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Comptroller urges saving for college

February 09, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN -- Even at 10 years old, it's not too soon to think about college, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot told fourth-graders on Monday.

Franchot urged students in a Pangborn Elementary School class to ask their parents to start saving money for their higher education.

Franchot was joined by Joan Marshall, executive director of College Savings Plans of Maryland, an independent state agency.

Later, he toured the new school, two years after seeing cramped conditions at the previous Pangborn Elementary building, which since has been torn down.

Franchot praised the construction of the new school for being on time and within its budget.

Jamie Hade's fourth-grade class sat quietly and listened to Franchot's presentation. When he asked the children what their favorite pro football team is, they perked up and called out a range of answers.

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The question had a purpose. New posters promoting higher education show only the Baltimore Ravens who got a college degree -- 37 of the 53 players, Marshall said.

College Savings Plans of Maryland has two state-sponsored choices, according to a brochure Marshall gave children for their parents.

One is a prepaid college trust to lock in current tuition rates.

The other is an investment plan requiring a minimum contribution of $25 a month. Parents can start as soon as a child is born.

The programs offer tax deductions on contributions and tax-free earnings.

Franchot is vice chairman of the College Savings Plans of Maryland board, according to his office.

A group including Franchot, Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan, school board members Ruth Anne Callaham and Justin M. Hartings, and Principal Richard Gehrman walked through the school, visiting classrooms, the cafeteria and the gym.

The $23 million school opened last August, replacing a smaller building that was more than 50 years old.

Before stopping at Pangborn Elementary School, Franchot talked to some Washington County business leaders.

In a phone interview, Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce President Brien J. Poffenberger said the meeting included a discussion about economic growth around Hagerstown Regional Airport, a push to repair the Big Slackwater section of the C&O Canal National Historical Park and the reuse of vacant commercial buildings.

Poffenberger said the group also voiced its concern about any legislation affecting Washington County's tip-jar system, which distributes money to local nonprofit organizations.

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