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Ohio Tuition Trust Authority (OTTA) recently celebrated its 25th anniversary and is delighted to welcome Judy Cunningham to this silver milestone, too!
Tim Gorrell, executive director of OTTA, honored Judy’s exceptional accomplishment, stating, “For 25 years Ohio’s CollegeAdvantage 529 Savings Program has served over 750,000 beneficiaries. As a result, college or post-secondary training became doable for these recipients. With the help of CollegeAdvantage, careers were launched and lives were improved, immeasurably ensuring economic prosperity for thousands of families. A constant in this legacy is Judy Cunningham, who was a pioneer in the college savings initiatives and who has made an unquestionable difference passionately serving Ohioans and many beyond Ohio’s borders in achieving their college dreams.”
As one of the first employees at OTTA, Judy decided to join the new agency because she was attracted to OTTA’s mission of helping families prepare for their children’s higher education. She could envision the success achieved by families who attained their college savings goals for their children and its ripple effect through generations to come.
Judy’s first role with the agency was as a production assistant, a position that blended public relations and outreach responsibilities. Additionally, she assisted in the customer service call center as needed. Judy was later promoted as the supervisor of the call center representatives/production assistants — employees who answered OTTA’s customer service phone lines during the day and then supported the speaking engagements and public events during the evenings and weekends. As OTTA evolved through the years, so did her roles. Now as the publication relations/community outreach manager, Judy has traveled the state encouraging parents to save for their children’s future college costs through CollegeAdvantage, OTTA’s 529 Savings Plan.
In her career, Judy has heard many people share how OTTA has helped them to financially prepare for higher education expenses. But, her favorite saving story is her own. She and her husband, Bob, opened CollegeAdvantage 529 Plan accounts while their children were young and then saved regularly. All of the money that accrued in the accounts truly benefited their children when they started college. Judy shared that her daughter, while attending the University of Akron, would sigh in relief upon seeing students queued up at the financial aid office. She knew that because her mom and dad had been saving though the 529 program that she didn’t have to go join those lines. Their son attended Thomas Moore College in Kentucky with the help of their CollegeAdvantage savings. As Judy states, “My own personal experience is my best story.”
Working at OTTA is wonderful, Judy says, for it’s “an agency that is very worthwhile and much needed for the families within the state of Ohio and throughout the country. It makes you feel good to know that you are helping and so, you enjoy the work.” Furthermore, Judy states, “I think that’s evident from how long everyone stays here. I might be the longest-serving, but there are a few others right on my heels. There are individuals coming behind me who have been here for nearly 20 years. So that’s indication that the work we do here has meaning and substance.”
Judy has a particular passion for trying to help low-income families to aspire to and achieve the dream of higher education. There is one aspiration Judy hopes to see come to fruition some day: the creation of a 529 scholarship program for low-income families in Ohio.
As for people who are considering a 529 plan, Judy has two recommendations. First, they should know that their 529 account can be used at colleges and universities across the country. Second, “Just get started! You don’t have to be rich to participate in the program. What little bit you might have and you can afford to save will make a difference in the end.”
Over the past 25 years, Judy and OTTA have watched generation after generation help their children achieve a college education with no to little debt through CollegeAdvantage. Judy’s dedication has never wavered. We at OTTA thank her for all her years of loyal service to these families and this agency!
Posted on March 11, 2016