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Most Parents Say 529 College Gifts Make Education Savings Easier

November 15, 2017

58% of Parents Would Ask for College Savings Gifts

Washington, DC – This holiday and year-end gifting season, American families are embracing the ease and abundance of college savings tools such as customized gifting websites, e-gift cards, online registries and gift certificates. New data from the College Savings Foundation (CSF) 2017 survey of parents found that 95% said 529 college savings gift registries and online gifting tools would make college savings easier.

CSF members who are 529 plan sponsors, managers and innovators are making these gifting options available to savers, with some seeing substantial increase in use in year-over-year participation.

“Parents today are comfortable with online college gifting options and willing to engage their family and their circle of friends who share their savings goals,” said Richard J. Polimeni, Chair of CSF, a leading nonprofit helping American families save for higher education.

CSF’s survey found that 58% of parents would ask friends and family to help by making a gift of college savings instead of a material gift.

CSF members reported significant increases in 529 college saving gifting contributions in the past few years as the availability and ease of use of these gifting tools has improved. For example, Fidelity has seen a 40% increase for the year ending 9/30/17; and
California’s ScholarShare 529 has seen a 67% increase in eGift contributions in the first nine months of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016. GiftofCollege reports that its Gift Cards have seen over 25,000 individual gift cards redeemed so far in 2017 to accounts of nearly every 529 plan and student loan provider in the nation.

While December and January are popular months for gifts, interest in gifting options is not limited to holidays, as CSF members indicate increasing interest in college savings gifts for birthdays, baby showers and graduations.

Increasingly, 529 plans are offering customized web pages with information about the family or child, including quotes, photos and even avatars. In addition, social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter help parents get the word out about the 529 college savings plan accounts they own for their children. These provide a link to a website where friends and family can contribute directly to a 529 college savings account. CSF members also offer gift certificates or coupons that can be downloaded, printed and used in a gift card or box. All are geared to encourage family and friends to contribute to a child’s higher education by providing an easier way to contribute, and by eliminating administrative steps.

“In addition to holiday gifts, year-end is also a time when grandparents, friends and other family may want to take advantage of Federal gift tax rules,” Polimeni added.  In 2017, Federal gift tax rules allow up to $14,000 for an individual and $28,000 for a joint gift by spouses – and up to five years’ worth of up front gifting totaling as much as $140,000 for a couple under the gift tax exemption. In addition, 34 states provide a state income tax deduction or credit for contributions to a 529 account.  Most states allow the deduction/credit only if the contribution is made to the home state 529 plan. However, five states (AZ, KS, MO, MT and PA) allow the deduction for contributions to any state’s 529 plan.

CSF member programs offering gifting options include the College Savings Bank, a Division of NexBank SSB; the 529 plans administered by Fidelity Investments (New Hampshire, MEFA/Massachusetts, Arizona and Delaware); Franklin Templeton; Learning Quest 529 Education Savings Program; MI 529 Advisor Plan; NEST Direct and NEST Advisor College Savings Plans of Nebraska; the Ohio CollegeAdvantage Direct 529; California ScholarShare 529 Plan (both direct and in partnership with GiftofCollege.com); Alaska UA College Savings Plan; Utah Educational Savings Plan (UESP), and the Virginia529 Plan (direct online and in partnership with Gift of College for gift cards). In addition, GiftofCollege.com is a college savings gift registry which may be used for gifts to any state’s 529 plan.

The following provides detailed information on the gifting options available in the CSF member-run 529 plans and gifting platforms making it easier for family and friends to contribute to 529 accounts:

College Savings Bank, a Division of NexBank SSB, offers gift cards for family or friends who wish to contribute to an existing 529 account, pay towards a student loan or start a new 529 account in either the Arizona Family College Savings Program-Bank Plan or Indiana’s CollegeChoice CD 529 Savings Plan. Both plans are direct-sold and FDIC insured. Gift givers can purchase the gift card online and have it mailed or emailed to the recipient or even themselves. Gift givers also have the option to include a custom greeting. To learn more, visit www.collegesavings.com or www.collegechoicecd.com. We offer safe solutions to help families and individuals save towards the cost of higher education. Member FDIC.

Fidelity Investments and its state 529 partners* make it easy to gift to a 529 college savings account. Investors who maintain a Fidelity-managed 529 college saving plan account can invite friends and family to make online gifts through a personalized college gifting page.  Invitations to the page can be sent via Facebook, Twitter, or by sharing a link.  Once they click, visitors are able to see the beneficiary’s photo – including a quote on the child’s dream for the future – and can make a contribution via an electronic check that is processed directly from their bank account to the 529 account.  Account owners can manage activity on their private dashboard, where they can edit the gifting home page, track the gifts received, and send invitations. Parents with a Fidelity-managed retail 529 college savings account, which includes the UNIQUE College Investing Plan, the MEFA U.Fund® College Investing Plan, the Delaware College Investment Plan and the Fidelity Arizona College Savings Plan, can sign up for the 529 Online Gifting Service at https://www.fidelity.com/529-plans/college-gifting and create the online gifting page. *New Hampshire, MEFA/Massachusetts, Arizona and Delaware.
Franklin Templeton offers several ways for family and friend to contribute to either its advisor or direct-sold plan.  Spryng – Online Gifting Tool: Designed for NJBEST and Franklin Templeton 529 College Savings Plan account holders, Spryng™ (pronounced “spring”) harnesses the power of crowdfunding and social media, by creating a secure and convenient method to engage family and friends in saving for future higher education expenses. The account owner can create a Spryng profile in a matter of minutes, which shared to potential gift givers via email or various social media platforms.
www.franklinspryng.com  www.spryng529.com
Gift Certificates: Family, friends or other gift givers can download, fill in and mail the form or set up a contribution with the bank’s bill pay services using a printed Gifting Announcement matched to the occasion, such as Holiday, Graduation or Birthday. They can then share the customized gift announcement certificate with the account holder of its advisor or direct-sold plan.
https://www.franklintempleton.com/investor/products/investment-goals/education-savings/gift-contributions or www.njbest.com/gifting

GiftofCollege.com is a college savings gift registry whose membership has experienced tremendous growth over the last year, with the dollar value of GiftofCollege.com gifts year-to-date representing a 1,444% increase over the 2016 calendar year.  GiftofCollege.com is anticipating an impactful holiday season and growth as it continues to improve the financial well-being of GiftofCollege.com recipients of all ages. It enables friends, family and employers to contribute directly into any existing or newly started 529 plan and student loan account.  Parents can share their GiftofCollege.com profile via Facebook, Twitter, and email or contributors can search the registry for the parent’s name to give a gift easily using a debit/credit card, or a GiftofCollege.com gift card.  Gift cards are available at Toys“R”Us and Babies“R”Us stores or can be purchased online at https://giftofcollege.com/purchasegiftcard. The site also provides the ability for employers to offer GiftofCollege.com gift cards as a benefit to their employees for contributions toward college savings or student loan payments.

Learning Quest 529 Education Savings Program allows LearningQuest account holders to invite friends and family to make gift contributions via Ugift®. Everyone is eligible to give the gift of college savings. Through Ugift, account owners can provide family and friends with a unique Ugift code that can be used by the gift giver at any time to make online gift contributions as well as contributions by mail to a specific account beneficiary. With consistent upticks in purchases in May and December, Learning Quest 529 Education Savings Program will be sharing the gift of messaging this December with an integrated holiday campaign consisting of social, paid media, email and a great online holiday spot. For information on gifting: learningquest.com/gift For general program information: learningquest.com

MI 529 Advisor Plan (TIAA-CREF Tuition Financing, Inc. (TFI) is the Program Manager and Nuveen Securities, LLC is the Distributor) offers online gifting certificate notices for friends or family who wish to contribute to the plan. Gift givers can download, fill and mail the form. The Plan also offers a printed gift certificate to match the occasion, such as a birthday, graduation or the holidays that can be shared with the account holder/beneficiary of record.In addition, the MI 529 Advisor Plan plans to launch an eGift feature in late 2017. eGift is a secure, electronic way to ask friends and family for gift contributions. The service is available to all account owners and is free of charge. The account owner can create an invitation for a birthday or holiday, including a personalized message, and send it through email to their family and friends with customized salutations.
https://www.mi529advisor.com/gift/

Nebraska’s plans: the NEST 529 Direct, Friends and Family Gifting, and NEST 529 Advisor, Friend and Family Gifting plans enable friends and family to go online at NEST529.com and click the “Give the best gift ever” or in the Grow tab, click on friends and family gifting.  NEST offers printable gift cards for many occasions. With a NEST 529 gift certificate contribution, givers may select a special occasion card and mail a check with a gift contribution coupon to NEST. The plans also participate in the Ugift program making it easy for friends and family to contribute to a NEST account. The account owner will let the contributor know the unique Ugift code assigned to the child’s account. The contributors won’t need to know the account number. Then, they can quickly and easily make contributions using electronic transfer from their bank account or sending in a check by mail. Unlike many other gifting programs, gift givers don’t have to join, register or pay a service fee.
NEST 529 Direct, Friends and Family Gifting https://www.nest529direct.com/home/grow/friends–family-gifting.html
NEST 529 Advisor, Friend and Family Gifting  https://www.nest529advisor.com/home/maximize/friends–family-gifting.html
For the plans see https://www.nest529direct.com/
https://www.nest529advisor.com or
http://collegesavings.tdameritrade.com/index.asp

CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 College Savings Plan (Ohio) offers a variety of ways for friends and family to contribute, all of which can be accessed through the “How To Give Gifts” section at https://www.collegeadvantage.com. Contributions can be made by check, recurring contributions, or online using Ugift. Through Ugift, account owners can provide family and friends with a unique Ugift code that can be used by the gift giver at any time to make online gift contributions as well as contributions by mail to a specific account beneficiary. Individuals can also order a special greeting card https://www.collegeadvantage.com/give-the-gift-of-savings/order-greeting-cards to announce a completed online gift or to deliver a gift check to the recipient. Savings continues throughout the year with a dramatic increase during December and into January. Knowing the important role grandparents play in helping families reach their college savings goals, CollegeAdvantage offers a site specifically for grandparents: www.collegeadvantage.com/grandparents

ScholarShare 529 and GiftofCollege.com together offer friends and family a unique way to contribute directly to a child’s educational dreams.  Electronic gift cards are available through the ScholarShare529.com website.

Gift Cards: Recipients of electronic Gift of College gift cards can use them to fund their existing ScholarShare 529 College Savings Plan account via the ScholarShare529.com and GiftofCollege.com websites.  Gift card recipients who have not yet opened a 529 account can take that step on the ScholarShare529.com website as well.  Electronic gift cards purchased online can be of any increment between $25 and $500 and have an adjustable fee depending on the value of the card.

eGifting: eGift is a secure, electronic way to ask friends and family for gift contributions. The newly enhanced service is available to all account owners and is free of charge. An eGift code is automatically assigned to each account owner who can create a customized invitation for any occasion. The special, coded invitation can be printed and mailed, sent via email to family and friends, or posted on social media.  And because the unique eGift code never expires, it can be used again and again.
www.scholarshare529.com

UA College Savings Plan (Alaska). Education Trust of Alaska has launched a new gifting program, GoTuition, which is available to account holders in the US College Savings Plan and the T. Rowe Price College Savings Plan. Friends and family can now contribute to their child’s 529 college savings plan in two ways: online with the GoTuitionSM gifting portal or by sending in a Gift Contribution Slip. The GoTuition gifting portal is an online tool that makes it easier for parents to ask friends and family to contribute to a child’s college savings plan in lieu of gifts for traditional celebrations like graduations, holidays, and birthdays. It’s convenient and rewarding for gift givers too by giving them an opportunity to give a gift that will last a lifetime. The GoTuition gifting portal lets account holders create a customized profile page with a personalized welcome message and photo where friends and family can easily initiate contributions from their bank account. They can share the page with friends and family via email and social channels, text the link, or include the URL on evites. They can easily maintain and update info through the dashboard. They can update their gifting profile based on birthdays, milestones, or to show off new school photos and automatically track gifts received.
http://www.uacollegesavings.com/public/ua529/How-To-Get-Started/A-Gift-That-Lasts-A-Lifetime.
www.uacollegesavings.com www.alaska.edu/scholars

The Utah Educational Savings Plan’s (UESP) Gift Program is a free service that allows an account owner to invite family and friends to contribute to a UESP 529 college savings account. When the account owner enrolls in UESP’s Gift Program at https://gift.uesp.org/, he or she will receive a unique gift code and a link to a personal gift page, ensuring the proper deposit of any gift contributions without disclosing personal account information. The account owner may share this gift code or link by email, in person, by phone, or by mail. UESP also provides links and default messages so the gift page can be shared on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Only those who are invited by the account owner can access a personal gift page, and the account owner decides with whom to share the link. Account owners also have the option to turn off access to the personal gift page in the UESP Gift Program dashboard. https://www.uesp.org/

Virginia529 offers three easy ways to make a gift contribution to an Invest529 or Prepaid529 account.  Gift givers can visit Virginia529’s online gifting center to make free, immediate contributions to an existing account, contribute by mail with a gift certificate that best fits the
occasion, or they can purchase a Virginia529 Gift of College gift card from Toys“R”Us and Babies“R”Us stores across Virginia. To learn more, visit www.virginia529.com/give-a-gift

The CSF State of College Savings survey of parents was conducted through survey monkey with an audience from philipgarland.com LLC of 800 parents across the country and evenly divided across income levels.

The College Savings Foundation (CSF) is a Washington, D.C.-based not-for-profit organization helping American families save for higher education. For more information and an infographic on these findings, please go to www.collegesavingsfoundation.org