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Spanish Springs Elementary student wins free college tuition
by Garrett Valenzuela
Feb 14, 2014 | 1677 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela - Rylie Pilkington has been all smiles since learning she had been chosen to win a free year of college tuition.
Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela - Rylie Pilkington has been all smiles since learning she had been chosen to win a free year of college tuition.
Eight-year-old Rylie Pilkington sat quietly inside the principal’s office at Spanish Springs Elementary School, her fingers interlocked and her hands placed calmly on her thighs. She kept her lips pressed together hoping to speed up the process, but she couldn’t help but recall the day she received breathtaking news about her future.

“My mom was on her phone at work during the beginning of the semester at Spanish Springs High School because she is a counselor,” Pilkington said, recounting the events. “She said ‘I have some very good news.’ She said I won a free year of college, and I said ‘really? Seriously? Oh my goodness!’”

Pilkington’s family has been preparing for her future higher education through the Nevada Prepaid Tuition program and Pilkington was entered into the first-ever drawing for a free year of college tuition from the program. State Treasurer Kate Marshall and the Board of Trustees of the College Savings Plans of Nevada announced a winner from the North and South, who will have 30 credits paid for upon entering any U.S. Department of Education institution eligible.

Pilkington was very quiet about her future plans, but she said she has contemplated attending the University of Nevada, Reno in the future. She said she might like to have a career related to helping animals, but no matter her choice she feels college is inevitable.

“I think (college) is really important so I get a really good education,” Pilkington said. “I get to choose a better job than I would if I didn’t go to college and going to college would help me take care of myself better.”

Pilkington’s third-grade teacher Diane Long said she was a “perfect candidate” for a free year of college given her work ethic and ability to motivate others in the classroom. Long said she has no doubt Pilkington will choose an “interesting” career.

“Anything I give her she does to a very high level of proficiency,” Long said. “She likes to help others and she supports different charities. She volunteers her time and money. She has a birthday party and has the kids bring presents for the homeless every year. She is a very unique girl and she does everything to a very high level and works super hard.”

Long said she personally has already started planning for her grandchildren’s college fund and she tries to pass on the message of preparation to her students. She said some exercises in her class let her students explore possible careers to get them thinking about college as early as possible.

“With higher education, you do get better jobs, so we always stress to the students to be ready for the next grade or the next thing in life even through college,” Long said. “You never know what the price of education is, but it is definitely worthwhile and I am trying to pass that on to my students. I believe in it.”

State Treasurer Marshall said a recent study by Complete College America concluded that by 2020, 58 percent of jobs will require a career certificate or college degree, and that number jumps to 70 percent by 2030. The Nevada Prepaid Tuition program is designed to “lock in future tuition rates at today’s prices,” and open enrollment in the program is available through Feb. 28 with payments not due until May 15.

“The funded status of the Nevada Prepaid Tuition Program is currently about 112 percent, and the Board (of Trustees) has adopted a plan designed to get the funded status to 120 percent to ensure the long-term viability of the program for Nevada families,” Marshall said in a release.

Nevada Prepaid Tuition purchased credit hours may be used at any U.S. Department of Education-eligible institution of higher learning, both in-state and out-of-state, including technical and trade schools. If the beneficiary makes the decision to enroll at a college outside of Nevada, the monetary value of the purchased credit hours at a Nevada college would be transferred to the out-of-state college on the beneficiary’s behalf.

Newborns to ninth graders are eligible for the program. Parents have a variety of payment options: lump sum, 60 equal payments over five years, or pay each month from the time of enrollment until the child is ready to start college.

For more information about the Nevada Prepaid Tuition Program, go to, or call (702) 486-2025, or toll free, 1-888-477-2667.
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