Online 529 Education Gifting Programs Fulfill Families’ Ecommerce Needs for the Holidays, College Savings Foundation Says

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Online gifting tools, crowdfunding platforms, e-gift cards and downloadable gift certificates make higher education savings as convenient as online shopping for material gifts

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Vivian Tsai, Chair, College Savings Foundation

By sharing a link to a child’s 529 savings plan, families can educate their circle of friends about this option and empower their broader network to participate in a child’s financial and educational future. -- CSF Chair Vivian Tsai

This holiday season 529 Education Gifting Programs are meeting the needs of families and friends looking to ecommerce channels for holiday gifts from the comfort of their homes. Having grown in availability and popularity over the last several years, the variety of online gifting tools, crowdfunding platforms, e-gift cards and downloadable gift certificates, make higher education savings as convenient as online shopping for material gifts, according to members of the College Savings Foundation.

“At a time when families are carefully evaluating the costs of higher education, 529 education gifting tools can make saving easier while sending a powerful message on the value of setting long-term goals. Whether the funds will go to a community college, technical school or a traditional 4-year college, these gifting programs provide a foundation for a child to plan and prepare for their future,” said CSF Chair Vivian Tsai.

Among CSF members’ offerings are personalized websites for crowdfunding, online registries, electronic or physical gift cards purchasable online or at national retail and grocery chains, and downloadable gift certificates. Links and special features are included in Gifting Programs at http://www.collegesavingsfoundation.org

Although CSF members report 529 education plan gifting throughout the year, most say that contributions increase during the holiday season and into the New Year. As families become more aware of them as options for graduations, birthdays and special occasions, numerous CSF members report year over year growth in their gifting program contributions.

One benefit of online gifting is that parents can include a link to a child’s customized 529 education savings platform in an e-birthday invitation or social media site.

“Families are pragmatic about the need to save for their children’s higher education. By sharing a link to a child’s 529 savings plan, they can educate their circle of friends about this option and empower their broader network to participate in a child’s financial and educational future,” Tsai said.

CSF members have implemented ways to make gifting easier:

  • Alaska 529 and T. Rowe Price College Savings Plan, which have seen a 10% and 13% 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.
  • Indiana CollegeChoice 529 serving Indiana plan owners can share a Ugift® code with friends and family so they can “give a gift that won’t be outgrown.”
  • College Savings Bank, a Division of NexBank and CollegeChoice CD 529 Savings Plan, offer family and friends the option of making a deposit online.
  • Fidelity-managed gifting programs include UNIQUE College Investing Plan, MEFA U. Fund College Investing Plan, Fidelity Arizona College Savings Plan and Delaware College Investing Plan. Year over year through the end of Q3, Fidelity managed plans saw a 66% increase in online gifting activity.
  • 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.
  • Gift of College offers a platform that enables crowdfunding for college. Friends, family, and employers can contribute to any 529 college savings, student loan or 529 ABLE account using the giftofcollege.com registry. Its suite of products and services includes Gift of College Gift Cards (available online and at over 3000 retailer locations including select Target stores, Save Mart, Lucky and H-E-B) and Gift of College At-Work, an employee benefit platform offering payroll deduction and employer match and contribution technology.
  • 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 offers Ugift® and, along with MI 529, downloadable gift certificates.
  • Nebraska’s NEST 529 Direct and Advisor College Savings Plans offer a new program called GiftED, starting in December, in which the account owner can send out GiftED invitations for holidays, birthdays or other special occasions from their computer. Contributors can 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Private College 529 Plan allows families to establish an eGifting event and prompt family and friends to contribute directly to their Private College 529 Plan account, for hundreds of colleges and universities, through a secure portal.
  • Scholars Choice® 529 College Savings Program (Colorado – home state – available Nationwide) participates in Gift of College and Ugift®, the free crowdfunding/gifting service that invites family and friends to celebrate milestones with gift contributions to the Scholars Choice Scholars Choice® 529 account. 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, 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 19% year over year growth this year.
  • Sootchy, Inc is a new, 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. On December 10th, 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 offer online downloadable gift coupons, and notify families of the gift.
  • Utah’s My529’s gifting program links friends and family to a personal gift page where they can contribute with the gift code online through gift.my529.org or download a gift notice about a contribution by check. The gifting platform has grown by 17% over the past two years.
  • Virginia529 family and friends can access a Gift Center for digital gift cards, get co-branded gift cards available at Walmart.com or participating Target or H.E.B. Grocery locations, or download gift certificates for a variety of occasions from its website. It saw a 58% year over year increase in gifting transactions and a 96% increase in dollars contributed.
  • WA529, Washington College Savings Plans, 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 offers multiple ways to gift, along with downloadable certificates announcing the gift.

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

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