Tennessee taps Walker + Associates for college savings campaign

MEMPHIS, TN: The Tennessee Department of Treasury has hired Walker + Associates to encourage state residents to invest in "Section 529" education cost-savings plans.

MEMPHIS, TN: The Tennessee Department of Treasury has hired Walker + Associates to encourage state residents to invest in “Section 529” education cost-savings plans.

The state signed a five-year contract with Walker + Associates worth more than $3.2 million after an RFP, said LaKesha Page, director of college savings at the Tennessee Treasury Department. The program did not have an incumbent agency.

The state wants to launch the initiative this quarter, with the goal of helping the plan reach its annual benchmarks of $15 million by end of fiscal year 2012, $50 million by end of FY 2013, and $225 million by end of fiscal 2014. By FY 2019, its goal is to have more than 100,000 accounts in the program, according to the RFP.

The campaign is expected to include media outreach and events, as well as media buys, social media, and a grassroots effort.

“As citizens and taxpayers, we are excited to work on something that's not only fun creatively, but that's good and is helping to build something that will change people's lives for the better,” said Andy Windham, chief operating officer at Walker + Associates.

A Section 529 education savings plan operated by state or educational institutions allows families to contribute after tax dollars to an account. The earnings are tax-free as long as the funds are used for higher-education expenses, according to the RFP.

Meanwhile, the agency search process for the College Savings Plan Network, an organization looking to promote Section 529 plans around the US, is drawing to a close. A decision is expected in June, said Stephanie Seiffert, corporate communications manager at Fahlgren Mortine, the account's incumbent.

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