Planting seeds for the future
There’s a saying that the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago; the second-best time is now. The same principle holds true for saving for your child’s college education. Whenever in your child’s life you choose to start saving, it’s important for your family to have a plan. Too many families don’t.
September is Oklahoma and National College Savings Month. It’s an opportunity to remind parents of the importance of saving for college and point them toward some of the tools that can help them craft a plan for the future.
Even a little bit, saved regularly, can add up and make a difference. One option for Oklahoma families is the Oklahoma 529 College Savings Plan (OCSP). The plan offers a number of investment options and funds may be used at almost any private or public university, college or career technology center nationwide. Funds can also be applied to other qualified expenses, including fees, books, supplies and certain room and board and technology costs. To top it off, your contributions may also qualify for an Oklahoma income tax deduction.
Thousands of families have started their college savings through OCSP, but many more can benefit from it. All it takes is a little time, today, to sit down and start making a plan. To learn more about OCSP, visit www.ok4saving. org. This website has features, like a savings calculator and tools to project how much college may cost in the future, that will help you plan for your child’s or grandchild’s future.
Many college graduates are starting their professional lives saddled with student debt. The average for students graduating in the class of 2016 was $37,172, according to Forbes. Wouldn’t it be a relief to know that your child or grandchild would have the advantage of transitioning from college into adulthood without being saddled with student loan debt like many of their friends might be? By starting to save early, or even now, it is possible! Rep. Jadine Nollan ustice for all” is a pillar of life in America. We pledged “with liberty and justice for all” in grade school and have carried that principle through our lives as an Oklahoma value, an Oklahoma standard. While it is carved on our buildings and in our hearts, this fundamental principle of every person’s equal value in the eyes of the court is now in jeopardy due to a proposal before Congress to defund the Legal Services Corporation (LSC).
LSC provides funding for free civil legal assistance for poor persons in every state. Bipartisan support from Congress has resulted in funding
LSC every year since its creation in 1974, but this year, the White House has zeroed out funding to LSC.
In Oklahoma, Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma (LASO), a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, is the only statewide free general civil legal assistance program that receives LSC funds. LASO serves low-income Oklahomans in all 77 counties when they are trapped in abusive relationships, seeking custody of their children, fighting wrongful evictions or when they have been denied rightfully earned benefits. In 2016, LASO handled 10,133 critical cases, involving 22,724 men, women and children who had no other recourse. To qualify, an individual may earn no more than $15,075 annually, and a family of four is limited to $30,750.
As a third-generation Oklahoman, I have seen many good Oklahomans who have fallen into poverty and needed an attorney’s help to keep their family together. I’ve seen hard-working people who weren’t able to navigate the complex legal system alone and wound up losing the family home.
In 2009, my wife, Kim, and I were honored to serve as co-chairs for LASO’s Campaign for Justice, the annual fund drive that is supported by attorneys, firms, other individuals, foundations, corporations and many sovereign nations. Together, we raised more than $1 million for LASO, which allowed it to maintain its service levels despite congressional budget cuts. That experience showed Kim and me that legal aid is vital for low-income individuals and families in Oklahoma. We saw how the help of legal aid often provides the remedy and support critical for an individual or family to return to productivity. We witnessed how legal aid can be the crucial element in domestic violence cases, allowing the victim to live in safety. The 10,133 cases handled by LASO last year touched only a fraction of the low-income persons who could be helped if funds were available. And the demand for LASO’s assistance grows every year. Meanwhile, LASO is working to make sure clients have access to its services by embedding attorneys and legal staff members in other nonprofit organizations that provide direct services to particular sections of the population, such as veterans, abused women and seniors groups.
I am joined in this article by Hilarie Bass, the 2017-18 president of the American Bar Association. We hope to inform Oklahomans of the vital role LASO plays in Oklahoma’s justice system. The courts and the entire social system in our state rely on legal aid to assist low-income persons in the most beneficial way. Hilarie Bass