Hundreds of students in Sacramento County, from kindergarten through 12th grade, will be receiving college scholarships through a new pilot program designed to provide scholarship money and help families start saving for higher education.
The ScholarShare Investment Board (SIB), which is managed by the Office of Treasurer Bill Lockyer, and the Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE) are involved in a joint effort called the ScholarShare Project for Achievement and Recognition of Creativity (SPARC). The project involves a contest that will award 200 scholarships, totaling $150,000, throughout Sacramento County.
All scholarships will be placed into accounts, kept in trust for the recipients with the ScholarShare College Savings Plan (ScholarShare). ScholarShare is California's 529 college savings program, which enables Californians to save for college by contributing money in tax-advantaged investments.
"It is an honor to team up with the State Treasurer's Office in the ScholarShare effort. Our goal is to inspire more young people to think about their futures," said David W. Gordon, Sacramento County Superintendent of Schools. "We at the Sacramento County Office of Education are excited about helping provide scholarships to local students who are being rewarded for their talent, dedication, and achievement. We feel that we are definitely offering an enhanced opportunity for more of our students to be able to continue their educations and improve their lives."
"In the modern economy, a college education is the pathway to a good job and solid future," said Treasurer Lockyer. "Every student who works hard and achieves deserves the opportunity to obtain a college degree. This partnership with the Sacramento Office of Education will provide needed funds to help more students pay for the rising cost of going to college, get students excited about their futures, and encourage families to save early for college."
The Sacramento pilot project is a partnership between ScholarShare, California's 529 college savings plan, and SCOE. The contest will be open to students at 29 schools in Sacramento County. The scholarship recipients will be chosen based on contests surrounding the theme "I will become..." Students in K-through-6 will participate in a poster and essay contest, 7-through-9 students will compete in an essay contest, and 10-through-12 students will produce 30-second videos for their age group.
The K-through-6 contest will offer a total of 100 scholarships worth $500 each, the 7-through-9 contest will offer 50 scholarships worth $750 each, and the 10-through-12 contest will offer 50 scholarships worth $1,250 each. Representatives from both SCOE and SIB will judge the entries.
Each winner's award will be placed in a ScholarShare college savings account and held in trust by the ScholarShare Investment Board (SIB). The SIB, chaired by Lockyer as State Treasurer, manages the state's 529 college investment plan. Named for the section of IRS code under which they were created, 529 plans are highly regarded for their tax-advantaged status. The students will be able to use the awards, plus the investment earnings they accrue, to help pay their tuition and other college expenses.
The goal of this project is not only to help fund future education, but also to inspire children to attend post-secondary schools and engender in parents the desire to save for their children's future educational needs. Three events are planned for the school year—in December, March, and June—to present the scholarship awards and generate awareness of the need to save for college. Dates and times are pending.
Also announced is the launch of a new website managed by the State Treasurer's Office, www.Cal529.org, which will serve as the online hub for the SPARC contest and other ScholarShare outreach programs.