Higher Ed Gifting Programs Gain Momentum while Supply Chains Interrupt Material Gifts

November 8, 2021

College Savings Foundation survey of parents shows 45% may ask for 529 gifts  

Washington, DC, November 9 – With supply chain delays disrupting families’ plans for material gifts this holiday season, 529 gifting programs are offering convenience and impact with a widening array of e-commerce higher education savings vehicles. Members of the College Savings Foundation (CSF) feature online portals, e-gift cards and registries, crowdfunding apps and cash-back programs to help save for a child’s future.  In many cases, members are reporting double digit increases in Year-over-Year gifting contributions.

Parents are also willing to ask for savings help. CSF’s recent survey of 1,000 parents across the country and income level found that 45% are either planning to ask family and friends to make a contribution to a 529 plan instead of a material gift (21%) or will do so now that they know it is possible (24%).  

The survey also found that 30% of respondents know they can open a 529 for their grandchildren, with 9% already doing that and 21% planning to do so.  

“We see families embracing digital gifting programs as ways to encourage higher ed savings, but also to demonstrate to their children how important savings are to achieving their long term goals,” said CSF Chair Vivian Tsai. “While our members report 529 gifting for graduations, birthdays and special occasions throughout the year, they also see an uptick for the holidays and for a financially savvy way to start the New Year.” 

One-in-five (22%) of all parents nationwide use 529 college savings gift registries; 12% use online gifting tools, and 7% use E-gift cards or gift certificates, the survey found. 

Many programs enable parents to offer a secure link to a child’s 529 education savings program in an e-birthday invitation, social media site or email.  

See a list of gifting plans and details at

Parents can learn more about 529 plans as well as how to Open a 529 at

CSF members have implemented numerous ways to make gifting easier:

  • Alaska 529 and T. Rowe Price College Savings Plan, which have seen a 43% and 98% year over year growth in gifting last year respectively, allow account holders to access the GoTuition® online gifting portal to ask friends and family for gifts by email, evites or social media.
  • Backer is a social savings platform designed to help more families invest in 529 plans. With over 50,000 users and $25 million in assets under management, Backer helps modern American families save smart together. 40% of its families’ savings has come in the form of gifts from family and friends.
  • CollegeBound 529 offered by Invesco for Rhode Island enables family and friends to contribute to a child’s CollegeBound 529 account using a Ugift® code specific to the account’s beneficiary at the Ugift site. 
  • Indiana’s CollegeChoice 529 Direct and Advisor Savings Plans make gifting easy with Ugift®. Account owners share a unique gifting code that allows friends and family to make one-time or recurring contributions for holidays and special occasions.
  • College Savings Bank, a Division of NexBank and CollegeChoice CD 529 Savings Plan, offer family and friends the option of making a deposit online. 
  • Edvest Wisconsin’s College Saving Plan: This gifting program allows friends and family to use a Ugift® code at any time to easily make gift contributions at  Additionally, parents can share the Ugift code using Ugift’s email, Facebook, Twitter, or printed party invitation inclusions. 
  • Fidelity-managed gifting programs include UNIQUE College Investing Plan: MEFA U. Fund College Investing Plan; AZ529 Arizona’s Education Savings Plan; DE529 Delaware Education Investing Plan, and The Connecticut Higher Education Trust 529 College Savings Program. For the first half of 2021, the online contribution growth was 84%, compared to the first half of 2020.  
  • Franklin Templeton: Spryng is a crowdfunding platform where a parent or account holder can send out invitations to contribute via email or social media – along with a personal story about the beneficiary. Contributors can also download a gift announcement to share their gifting news to the family. Spryng is available for Franklin Templeton 529 College Savings Plan and NJBEST account holders. 
  • Washington College Savings Plans (WA529) offer family and friends various gifting options. Washington’s DreamAhead College Investment Plan enables account owners to create a gifting page for their student with a unique link that makes it easy to share on social networks and invite family and friends to contribute. The state’s Guaranteed Education Tuition program (GET) offers multiple ways to gift, along with downloadable certificates announcing the gift. 
  • Gift of College: Beyond offering a first-of-its-kind gift card which is redeemable into most any 529 plan and student loan account and available online at, and in-store at retailers nationwide, Gift of College has expanded gift card sales to the workplace.  During the past few years, Gift of College has seen a growing number of employers offering gift cards to employees for a wide range of occasions as a gift of financial wellness.
  • Iowa IAdvisor 529 program, a new gifting program launched by Voya. 
  • Kansas’ Learning Quest® 529 Education Savings Program and Schwab 529 Education Plan offer gifting options through Ugift®. 
  • Maryland College Investment Plan, managed by T. Rowe Price, allows account holders to access the GoTuition® online gifting portal to ask friends and family for gifts by email, evites or social media. Maryland Prepaid College Trust gift contributions are sent by mail using a Gift Contribution Slip.
  • Michigan Education Savings Program® and the MI529 Advisor Plan, managed by TIAA/Nuveen, offers Ugift® and downloadable gift certificates.  
  • Minnesota 529 College Savings Plan:  This gifting program allows friends and family to use a Ugift® code at any time to easily make gift contributions at  Additionally, parents can share the Ugift code using Ugift’s email, Facebook, Twitter, or printed party invitation inclusions. 
  • Nebraska’s NEST 529 Direct and Advisor College Savings Plans offer GiftED in which the account owner can send out online GiftED invitations for holidays, birthdays or other special occasions. Contributors can contribute online or mail their contributions in directly and download gift cards and certificates to notify the beneficiary. The GiftED platform provides the gift history to the account owner online including the date and amount of any contributions as well as the contributor name. While like other plan contributions occur year round with an uptick in December, they also note an increase in April at tax time.
  • Ohio’s 529 Plan, the CollegeAdvantage Direct Plan, offers tools for grandparents and friends to open or add to a 529 plan. Ohio’s 529 Plan offers online gifting through Ugift®, accepts gift contributions by check and offers physical and digital greeting cards to send the child. The site also has a special page for grandparents. 
  • Oklahoma 529 College Saving Plan: This gifting program allows friends and family to use a Ugift® code at any time to easily make gift contributions at  Additionally, parents can share the Ugift code using Ugift’s email, Facebook, Twitter, or printed party invitation inclusions. 
  • Private College 529 Plan allows families to encourage gifting through a secure member portal. Parents can prompt family and friends to contribute directly by navigating to the Private College 529 Plan gifting page from its website, with links to hundreds of colleges and universities.
  • Scholars Choice Education Savings Plan® (Colorado – home state – available Nationwide), managed by TIAA/Nuveen, offers Ugift®, the free crowdfunding/gifting service that invites family and friends to celebrate milestones with gift contributions to the Scholars Choice 529 accounts. Gift givers can manage multiple gift contributions and gifting requests can also be posted on social media.  
  • ScholarShare 529, California’s official college savings plan, participates in Ugift® which allows account holders to establish a gifting portal profile and share it with friends and family by email or social media. ScholarShare 529 has experienced a 136% increase in the number of e-gift payments made year-to-date when compared to the same time last year.
  • Sootchy, Inc is a state-of-the-art, AI-driven platform that leverages crowdfunding through the use of My Circle and My Events to help ease the difficulties families face when saving for college or higher education. Families can download the Sootchy app in the Apple App and Google Play stores for the ability to save for their child’s higher education savings and or the ability to save for their child’s private school tuition. 
  • Texas College Savings Plan, Lonestar529 Plan and Texas Tuition Promise Fund managed by Orion offer online downloadable gift coupons, and notify families of the gift.  
  • New Mexico’s The Education Plan® and ScholarsEdge® offer online access to gifting through Ugift®, as well as suggestions for how parents can broach the conversation with others about contributions to a 529 plan. 
  • Upromise will enable millions of families to earn free cash back rewards from online shopping this holiday season.  It offers free cash back rewards for everyday activities like online shopping, dining, grocery shopping, purchasing gift cards and more. Rewards are automatically deposited as contributions in the designated 529 plan when they reach $50.  Upromise members are expected to redeem over $30 million in rewards to 529 plans this year alone.  Over the past twenty years, Upromise members have earned over $1.1 billion in free cash back college savings rewards in the program.
  • Utah’s my529’s gifting program links friends and family to a personal gift page where they can contribute with a unique gifting code shareable on social media. The giver goes to and enters the code. They can also download a certificate to notify the receiver of the contribution. The gifting platform has grown in dollar amounts of gifts by 70% Year Over Year.
  • Virginia529 family and friends can access a Gift Center for digital gift cards, get co-branded gift cards available at or participating Target or H.E.B. Grocery locations, or download gift certificates for a variety of occasions from its website.  It saw a 44% year over year increase in gifting transactions and a 117% increase in dollars contributed.  Non-account holding gift givers can contribute through a secure ID that allows for social sharing. 
  • Wisconsin Tomorrow’s Scholar program, a new gifting program launched by Voya. 

The College Savings Foundation (CSF)is a Washington, D.C.- based not-for-profit organization helping American families achieve their education savings goals.