#WhyI529 November Spotlight

Matching grant money makes degree possible

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Cindy Sexton wanted better for her daughter, Chelsea. Cindy has carved out a good life, with a solid job, but it hasn’t been without struggles since she could never afford to attend college. Chelsea’s father  passed away when she was a toddler. It was the two of them fighting to stay afloat.

Cindy’s dream? For Chelsea to go to college and graduate without being saddled with massive debt. 

“Thanks to the K.I.D.S. Matching Grant Program, our dream came true,” Cindy says. “I could have never afforded to send Chelsea to college without it. I had saved for her college education since she was 4 years old – putting away $25 each paycheck – which was a stretch for me. Yet I made it a priority because I didn’t want her to have to scrape by like I did. It was a no-brainer to take advantage of a program that matches money for saving for college. I’m so thankful we found out about it.”

The State of Kansas administers the K.I.D.S. Matching Grant Program, which help families who otherwise may not be able to afford college. Families must meet certain lower-income requirements to qualify. If they do, Kansas matches what they’ve saved – up to $600 each year – in their Learning Quest 529 College Savings Account.

Families can apply annually for matching funds. Cindy qualified each year she applied but one, and always fully maxed-out the grant money receiving an additional $600 each year. Plus, she was open and honest with Chelsea about how they were going to approach the path to college. They made a plan.

“Chelsea graduated high school a semester early and started taking courses at a local community college to save money,” Cindy said. “She also took a math course at KU, then transferred there for higher-level courses that really applied to her degree. She worked her tail off as a server at a restaurant, then at a property management company, while going to school full-time. I’m so proud of her work ethic and how she kept plugging away to make her dreams come true.”

Other factors that helped Chelsea get through college and earn her degree included a scholarship from KU, her grandparents pitching in for books and campus parking permits, reimbursement for some school expenses from Native American Student Services, and a student loan during her senior year of college.

“Chelsea broke so many cycles for our family and it’s all tied to college,” Cindy says. “Her degree allowed her to land an amazing job where she’s excelling. She was able to pay back the student loan very quickly because we didn’t have to take one until her last year of college. Chelsea even met her boyfriend through work. It makes me emotional to see her living this fairytale life that I always wanted for her. No one deserves it more … she’s a wonderful daughter and has my whole heart.”