GEAR UP sponsors College Savings Plan Night events


WILBURTON, OK (Jan. 2, 2014) – Starting a savings plan for your child’s college education can be intimidating. That’s why Eastern Oklahoma State College’s GEAR UP program recently sponsored a series of “College Savings Plan Night” events throughout the grant’s cohort school territory to help answer questions and provide information on how to get started.

Area bank representatives partnered with Eastern’s GEAR UP staff to provide information to parents of eighth and ninth grade students about college expenses and how to save.

“We so appreciate the area banks who have taken time from their schedules to meet with parents,” said GEAR UP Project Director Linda Morgan. “Most of the events have been held ‘after hours’ in the evenings. The banks have been great to provide information and freebies to the parents.”

In addition to the College Savings Plan Night events, GEAR UP’s Education Coordinators are also teaching a financial literacy curriculum from Practical Money Skills for Life to students. They are teaching students how to create a savings goal, helping them understand smart money management and comparing tuition costs, explaining how to understand, create and calculate a budget, showing savings and investment strategies, and guiding them to sharpen their money decisions by clarifying what is a “want” and what is a “need.” Parents have also received newsletters detailing what courses students need to take to be prepared for college entrance.

“The GEAR UP team is also encouraging participation in “Oklahoma’s Promise,” a scholarship program created by the Oklahoma Legislature,” Morgan added. “It is available to students whose parents earn $50,000 or less at the time of enrollment. There’s a three–year window (when the students are in eighth, ninth or 10th grade) in which the student must sign up. We’re working with students and parents to ensure they meet the deadline.”

Oklahoma’s Promise will provide free undergraduate resident tuition at any of the state’s public colleges and universities. For students attending accredited private college or universities in Oklahoma, at least a portion of tuition will still be covered. As long as students maintain their eligibility, Oklahoma’s Promise will continue paying tuition costs until a baccalaureate degree is earned or five years after the student begins college—whichever comes first.

The award isn’t limited to just college–bound students, either. Courses offered at public technology centers that qualify for credit from an Oklahoma public two–year college are also covered. However, in all types of higher education options, students must start school within three years of high school graduation, or lose their award.

“We’re working hard to ensure parents are aware of the wonderful opportunities available to help them prepare for their child’s future,” Morgan said. “We want all Oklahoma students to have the advantage of a college education. The estimated difference in lifetime earnings of a high school graduate and a graduate with a bachelor’s degree is $1,111,921. That’s a huge difference. We want to be sure we are helping to move students to the higher level earning potential.”

The Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) is a federal initiative to increase the number of low-income students who enter and successfully transition into postsecondary education. Eastern will receive more than $12.6 million during a seven-year period to help students and educators in 30 partner schools.

Canadian College Savings Plan Night—BancFirst Treasury Management Rep Amanda Palmer and Customer Service Rep Whitney Johnson visit with GEAR UP parent Kelli Hopper at the Canadian College Savings Plan Night.

Clayton College Savings Plan Night Event—Community Banking President of Shamrock Bank NA Tom Lucas visits with GEAR UP parent Dianna Scarberry at the Clayton College Savings Plan Night.

LeFlore College Savings Plan Night Event—GEAR UP parent Jayleen Fowler visits with Central National Bank representatives Donna Huckaby, Asst. Casher, and Skyla Duncan, Asst. Casher/Loan Processor at the LeFlore College Savings Plan Night.

McAlester College Savings Plan Night Event—GEAR UP Education Coordinator Rachael Ranallo visits with GEAR UP parents as GEAR UP Education Coordinator Nina Barthel looks on at the McAlester College Savings Plan Night Event.

Atoka/Stringtown College Savings Plan Night Event—GEAR UP Education Coordinator Kamy Patterson visits with Stringtown 9th grader Ryan Thompson, Stephen Thompson, Cindy Smith, Jodie Moore and Sydney Moore at the Atoka/Stringtown College Savings Plan Night Event.

Wilburton College Savings Plan Night Event—GEAR UP parent Melissa Fordren and her children visit with Latimer State Bank Representatives Leah Montgomery, Asst. Cashier, and Sue Wagner, President, at the Wilburton College Savings Plan Night Event.

Panama College Savings Plan Night Event #1—Rená Brooks and Debra Giubes from Central National Bank visit with Amanda Hammers and Amanda Clark at the Panama College Savings Plan Night Event.

Panama College Savings Plan Night Event #2—GEAR UP Education Coordinator Dara Ward explains Oklahoma’s Promise to Adam Ryan, as GEAR UP student Nicole Ryan looks on during Panama’s College Savings Plan Night Event.

Spiro College Savings Plan Night—GEAR UP Education Coordinator Dara Ward visits with Pam and Hayley Baxter at the Spiro College Savings Plan Night Event.

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