College savings plan gets clean audit

The state’s program that encourages parents to save for their children’s college education has seen “significant growth” in the past five years, the state Legislative Auditor’s Office reported Monday.

The Student Tuition Assistance and Revenue Trust savings program got a clean bill of health from the auditor’s office.

The state-sponsored trust fund, recognized by the Internal Revenue Service, allows parents, such as Gov. Bobby Jindal, to put money away with the benefit of having the state match those dollars.

The state matches between 2 percent and 14 percent of all deposits based on the adjusted gross income of the account owner.

Account owners can choose their level of risk for the money they invest ranging from secure interest rates to stock market funds.

State Treasurer John Kennedy oversees investments in START.

A report from Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera’s Office shows that the program, administered by the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance, is in good financial health.

The report further said more and more people are taking advantage of the program with “significant growth” coming last year. The number of accounts increased from just over 32,000 five years ago to 45,182 active accounts today, including 3,272 new accounts opened between 2011 and 2012, the report said .

Since 2008, the net amount of money held within the START program has increased from about $200 million to $433 million last year.

Jindal’s financial disclosure reports shows the governor as an active participant in the program routinely contributing money to accounts opened on behalf of his three children, Selia, Shaan and Slade.

Visit http://www.startsaving.la.gov/savings/index.jsp for more information about the START program.