Programs now offer gift cards for education

Instead of asking for traditional gifts this year, some students may have asked for a new type of gift card — one that helps pay for college.

Two new programs, GradSave and Kiva are changing the face of giving by allowing friends and family to contribute toward a student’s college tuition.

Both programs are designed to allow friends and family to make direct donations to a student’s 529 college savings plan or microplan.

A 529 savings plan is operated by a state or a particular educational institution and helps families set aside funds for future college costs. Funds can be applied to any public education institution in- or out-of-state.

GradSave links to members’ 529 college savings plans and gives them digital redemption codes as well as a physical gift card so they are able to transfer the money to their student account.

Spokeswoman for GradSave Samantha McShine said in a USA Today article that the program has seen a “drastic increase” in gift card purchases over the past month.

Some students say, though, they are unsure about the thought of someone other than their parents taking on their college tuition.

“My parents pay for my tuition, and I would be uncomfortable with anyone else offering me a gift card for my tuition since my parents are able to do that for me,” Robin Criswell, a senior majoring in social work, said. “If someone felt the need to offer me a gift, I’d prefer to receive a traditional gift card.”

The GradSave program is designed to help parents of young children start saving for college as soon as possible.

Kiva is a loan program that helps to alleviate poverty. You make a loan on Kiva by donating money, and it is distributed to those who need it. The donor receives updates throughout the life of the loan, and as the borrower pays back the loan, the money is redeposited into the donors account.

At this time, The University of Alabama does not accept gift cards from GradSave or Kiva.

Amber Smith, a sophomore studying graphic design, would prefer gift cards that help pay for her books.

“Most people wouldn’t be able to give a gift card that would make a significant difference, but help paying for my books would be awesome, seeing as how you don’t get the same amount of money back that you paid for them at the beginning of the semester,” Smith said.

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