Cowell touts saving for college in Charlotte

Janet Cowell
Janet Cowell X

On 5/29, three North Carolinians received an extra $529 for their 529 college investment plan.

The winners were announced at a news conference Friday at UNC Charlotte’s City Center campus, where North Carolina State Treasurer Janet Cowell touted the importance of saving for college.

The event highlighted North Carolina’s 529 plan, administered by the College Foundation Inc. The not-for-profit administers about $1.7 billion in assets and approximately 130,000 separate accounts with an average account size of $12,000, Executive Director Shera Hube said.

The upbeat event was intended to raise awareness about what can be, for some, an unhappy subject: affording a college education.

Bruce Blackmon, director of UNC Charlotte’s office of financial aid, said only about 6 or 7 percent of students at the university use a 529 savings plan and about 60 percent of students come to school with no college savings at all.

About two-thirds of UNC Charlotte graduates leave school with student debt. They owe an average of $25,394, according to data from CollegeInsight, a college data website.

Cowell said savings plans such as the 529 are a way to combat growing student debt, which is already affecting the North Carolina economy.

“You’ve got a whole generation of young adults who don’t have money to spend in the economy... fewer people going out and being able to sign an apartment lease and fewer purchases of furniture to outfit those apartments.”

According to a 2012 Federal Reserve Bank of New York study, 11.5 percent of total student loan balances are delinquent or 90 days past due.

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