CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The state's college savings plan hit a milestone recently when it surpassed $2 billion in financial assets.
"Reaching $2 billion in investments is a significant achievement for the SMART529 program," state Treasurer John Perdue said Friday. "It is evidence that more and more West Virginians are investing in the future of their children and preparing for life after high school."
"Saving for college has never been more important, with tuition costs rising and student debt climbing," said Perdue, chairman of the SMART529's governing board.
Perdue helped create the SMART529 program 11 years ago. Today, the program has more than 120,000 account owners.
"Based on today's rates, the average cost of college is more than $18,000 a year," he said. "Even if your child receives a Promise scholarship, it may not be enough to cover all the expenses associated with costs of higher education.
"Parents need to act now, to make sure their child isn't left behind," Perdue said.
Benefits from the SMART529 program equal the costs of tuition and fees paid for by Promise scholarships in West Virginia.
Last week, CNBC, on its website, ranked West Virginia's SMART529 program as one of the nation's 10 best college savings plans.
Students can use SMART529 accounts to pay for higher education expenses at most colleges, universities, vocational, technical and trade schools around the nation.
Account owners also receive tax deductions based on their contributions to the program, which is administered by Hartford Life.
"Hitting $2 billion is a milestone," Perdue said. "We never dreamed we'd ever have a program like that. It will continue to get bigger and bigger. It is one of the best in the country.
"We have had 27,000 West Virginians in our program. Over 10,000 of them have already received benefits going to colleges and universities," he said.