Jack Hogan//June 5, 2023
//June 5, 2023
Families who say they’ve been denied tens of thousands of dollars in college savings from their Maryland 529 prepaid trusts were confounded after learning that, despite new oversight, the former executive director would still be responsible for administering the program.
The State Treasurer’s Office assumed responsibility for the Maryland 529 prepaid college trust and investment plans on Thursday of last week.
Anthony Savia, formerly the executive director for the Maryland 529 agency that previously administered the program, will serve as a deputy treasurer and administer the program.
After The Daily Record reported Savia’s new title in a story on Friday of last week, plan holders said they were surprised and sounded off in frustration on social media, including in a nearly 1,000-member Facebook group.
Shareese Churchill, deputy treasurer of communications and public affairs, wrote in an email that, “While Anthony Savia is the deputy treasurer, which is a change in title, the new leadership — which only took place five days ago — is the State Treasurer’s Office and accountability begins and ends with [Treasurer Dereck Davis].”
But, Democratic state Sen. Joanne Benson, a leader in the push to transfer oversight of the program from the Maryland 529 agency to the State Treasurer’s Office, said that “nothing really has been set in place.”
The State Treasurer’s Office, she said, expects to have a more permanent leadership plan in place by July 1.
“We’ve really not made any final decisions,” Benson said, adding that it’s “quite possible” there will be a new deputy treasurer administering the program next month.
Churchill declined to say whether the State Treasurer’s Office was considering someone else for Savia’s role and wrote in an email that “the State Treasurer’s Office does not comment on personnel-related matters.”
Maryland 529, named for a section of IRS code, offers two college savings plans. Families who have invested in the state’s prepaid college trust — which allows families to pay tuition for their children by purchasing semester credits in advance — have said their earnings from years of investing have been slashed by tens of thousands of dollars.
Benson said the State Treasurer’s Office is working “almost around the clock” to ensure that plan holders are “made whole.”
State officials, though, have shied away from saying when, or if, families’ account values will be restored to previous, higher balances that the Maryland 529 agency has said were the result of a calculation error.
Isabel Mercedes Cumming, the inspector general for Baltimore City and a Maryland 529 prepaid college trust plan holder, said she was surprised to learn Savia was the deputy treasurer for the program.
Cumming first invested in the Maryland 529 program more than 20 years ago. She said the value of her investment in January 2022 was $43,000.
After her sons’ college plans changed and she tried to roll over her balance from one type of account to another, Cumming received word from the Maryland 529 agency that she could only access $15,000.
Her son, an Air Force pilot studying cybersecurity at Johns Hopkins University, started his second graduate class last week.
“It’s madness. We invested in Maryland,” Cumming said. “It’s mind-blowing that our state would let people down like this.”