you on that path."
 
Follow Kori Tuitt on Twitter and Tout @KoriTuitt.

http://www.lowellsun.com/local/ci_30855821/plan-aims-soar-college-savings-low-income-lowell