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Zweifel offers two free Kindles to promote college-savings program

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 30, 2012 - Missouri Treasurer Clint Zweifel has announced an unusual contest to boost the profile of the state’s college-savings plan, known as MOST: an online drawing for two Kindles.

The giveaway is unusual for state government, and Zweifel’s staff says no taxpayer money was used to obtain the prizes.

Zweifel’s staff says the drawing is to celebrate “529 College Savings Day” on May 29, referring to the tax breaks aimed at encouraging families to use the program to save for college.

“Two lucky Missourians will each win a Kindle Fire and an Amazon gift card as part of an effort to spur discussion about college savings and its role in making college more affordable,” Zweifel’s announcement said. “Throughout May, Missourians can register for a chance to win at www.most529savings.com by clicking the Kindle Fire giveaway button.”

“College savings is a crucial part of making higher education more affordable,” said Zweifel, whose office sponsors the MOST 529 college-savings program.

Under the MOST program, participants set up a special tax-favored investment account. “Missouri taxpayers who are account owners may deduct up to $8,000 ($16,000 for married couples filing jointly) in contributions each year when computing their state income tax,” the release states.

The money in the account “can be used to pay for qualified higher-education expenses such as tuition, certain room and board costs, books and mandatory fees at most four-year colleges and universities, many two-year institutions, vocational schools and some schools abroad,” Zweifel’s office notes.

“Celebrating 529 College Savings Day helps us spread the word about the MOST 529 plan and get more Missouri families thinking about the future by saving now,” he said. “Nationally, student loan debt is at about $1 trillion, and the average Missouri college graduate has $22,500 in student debt. Higher education is important to our economy and affordability is essential for families. Currently, more than 130,000 families are saving an all-time high of $1.8 billion in the MOST 529 Plan. We need to keep growing those numbers, and spreading the word helps get that done.”

As for the giveaway: “The contest runs May 1 to May 31. Missourians 18 or older are eligible to enter. The two winners will receive a Kindle Fire with built-in wi-fi and access to books, publications, apps, games, movies and more. Each winner will also get a $50 Amazon gift card. Winners will be notified by phone on June 1 and announced on June 8."

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.