TOPEKA — Kansas Treasurer Jake LaTurner isn’t satisfied with just 700 to 800 participants in the dollar-for-dollar matching grant program helping lower-income Kansans save for college.

It’s time to broaden program eligibility to dependents of active or retired members o the military or Kansas National Guard and to allow charitable organizations to donate on behalf of children to accounts with a state match in anticipation the number can rise closer to the maximum of 1,200, he said.

“Our greatest challenge is that the very families that can benefit the most from this program in many cases do not have the disposable income to contribute to an account,” LaTurner said.

He joined representatives of the Kansas Board of Regents, the National Guard Association of Kansas, Early Learning Centers of Wichita and the University of Kansas to endorse Senate Bill 473. It would broaden reach of the Kansas Investments Developing Scholars, or KIDS, matching grant program started in 2007.

Under the existing structure, a qualified individual or family can establish the college savings account and apply for a state match up ranging from $100 to $600 annually. A maximum of 300 people from each congressional district can secure matching money.

The program has never reached the limit of 1,200 beneficiaries, with the count ranging from 668 to 874 from 2015 to 2019.

Blake Flanders, president and chief executive officer of the Board of Regents, which has oversight of public colleges and universities, said the reform would promote higher education as a path to greater economic development in the state.

“Senate Bill 473 would be another step in support of more Kansans attaining a credential beyond high school, which will improve our state’s economy,” Flanders said.

Opportunities to educate soldiers, airmen and their families is a significant recruiting and retention tool for the Kansas National Guard, said Maj. Keith Marshall, of the National Guard Association of Kansas.

“Investing in the children of Kansas National Guard members will build a stronger Kansas for years to come,” he said. “Our soldiers and airmen are Kansas residents, taxpayers and voters who live in every legislative district in the state.”