Legislation that would allow for broader use of the Oklahoma 529 College Savings Plan passed the House on Tuesday in a unanimous vote.
House Bill 1962 by Rep. Jadine Nollan, R-Sand Springs, puts the state’s definition for qualified higher education expenses in line with the federal government’s parameters.
“I’m very excited about the passage of House Bill 1962,” Nollan said late Wednesday. “The Oklahoma 529 College Savings Plan has been a wonderful success story for our state.
“Expanding the state’s allowable-uses definition to align with the federal definition opens even more doors for preparing and training our Oklahoma workforce.”
The measure, which passed 95-0, now advances to the Senate, where it is being sponsored by Sen. Marty Quinn, R-Claremore.
“Oklahoma’s college savings plan already is terrific,” Nollan said. “But we want to make sure Oklahoma students have the same opportunities as students in other states when it comes to how they are allowed to use this money.”
Congress expanded the definition of allowable uses under Section 529 of the federal tax code over the past few years, she said, adding that money in 529 accounts now can be used for tuition, supplies, and room and board at accredited colleges, universities, career technology centers and business schools.
State Treasurer Randy McDaniel requested HB 1962, Nollan said.
McDaniel said that among the newest provisions created by the federal government, 529 funds now can be used for apprenticeships and for student loan debt of as much as $10,000. HB 1962 would make Oklahoma’s allowances mirror that.
“The recommended changes help ensure the lasting success of a program focused on increasing the number of college graduates while reducing burdensome student debt,” McDaniel said.
“I encourage families to invest in their children’s future education and prosperity by contributing to the Oklahoma College Savings Plan.”
Oklahoma’s 529 College Savings Plan just marked its 20th anniversary. The plan, which started from scratch, now contains more than $1 billion in assets. The initial contribution amount recently was reduced to $25, Nollan said, and contributors receive tax benefits on their deposits as well as withdrawals.
The lawmaker is hopeful about the measure’s chances in the Senate.
“I just don’t know if people realize what an opportunity this is,” she said. “It really does allow for other kinds of training, which I think is really important.”
De-escalation training: Meanwhile, legislation that would provide for de-escalation training for public school educators and staff also passed the House on Tuesday.
HB 1027 by Rep. Trish Ranson, D-Stillwater, would have the State Boards of Education and Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, in collaboration with district superintendents, develop and offer training for school employees on violence de-escalation.
The training could include information about trauma-informed teaching, self-regulation practices for students and staff, and trauma-informed response protocols for addressing behavior with more productive approaches.
HB1027, which passed the House 88-11, now advances to the state Senate.