College Savings Winners

Second-grader Kunjal Srivastava receiving checks for her college savings plan and her elementary school alongside (from left to right) Norman Public Schools superintendent Nick Migliorino, mother Shikha Srivastava, winner Kunjal Srivastava, State Treasurer Randy McDaniel, father Akhil Srivastava, grandmother Rekha Dwivedi and Lincoln Elementary School principal Olivia Dean.

Two Norman elementary school students won college savings accounts this month to help fuel their dreams to change the world.

Lincoln Elementary’s Kunjal Srivastava and Jefferson Elementary’s Roman Smith both received $1,529 to start their Oklahoma 529 College Savings Plans and an additional $500 for each of their schools.

“Our goal is to get parents and grandparents of younger children to start saving as early as possible,” Oklahoma Deputy Treasurer Tim Allen said. “[In] pre-K you’re... 14 years away from being in college, [and it] seems like a long time, but it’s really not.”

The inaugural contest challenged Oklahoma pre-K through sixth grade students to submit a video, drawing, poem or essay expressing how they plan to change the world after college.

“Every single one of these students is obviously showing signs of how intelligent they are, how bright they are and they obviously have a strong future,” Allen said.

Tim Allen said about 200 entries were submitted, and from there only 10 were selected.

Norman was the only city to have two winners.

“Now they’ve got a little bit of a kick start on getting their college savings going, and we hope that the families will be able to continue to put money into the savings plan for them, and they’ll be able to fulfill their dreams,” Allen said.

State Treasurer Randy McDaniel presented Srivastava with her check last Friday, and Roman Smith will receive his from Oklahoma College Savings Plan officials Thursday.

“For us it was a really proud moment,” Srivastava’s mother Shikha Srivastava said. “Her teacher and her classmates, even the principal of the school were all really delighted and excited.”

Inspired by how her mother helps people through a career in scientific research, aspiring aquatic veterinarian Srivastava wants to do the same, but with sea animals.

“She’s got $1,529 already in her account, and we are definitely going to follow up,” Shikha said. “It’s definitely going to help for her college education.”

The second winner, kindergartener Roman Smith wrote about his dream to become an architect.

“We were so surprised and excited when we found out Roman won the Change the World contest,” mother Simone Smith said. “College seems so far away for a kindergartner, but it will be here before we know it, and we are happy he will have this funding when the time comes.”

The Oklahoma 529 College Savings Plan is managed by the insurance service company Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America in collaboration with the Oklahoma State Treasurer’s office.

“It is the only savings plan with an Oklahoma income tax deduction,” Allen said. “You can put money into that account to get it working, to get it invested for college, and you can deduct your contributions.”

Single taxpayers can deduct up to $10,000 in yearly contributions to the fund, and married taxpayers filing jointly can deduct up to $20,000.

“It has a carry forward provision,” Allen said. “If you put more than that in at one year, you can deduct the $10,000 or $20,000, and whatever is left over you can carry forward to the next year and deduct.”

Srivastava’s second-grade teacher Kathy Nixon said the contest fits perfectly into her current lesson plan.

“The costs of college are rising as we all know, and we’re trying to teach fiscal responsibility,” she said. “We teach wants and needs in second grade, and so it’s a great lesson on saving for something that’s needed in the future it went right along with our social studies.”