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UA College Savings Plan Announces Scholarship Account Winners

Five-year-old Jensen Shafer from Anchorage was randomly selected to win a $25,000 UA College Savings Plan scholarship account. Four other Alaskans from Fairbanks to Kodiak have won $2,500 scholarship accounts.

The annual scholarship account drawing is for all applicants who answer, “yes” to question six of their Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend application, which asks residents if they would like to automatically contribute half of their dividend into a UA College Savings Plan account. The Education Trust of Alaska, the trust established to administer the college savings program, funds the scholarship account giveaway.

“We were shocked when we heard that Jensen had won the scholarship account,” said Randee Shafer, Jensen’s mother. She and her husband Scott have been saving for their three children in the UA College Savings Plan since 2007. She said they like the investment options and the fact that their children can use the funds to attend schools here or outside of Alaska. “This account is really a gift for our whole family, and we are very grateful.” Although Jensen’s present career aspirations include skateboarding, pie eating and base-jumping, his parents are confident the scholarship account will help him achieve his dreams.

Winners of the $2,500 scholarship accounts are:

Olivia Bennett, 17, Kodiak

Julia Garrigues, 81, Anchorage (who has assigned her winnings to her granddaughter Marisa Garrigues)

Yelyzaveta Myshenyova, 12, Fairbanks

Morgan Rice, 14, Anchorage

This is the third year the UA College Savings Plan has offered the scholarship account giveaway. Its goal is to encourage Alaska families to save their Permanent Fund Dividends for higher education expenses.

“The incentive is working,” said Bonnie Carroll, marketing manager for the college savings plan.   She noted that 11,147 Alaskans contributed half of their 2012 PFD to the plan. This is a 15 percent increase over the number of 2011 contributors and a 41 percent increase over the number of contributors in 2009, before the giveaway began. “We are happy to see the number of Alaskans planning for higher education growing at such a fast pace.”

This is the first year that an adult was selected to win a scholarship account. Adults have the option to give their scholarship account to a friend or family member.   One of the $2,500 scholarship account winners, Julia Garrigues, has been saving for her granddaughter Marisa and will be able to give her account an even bigger boost this year. A family’s odds of winning increase when parents and grandparents both check the savings plan box on their own PFD applications.

The UA College Savings Plan will offer the scholarship account giveaway again next year to everyone who contributes half of his or her 2013 PFD to the plan through the official application. The application period runs Jan. 1 through March 31, 2013. Residents can apply online or visit a distribution center.

Plan beneficiaries can use their funds to pay for education expenses at any eligible college, university, or vocational/technical school in Alaska or the Lower 48. Families can open a tax-advantaged account with as little as $50.

For more information about the PFD, go to http://www.pfd.state.ak.us.

To learn more about the UA College Savings Plan and the $25,000 Scholarship Account Giveaway, go to http://www.uacollegesavings.com.

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