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CSF’s survey of High School Students finds Skills Training more important than Majors

Dump the majors? Poll finds high school students want skills that will get them hired.


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The majority of high school students who will be entering college over the next three years would like to see more colleges promote education and skills training rather than only offering majors for future employment, according to an annual survey by the Washington-D.C.-based College Savings Foundation.

In its ninth annual survey of how high school students across the nation are making higher education choices, the College Savings Foundation found 81 percent would like to see colleges offer skills instead of majors; 70 percent would prefer to go to that school; and 63 percent said their career plans were affecting their school choice.

The survey of more than 500 high school sophomores, juniors and seniors found they are practical consumers with an increasing number taking a closer look at technical schools, vocational schools and community colleges. More than half of those surveyed — 53 percent — are planning to attend a traditional four-year college.

But for the past four years, the number of students embracing skills-based education has been growing. This year, 36 percent have their sights set on attending a technical school; 28 percent are headed to community college; and 8 percent will attend a vocational school.

“Looking at our survey from 2015 to 2018, the number of students planning on going to community college has increased 9 percent,” said Richard Polimeni, chair of the College Savings Foundation and director of the education savings program at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in Pennington, N.J.

“Similarly, we’ve also seen that trend with students electing to go to vocational or technical types of schools or programs. It’s less expensive and quicker to get into the workforce that way,” he said. “Trades are an area of growth in terms of employment.”

Generally speaking, a liberal arts education is an approach to learning that involves diverse coursework so that students develop a range of knowledge. It is designed to prepare students for a variety of career options, rather than for a specific occupation.

Another key factor in deciding where they will seek higher education is cost.

“High school students are taking responsibility for their education choices and making decisions early in life to support them,” Mr. Polimeni said. “We’re encouraged to see that saving is already an important part of their education planning process.”

Seventy-five percent of the students surveyed said costs are a factor in deciding which school to attend, and the majority — 57 percent — is already saving for high education.

The survey recorded the highest percentage ever over the nine years the poll has been taken who said they plan on working to reduce college costs — 85 percent. 

Parents, be warned. The percentage who are planning to live at home during college also has increased in the past three years. This year it was 62 percent, up from 56 percent last year and 53 percent the year before.

Tim Grant: or 412-263-1591.

U.S. tax overhaul requires new math for 529 savings plans

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Families with children in private or parochial school will be able to tap their college savings plans to pay for up to $10,000 in tuition and other expenses in the new year, thanks to a provision in the tax overhaul bill going into effect in 2018.

This will require some new math for families and financial advisers, whose saving formulas focused on much longer time horizons for college savings. The 529 plans, named after the Internal Revenue Code section that created them in 1996, offer tax-free growth. More than 30 states allow some kind of tax deduction on money going into accounts.

More than two-thirds of Americans did not know what a 529 savings plan was before the tax bill started to make its way through Congress this fall, according to a study in spring by investment firm Edward Jones. The average balance has been running around just $25,000, said Rich Polimeni, director of education savings at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, who chairs the College Savings Foundation.

Families have been encouraged to start saving as early as possible for college tuition. An account opened for a child at birth, with a monthly contribution of $100, would have around $50,000 by the time he or she turns 18, assuming a healthy growth rate of 8 percent.
Start taking out chunks of money for elementary school and you will quickly run dry. Even if you put in $10,000 a year starting at birth, when kindergarten arrives, you would only have $63,000 saved. Some private school tuition, especially in areas like New York or Los Angeles, can run $40,000 a year.

“You can’t get enough in there to spend and save at the same time. It doesn’t work,” said New York-based certified financial planner Jeffrey Levine.

While CSF’s Polimeni thinks the new rules allow for a lot of flexibility, he still does not anticipate many people to withdraw money for K-12 expenses.

“There’s not a whole lot of benefit to putting it in and taking it out,” Polimeni said.

One exception is if a child gets a scholarship, he said. You could change the beneficiary and use the excess funds for a few years of private school for a younger sibling, or a future grandchild.

The best hope for families in the short term is that those with tens of thousands of cash can get a small tax break. They can deposit the money into an account, claim their state’s tax deduction, if available, and then take up to $10,000 right away to pay their tuition bills.

Pennsylvania has one of the most generous state tax deductions at $14,000 per person, which amounts to about $430 in tax savings, calculated Chris Cortese, a certified financial planner for Wescott Financial in Philadelphia.
Will states respond to the new tax laws by either capping deductions at lower rates or requiring some kind of holding period? Nobody knows.
“Different states may have different perspectives,” said David Williams, executive director of the Intuit Tax and Financial Center.


States determine the maximum amount you can aggregate over the lifetime of an account, with the top end at just over $500,000. You cannot put it in all at once, but the plan does allow front-loading, or making five years of contributions in one chunk. That means that a married couple or a pair of grandparents could put up to $140,000 into an account.
If you did that at birth, after five years, you would have about $200,0000, or about $450,000 after 15 years, calculated Levine.

“That would be a point where you could fund the last years of high school, and college,” he said.

Not many people are front-loading their 529 accounts, though, Polimeni said. “How many people have $140,000 to put upfront?”

Beth Pinsker, Reuters Money

Financial Advisor – More People Using Technology To Give Gifts To Kids’ 529 Plans


Shopping for the perfect gifts this holiday season? Contributing to 529 college-savings accounts—through gift cards, gift certificates or electronically—is a great option. Advisors are also starting to give these gifts to clients and potential clients.

Gift registries, program managers for 529 plans and asset managers (including Fidelity Investments, OppenheimerFunds and Franklin Templeton Investments) have begun to implement tools that make it easier for parents to request, receive and monitor contributions to their children’s 529 plans. In many cases, gift givers no longer need to know the account information.

Gift of, a college savings registry, and College Savings Bank, a division of NexBank, have already linked their platforms to social media.

The more than 1,000 members of Gift of can opt to share a link to the registry on their Facebook and Twitter pages. Friends and families press a gift button that takes them to the registry’s secure site. “It’s as easy as using an shopping cart,” says Wayne Weber, founder and CEO of Gift of The registry also sells gift cards online and has commitments to introduce them through retailer Target and digital gift-card platform Gyft.

Since launching its website in 2013, Gift of has received more than $500,000 in gifts for approximately 370 recipients, says Weber. Roughly 97 percent of gifts have gone to 529 plans, he says, though the registry can be used to help pay off student loans.

College Savings Bank, a program manager for college savings plans in Indiana and Arizona, launched its social online gifting features in 2014. Account owners can click a button to post on their Facebook pages a personalized banner ad about their child’s 529 account. Family and friends who click on the banner are automatically directed to a secure landing page where they can make a gift to the specific account.

“I wanted the process to be as simple as possible,” says Regina Carmon, the director of marketing for College Savings Bank, who worked with IT developers to create this feature.  Although the more formal e-mail feature still leads the way, she says, “I expect the social gifting component to catch on and increase,” she says. “Other program managers in the industry think it’s a really cool idea.”

Aggregate dollars gifted through College Savings Bank doubled between January 2014 and October 19, 2015. The average deposit was $825 from all gift givers, $722 from grandparents and great grandparents. Approximately half of all gifts have been designated as a “gift of education” and the balance is pretty equally split between the categories of Christmas/holiday and birthday, says Carmon.

According to a recent survey by the nonprofit College Savings Foundation, 49 percent of parents said 529 gift cards or gift certificates (both general or for a specific plan) would make college savings easier, 28 percent said they’d opt for online gifting tools, and 15 percent said they’d opt for a 529 gift registry.

“Gifting is a trend that’s on the upswing and here to stay, that’s for sure,” says Mary Morris, the chair of the College Savings Foundation and the CEO of the Virginia529 College Savings Plan.

More families, especially people in their 20s and 30s, are getting comfortable with asking friends and family to consider contributing to their children’s education instead of giving them more “stuff,” she says.

Across the industry, companies involved in 529 plans are eager to improve their gifting tools. When third-party gifting sites such as Gift of and GiftedPath started working with 529 plans, says Morris, “all of a sudden a light bulb went on.” She thinks everyone will move towards social media functionality. “To me, that’s sort of the gold standard,” she says.

Winnie Sun, co-founder and managing director of Irvine, Calif.-based Sun Group Wealth Partners, has given 529 gift cards from Gift of to clients on the anniversary of the day they established 529 plans and on their children’s birthdays. “People love receiving the cards,” she says.

She has also given them to employers for whom she has helped set up corporate 529 plans. Whether they use them for their own children or pass them on to employees, it sends a message about the rewards of planning, she says. “It’s not a box of chocolates.”

Morris adds, “What greater gift is there than the gift of education?”

Financial Advisor – Study: More High School Students, Parents Saving For College


Unless presidential candidate and Vermont Sen. Barry Sanders has his way, higher education will continue to present an enormous expense, and young people, together with their parents, will have to plan accordingly.

Luckily, today’s high school students display increasing amounts of financial awareness, according to the 2015 edition of the “How Youth Plan to Pay for College” survey by the College Savings Foundation.

Over half of 2015’s high school students, 51 percent, are already saving for their education, up from 44 percent last year.

“We are very encouraged to see that high school students are taking financing of higher education seriously and have already shown themselves to be active planners and savers,” said Mary Morris, Chair of the College Savings Foundation, in a statement on Wednesday.

This year, high school seniors plan on paying for a greater portion of their college costs: 71 percent of respondents plan on paying for over 25 percent of college costs, compared to 53 percent last year.

The survey found that 82 percent of high school seniors believe it is their responsibility to pay for at least part of their higher education, and three quarters of those students plan on paying for part of it.

The students were also saving more money in preparation for college, with 83 percent claiming to have at least $1,000 saved for educational expenses, up from 67 percent last year.

The College Savings Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit, polled over 500 high school students online using Survey Monkey. This is the sixth year the foundation has conducted the survey.

The study also found that:

  • More students and parents are using 529 plans to save, 33 percent this year versus 24 percent last year. More (29 percent) also say 529s are their primary way to save than last year (10 percent).
  • More students are taking jobs to help pay for college expenses, 49 percent this year versus 41 percent last year. This year 59 percent of students said they will work while in college, up from 51 percent last year.
  • More students, 23 percent, will have to attend school part time, up from 15 percent last year.
  • Fewer students, 16 percent, are choosing private colleges, down from 21 percent last year.
  • Fewer students, 55 percent, plan on borrowing to help cover expenses, down from 72 percent last year.
  • Sixty-five percent of parents are saving for their children’s education, up from 58 percent last year.