Holiday Higher Ed Gifting Stays Strong in 2023, College Savings Foundation Finds
November 21, 2023
Recent survey of parents says 45% would ask for gifts to their children’s 529 account for holidays and other major events
Washington, DC, November 20 – Online gifting programs are offering more ways for families and friends to contribute to a child’s 529 education savings account this holiday season, and families are responding. The College Savings Foundation (CSF) has released its annual list of programs offered by its members that include customized gifting portals, gift codes, e-gift cards, registries, crowdfunding apps, and accessible information on how parents can use them.
This year, CSF’s new State of Higher Education survey found that nearly half (45%) of the 1,000 parents responding said they will ask for contributions to 529 education plans as gifts for their children for holiday or other major events. This includes 19% planning to ask family and friends to make a contribution to a 529 plan instead of a material gift, and another 25% who say they will do so now that they know it is possible.
The survey found that more than a quarter of all parents (27%) are already using 529 gifting options – including 14% using 529 gift registries, 8% online gifting tools, and 5% e-cards. And 38% know that they can contribute to a 529 plan for a grandchild, other family members and even a friend’s child.
“We are delighted to see how popular 529 education gifting programs have become. By making them a part of holidays, birthdays and graduations, families instill the importance of saving over time, and children in turn gain confidence in their futures and less reliant on student debt,” said CSF Chair Vivian Tsai.
Examples of gifting programs that have grown over the last year:
- Gift of College has seen a 260% increase in year-over-year contributions to 529 plans.
- Oklahoma 529 is seeing sustained multi-year growth in its gifting program and has experienced a 24% YOY increase in the number of gift contributions.
- MNSAVES (Minnesota 529 College Savings Plan) is seeing sustained multi-year and monthly double-digit growth in its gifting program, with a 22% YOY increase in the number of gift contributions.
- ScholarShare 529 in California has seen a 10% increase in gifting contributions and 28% YOY increase in gifting transactions.
- Fidelity-managed gifting programs including 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 (CHET) 529 College Savings Program, achieved a 10% growth in online contributions YOY for the first three quarters of 2023.
- The U.Fund College Investing Plan, in Massachusetts, has experienced a 10% YOY increase in the use of its gifting program.
- Edvest 529, Wisconsin’s College Saving Plan, has increased 9.4% in YOY gifting contributions.
- Virginia529 saw a 7.7% increase in YOY gifting contributions.
See a list of gifting plans and details here.
Parents can learn more about 529 plans as well as how to open a 529 at https://www.collegesavingsfoundation.org/open-a-529/
CSF members have implemented numerous ways to make gifting easier:
- Alaska 529 and T. Rowe Price College Savings Plan allow account holders to access the GoTuition® online gifting portal, which makes it easy to ask friends and family for contributions to your child’s college savings plan via email or social media in lieu of traditional gifts for celebrations such as graduations, holidays, and birthdays. GoTuition is a trademark of T. Rowe Price Group, Inc.
- Backer is a social savings platform designed to help more families invest in 529 plans. Since its debut in 2017, the Backer consumer savings app has helped more than 250,000 parents and kids save a projected $250 million for education, with 40% of the savings coming from family and friends. In late 2022, Backed partnered with the State of North Carolina’s 529 program to power their gifting experience and has processed over $3 million in gifts over the first 10 months, with 55% coming from credit/debit cards.
- BlackRock CollegeAdvantage Advisor 529 Plan provides friends and family with the opportunity to contribute to accounts electronically through a gifting page created by the account owner, by ordering a gift card through a financial advisor or by mail in a gift contribution form.
- 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 529.com 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.
- Edvest 529, Wisconsin College Savings Plan, allows family and friends to contribute to a child’s Edvest 529 account using the Ugift® platform. Account owners can easily share a beneficiary’s Ugift code via email template, text message, social media, or printed/digital party invitations. Gift givers can even download a gift certificate from the Edvest website to symbolize their contribution. Edvest 529 has seen a 9.44% average increase year over year in its gifting program.
- 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 (CHET) 529 College Savings Program. For the first three quarters of 2023, the online contribution growth was 10%, compared to the first three quarters of 2022. Families can set up a dashboard at https://www.fidelity.com/529Gift, which includes a personalized page where family and friends can visit to give a gift to your 529.
- 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. After the 529 account has been established, account owners can create a Spryng profile through their online account access. Once the profile is established, a unique URL for gifting profile can be shared with friends and family.
- Georgia’s Path2College 529 Plan gifting program allows friends and family to use a Ugift® code at any time to easily make gift contributions. Account owners can share the Ugift code via email, social media or printed party invitation inclusions.
- 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 giftofcollege.com, Walmart.com and in-store at retailers such as CVS, Gift of College is available in many workplaces as well. Gift of College has seen a growing number of employers offering gift cards to employees to welcome new babies and for a wide range of work milestones as a financial wellness benefit.
- IAdvisor, Iowa’s Advisor-Sold College Saving Plan, makes engaging loved ones to help with the gift of education easy, through its Online Gifting Platform. This gifting platform allows Account Owners to establish a gifting page that can be shared with family, friends, and others via email or social media with a customized link. Downloadable gift card certificates are also available on the IAdvisor website for gift givers to recognize their contribution. The gifting platform has seen tremendous success, with activity typically spiking in April during tax time and in December for the holiday seasons.
- Kansas’s Learning Quest® 529 Education Savings Program and Schwab 529 Education Plan offer gifting options through Ugift®.
- The Maryland College Investment Plan, managed by T. Rowe Price, allows account holders to access the GoTuition® online gifting portal, which makes it easy to ask friends and family for contributions to your child’s college savings plan via email or social media in lieu of traditional gifts for celebrations such as graduations, holidays, and birthdays. GoTuition is a trademark of T. Rowe Price Group, Inc.
- Michigan Education Savings Program® (MESP) 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 Ugift529.com. Additionally, parents can share the Ugift code using Ugift’s email, Facebook, Twitter, or printed invitations.
- 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’s name. Contributions made through GiftED are received year-round. There is increased activity during the holiday season (December/January) as well as a slight uptick around tax-time (April).
- Ohio’s 529 Plan, the CollegeAdvantage Direct Plan, offers a variety of resources for grandparents and others to open or add to a 529 plan. New for 2022, Ohio’s 529 Plan offers 529 Gift Central, a one-stop resource for gifting with Ugift®, greeting cards for holidays, birthdays and other special occasions, and other content specifically 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 Ugift529.com. Additionally, parents can share the Ugift code using Ugift’s email, Facebook, Twitter, or printed invitations.
- Oregon College Savings Plan, managed by Vestwell, allows families and friends the opportunity to contribute toward a child’s college savings for special occasions like birthdays, holidays or simply just because. Loved ones can use a personalized gifting page to send a contribution with a greeting card or give by connecting a BottleDrop account to an existing OCSP account, allowing year-round contributions through recycling cans and bottles.
- Private College 529 Plan makes gifting easy. Parents and other account owners can use eGifting through the secure member portal to invite family and friends to contribute. Visit their 529 gifting page to learn more.
- Colorado’s CollegeInvest® makes it easy for friends and family to contribute to your child’s college savings fund. Ugift® is a free-to-use service that enables anyone to contribute to your Direct Portfolio, Scholars Choice, and Stable Value Plus account at any time. Account owners receive a unique code for each Beneficiary and each 529 savings account which can be shared via email, text, or social media. Friends and family can use this code to give a meaningful gift for your child’s future. Ugift even offers simple instructions that you can include with graduation announcements or birthday party invitations.
- 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.
- 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® which provides a unique gift code to account owners to share with friends and family to invite them to give a gift contribution at any time through a one-time or recurring contribution. There is a gifting section on the website with downloadable gift coupons for holidays or special occasions as well as suggestions for how parents can broach the conversation with others about gift contributions to a 529 plan and a short video about how to accept gifts into your 529 account. The ReadySave 529 app also makes it easy to invite friends and family to help give savings a boost.
- Utah’s my529 makes it easy for family and friends to contribute funds toward a child’s future qualified higher education expenses. Account owners share a unique gifting code that allows friends and family to make contributions for holidays and special occasions. The giver can use the code and contribute online at gift.my529.org. The process is simple, secure, and requires no registration.
- Virginia529 family and friends can access a Gift Center for digital gift cards, get co-branded gift cards available at Walmart.com or participating CVS locations, or download gift certificates for a variety of occasions from its website. Non-account holding gift givers can contribute through a secure ID that allows for social sharing.
- Washington College Savings Plans (WA529). Family and friends can choose from various gifting choices to contribute towards a child’s college savings with Washington’s DreamAhead College Investment Plan. Loved ones can use a personalized gifting page to suggest a gift using E-pay or online gift vouchers, send a personalized message via DreamAhead’s Gift Messaging Service, or share a gift invitation through the mail. The state’s Guaranteed Education Tuition program (GET) provides downloadable certificates announcing the gift and various online gifting options. (check GET)
- Tomorrow’s Scholar®, Wisconsin’s Advisor-Sold College Saving Plan, makes engaging loved ones to help with the gift of education easy, through its Online Gifting Platform. This gifting platform allows Account Owners to establish a gifting page that can be shared with family, friends, and others via email or social media with a customized link. Downloadable gift card certificates are also available on the Tomorrow’s Scholar website for gift givers to recognize their contribution. The gifting platform has seen tremendous success, with activity typically spiking in April during tax time and in December for the holiday seasons.
The College Savings Foundation (CSF)is a Washington, D.C.- based not-for-profit organization helping American families achieve their education savings goals. www.collegesavingsfoundation.org