• Simple Steps to Save Successfully During America Saves Week

    by Amy Lyle | Feb 12, 2016

    GUEST BLOG by ​Tammy Greynolds, published with permission from America Saves.

    America Saves Week, which runs Feb​. 22 ​- 27​, is an annual opportunity for individuals to assess their savings and take financial action. The theme for this year’s America Saves Week is simple: Save Automatically.

    Try these five simple steps during America Saves Week to help yourself save automatically – and successfully:

    1. Assess Your Savings. Like your health, you should assess your savings annually to make sure your savings priorities are on the right track. Complete this simple 12-question assessment to find out your current standing and help you plan for the future.
    2. Evaluate your Savings Preparedness. Check off your savings accomplishments on the Saver Checklist to further evaluate where your savings habits need strengthening for your future goals.
    3. Take the America Saves Pledge. Those with a savings plan are two times as likely to save for emergencies and retirement than those without one. Join more than 450,000 American Savers who have already committed to save. When you take the pledge, you can choose to receive text message tips and reminders to help you save towards your goals.
    4. Share Your Savings Goal. Take part in the 2016 #imsavingfor Photo Contest. Share a selfie that shows what you’re saving for on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and enter the contest at http://americasavesweek.org/imsavingfor for a chance to win $500. Savings never looked so good.
    5. Make Your Savings Social. Are you on Twitter or Facebook? Join America Saves in encouraging your friends, family, and colleagues to save this week. Better yet, join one of the many Twitter chats that America Saves will be a part of this week to get real-time savings tips and advice.

    America Saves Week is coordinated by America Saves and the American Savings Education Council. Started in 2007, the Week is an annual opportunity for organizations to promote good savings behavior and a chance for individuals to assess their own saving status.

  • Closed for Presidents’ Day

    by Amy Lyle | Feb 08, 2016

    The offices of the Ohio Tuition Trust Authority will be closed on Monday, Feb. 15, 2016, in observance Presidents’ Day. Because of this, our Customer Service department (1-800-AFFORD-IT) will be closed for the day, though they are available to assist you on regular business days from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET before or after the holiday. Please be aware that you may transact business online as usual. You may also access your account online 24/7.

    In addition, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) will be closed for the holiday. Any transaction requested on a holiday, weekend, or after the NYSE closes will be processed on the next business day.

    If you are interested in learning more about Ohio and its role in the U.S. presidency, read more here.

  • 5-Cap Rating For Ohio’s Direct 529 Plan

    by Amy Lyle | Feb 05, 2016

    Ohio’s Direct 529 Plan, offered by CollegeAdvantage, has earned the top 5-Cap Rating from Savingsforcollege.com, an industry-trusted informational website which provides “how-to-save-for-college” articles on 529 plans, financial aid, and scholarships, as well as tools to help calculate college expenses.

    CollegeAdvantage is one of only four 529 plans nationwide to receive the 5-Cap Rating for both state and out-of-state residents.

    Savingsforcollege.com awards their 5-Cap Rating to “a program that offers outstanding flexibility, attractive investments, and additional economic benefits (such as generous state tax incentives) that for some people, at least, will provide a substantial boost to their savings. There are few, if any, weaknesses noted in the program.”

    The rating is based on five criteria:

    1. The performance of the 529 plan,
    2. The costs of running the college-savings plan including expense ratios, administration and managerial fees,
    3. Special features such as a spectrum of age-based and risk-based portfolios as well as FDIC-insured options, participation in programs like Upromise and Ugift, and contribution restrictions,
    4. Reliability signals such as plan disclosure statements, the ease of making account changes, and the caliber of outside program managers,
    5. Extra advantages like tax benefits for any account owner as well as additional tax breaks for state residents.

    Interested to learn more about College Advantage, Ohio’s 529 Savings Plan? Then read more here. To set up a highly rated Direct Plan account with CollegeAdvantage, go here.

    Please note:

    CollegeAdvantage is a 529 college savings plan offered and administered by the Ohio Tuition Trust Authority, an office within the Ohio Department of Higher Education. Before investing, please read the Offering Statement and all Supplements carefully and consider risks, fees, your investment objectives, and other relevant factors, before investing. If you are not a taxpayer in the State of Ohio, you should consider whether your home state offers any state tax or other benefits for investing in its 529 Plan. Other than the Fifth Third Investment Options (Banking Options), money contributed to an Account is not a bank deposit and is not insured by the FDIC or guaranteed in any way. Except for contributions invested in Banking Options, participants assume all investment risk related to the CollegeAdvantage Direct Plan, including the potential loss of Principal.  Contributions invested in Banking Options are an obligation of Fifth Third Bank and are insured by the FDIC, subject to certain limitations.

  • CollegeAdvantage’s “Top Ten” Investment Options

    by User Not Found | Feb 01, 2016

    Ever wonder what investment options are the most popular among Direct Plan account owners? We compiled a “Top Ten” list so you can see what investment options hold the largest balances of customers’ Direct Plan accounts.

    Here are the 10 investment options with the highest value of assets under management (fund balances in millions, as of 12/31/15):

    1. Vanguard Aggressive Age-Based Portfolio (ready-made age-based portfolio), $879
    2. Vanguard Moderate Age-Based Portfolio (ready-made age-based portfolio),  $570
    3. Advantage Age-Based Portfolio (ready-made age-based portfolio),  $455
    4. Vanguard 500 Index Option (individual investment option), $394
    5. Vanguard Aggressive Growth Index Portfolio (ready-made risk-based portfolio), $334
    6. Vanguard Growth Index Portfolio (ready-made risk-based portfolio), $218
    7. Vanguard Extended Market Index Option (individual investment option), $186
    8. Vanguard Wellington Option (individual investment option), $165
    9. Vanguard Moderate Growth Index Portfolio (ready-made risk-based portfolio), $155
    10. Fifth Third Savings Account (FDIC-insured bank option), $144

    The total balance of all 24 investment options offered in the CollegeAdvantage Direct Plan as of 12/31/15 was $4.32 billion.

    Learn more about our investment options and review their performance. After you do so, it might be time to review your college savings goals or open an account!

    Please Note:

    CollegeAdvantage is a 529 college savings plan offered and administered by the Ohio Tuition Trust Authority, an office within the Ohio Department of Higher Education. Before investing, please read the Offering Statement and all Supplements carefully and consider risks, fees, your investment objectives, and other relevant factors, before investing. If you are not a taxpayer in the State of Ohio, you should consider whether your home state offers any state tax or other benefits for investing in its 529 Plan.  Other than the Fifth Third Investment Options (Banking Options), money contributed to an Account is not a bank deposit and is not insured by the FDIC or guaranteed in any way. Except for contributions invested in Banking Options, participants assume all investment risk related to the CollegeAdvantage Direct Plan, including the potential loss of Principal. Contributions invested in Banking Options are an obligation of Fifth Third Bank and are insured by the FDIC, subject to certain limitations. 

    The Ohio Tuition Trust Authority does not provide investment advice. The information contained herein is informational only and should not be relied upon exclusively to make your investment decisions.

  • 529 Resolutions For 2016

    by Amy Lyle | Jan 27, 2016

    Exercise more. Lose weight. Eat healthy. Save more for college. That’s right, you can resolve to save more for college this year! It’s as easy as 1 - 2 - 3:

    1. Set up recurring contributions. Account owners tell us that the easiest way to save the most is to automatically contribute money before you have a chance to spend it on something else. With automatic investments, you can set up recurring contributions to be made directly from your bank account. Time your contributions to align with your regular paydays. Or, establish a monthly contribution schedule. Just log in to your account and select “Automatic Investments” from the Asset Management menu.
    2. Let others help you save. We hear from grandparents and other family members that they want to help you save for college, but they are waiting for you to invite them to do so. It’s easy with Ugift®. Log in to your account, click on Ugift. Get a unique Ugift code for each of your beneficiaries. Share the Ugift code for each child with family and friends. There is no need to share your account number or the child’s Social Security number. Then, just instruct potential gift givers to visit www.Ugift529.com to make a secure online contribution using the unique Ugift code for the child. You can also invite them to participate via Facebook and Twitter. If they are Ohio taxpayers, they can deduct their own contributions from their Ohio taxable income even though they aren’t the account owner. Their gift contribution just needs to be made payable directly to the account instead of to the child. See the Plan Offering Statement for more details about contributions from non-account owners.
    3. Boost your savings with your tax refund. At tax time, a federal or state tax refund can put some “extra” cash in the family budget. Last year, the average federal tax refund was $2,785.* Resolve to get even closer to your college savings goal by contributing some, perhaps all, of your refund. Remember, the $2,000 Ohio income tax deduction isn’t a cap on annual contributions. Deductions for contributions over $2,000 can be carried forward to future tax years until fully deducted.

    *Source: IRS 2015 Filing Season Statistics

  • Tax Time Reminders

    by Ben Gibbons | Jan 25, 2016

    529 plans offer a variety of tax benefits to help and encourage the entire family to save for future college expenses. Below are a few things to consider as you either prepare your 2015 tax return or look ahead for tax advantages for 2016.

    Annual Tax Documents

    Account owners who made a withdrawal from your Direct Plan account(s) during calendar year 2015, will receive a federal form 1099-Q, either in the U.S. mail or electronically, depending on the preferences you set up in your account. This form will report the total distributions, earnings, and basis for tax reporting purposes. As always, please consult your tax advisor to discuss the treatment of your 529 account for your individual tax situation. Forms are available online now. If you’ve requested paper copies of your forms, they were mailed on January 22, 2016.If you also own accounts in the CollegeAdvantage Guaranteed 529 Plan and/or the BlackRock CollegeAdvantage Advisor 529 Plan, you will be mailed separate forms from those accounts if you made withdrawals.

    $2,000 is Not a Cap

    If you are an Ohio taxpayer, contributions to CollegeAdvantage may be deducted from your Ohio taxable income in any amount up to $2,000 per year, per beneficiary, with unlimited carry forward. This means that $2,000 per year is not a contribution cap.  Should you choose to contribute more than $2,000 in a calendar year, any amounts above $2,000 may be deducted in future years, in increments up to $2,000 per year, until all contributions have been deducted. Non-account owners who are Ohio taxpayers who make gift contributions directly to a CollegeAdvantage account also qualify for this deduction.

    Contribution Records for Tax Purposes

    Your annual account contributions summary can be viewed online and is also provided on quarterly account statements. Please be aware, the annual contribution summary shown online and provided in the statement includes contributions you have received from other sources, such as gift contributions from grandparents, family, and friends. When adding up your eligible contributions to claim your Ohio tax deduction, be sure to exclude gift contributions from others and any college savings awards that you might have won. Also, when claiming the Ohio tax deduction, please be sure to refer to your bank records or cancelled checks in addition to your CollegeAdvantage statement(s) and online records.

    Ohio taxpayers who gave gift contributions are eligible for the Ohio tax deduction, too, even if they are not the account owner. They just have to keep their own records of gift contributions paid directly to a CollegeAdvantage account (do not pay to a child or parent, contribute directly to the account to receive the tax deduction and save your cancelled checks or other records).

    Tax Time is a Good Time to Plan

    Tax season is a good time to plan ahead for all of your financial goals for the rest of the year. Be sure to log in to your Direct Plan account today to confirm your account balance and 2015 contributions. While you’re doing that, you can also utilize some of our tools to help in setting or adjusting your college savings goals. Whether you’re curious about how much you’ll need to save or you want to double-check your risk tolerance, use our tools today to gain further insights for investing. (And, if you’ve made it this far and don’t have a CollegeAdvantage account, we’ve got a tool to help see how much it costs if you wait to start saving for college!)

    Now’s the time to set your college savings goals, assess your progress, and plan your savings strategy for 2016!

  • Announcing the Winners of the 2015 Kickoff College Savings Giveaway

    by Ben Gibbons | Jan 06, 2016

    Our fourth Annual Kickoff College Savings Giveaway with the Cincinnati Bengals ended recently. This Giveaway ran from October 4th to December 21st, 2015. During that time we received more than 24,000 entries!

    Our Grand Prize Winner, Stacy Schmitz, won the $10,000 College Savings Award! Stacy was presented with the award Sunday, January 3rd, 2016 at the 50-yard line of Paul Brown Stadium, before the Bengals win over the Baltimore Ravens. Stacy will be using her award to continue her family’s college savings for their two daughters!

    The Second Place Winner, Mary Puckett, is the lucky winner of a visit from a Bengals team member to her child’s schools. Our runners-up will receive autographed Bengals memorabilia and other prizes from the Bengals.

    Here’s the list of the 15 lucky people who were randomly selected as winners:

    Grand Prize Winner: Stacy Schmitz, Seville

    Second Place Winner: Mary Puckett, Okeana

    Runners-Up: Autographed Bengals Memorabilia

    • Susanne Burritt, Dayton
    • Gary Scalzo, Mentor
    • Karolyn Beals, North Ridgeville
    • Joanne Boone, Hillsboro
    • Melissa Rank, Sheboygan, WI
    • James Morrow, Fairborn
    • Stacy Okuley, Amherst
    • Scott Winans, Doylestown
    • Scott Kidd, Springboro
    • Libby Jacobs, Newton Falls

       

      Runners-Up: Bengals Prize

    • Stephanie Moenter, Delphos
    • Jennifer Alber Vales, Strongsville
    • William Wilson, Cincinnati

    Thank you to everyone who participated. Congratulations to all our winners!*

    If your name is listed here as a winner and you have not yet contacted CollegeAdvantage, please do so now so that you don’t risk forfeiting your award! Call 1-800-AFFORD-IT (233-6734) anytime between 8:30 am and 6:00 pm ET.

    *Please note that the list of winners is subject to change.

  • A New Year, A New College Savings Story

    by Ben Gibbons | Jan 05, 2016

    We regularly receive and share College Savings Stories from CollegeAdvantage account owners. Here’s a recent story in the words of a father.

    This is Ava. She’s 3 years old. Cute, huh? Sorry … I’m her dad … I’m biased :-)

    As most parents will tell you, their children bring them tremendous happiness – far greater than words can describe. Their looks, their hugs, their kisses … the way they laugh … the way they talk … even the way they cry. Children fill our hearts with joy and keep those around them youthful.

    My 
    wife and I are thankful for those gifts (ones that Ava gives us each and every day) and we try to return the favor the best way we know how: by being loving, responsible parents. Participating in the CollegeAdvantage program gives us that opportunity.

    One Saturday morning, we were in the middle of our usual family routine: Ava eating breakfast, mommy getting a little extra snooze time (she deserves it), and daddy plugging away at the monthly budget on his laptop. As I was getting ready to make a deposit into Ava’s CollegeAdvantage account, I looked up to check on her. She flashed her cute little grin, showed me her spoon, and held the pose long enough for me to snap a photo. Then she asked, “Whatchya doin’, dad?”

    I’m not sure 
    what it was that made me stop and think before I answered her that morning, but I’m really glad I did. The natural, quick response would have been: I’m just depositing some money.

    Instead, I said, 
    “I’m giving you a gift, honey.” She smiled … and in random 3-year-old fashion, she yelled: “Go, Ava, Go!” I laughed.

    It may sound simple … maybe even a little silly … but it was a special moment. A reminder that we’re doing more than simply depositing money. We’re giving our daughter a life-long gift. It’s a good feeling. Having a plan is a good feeling. CollegeAdvantage has enabled that.

    Go, Ava, Go … indeed!

    Patrick and Brooke Walters (Dublin, Ohio)

    Interested in sharing your family’s College Savings Story? Just e-mail us at Outreach@CollegeAdvantage.com.

  • New Year’s Day Closure and Year-end Contributions

    by Ben Gibbons | Dec 23, 2015

    The offices of the Ohio Tuition Trust Authority will be closed on Friday, January 1st, 2016 in observance of New Year’s Day.

    Customer Service is available to assist you on regular business days from 8:30 am to 6:00 pm ET before or after the holiday. Please be aware that you may transact business online as usual. To make a last-minute holiday gift or year-end contribution, you can access your account online 24/7.

    Online and paper contributions must be received by CollegeAdvantage in good order before 4:00 pm on Thursday, December 31st in order to be recorded as occurring in 2015.

    Any transaction requested on a holiday or weekend will be processed on the next business day.

    Our office will be open for business as usual from 8:30 am to 6:00 pm ET on Monday, January 4th, 2016. 

  • 529 Qualified Expenses Now Include Computers!

    by Ben Gibbons | Dec 18, 2015

    Earlier this year we shared updates about H.R. 529 and a series of proposed enhancements to 529 college savings plans. Now, we have some good news for you!

    On December 18th, Congress passed and the President signed the “Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015.” The PATH Act extends or permanently renews a variety of federal tax provisions, and implements a number of new tax changes. Included in the legislation were the key provisions of H.R. 529.

    These changes include:

    • Make computer equipment and related technology and services1 a qualified expense (retroactive to January 1, 2015);
    • Allow the re-contribution of qualified withdrawals refunded by a school to be re-deposited without tax penalty (retroactive to January 1, 2015);
    • Update accounting rules to eliminate distribution aggregation, which eases burdensome recordkeeping requirements for plan administrators.

    The first provision is one that CollegeAdvantage and all 529 plans have been working on for years and is a welcome advantage for account owners.

    Now, computers, software, related equipment and internet access expenses1 used by the Beneficiary while enrolled in college will be considered qualified higher education expenses.  This provision was made retroactive to January 1, 2015. So, if you’ve purchased a computer or incurred expenses for any of these related items in 2015, you can now take a qualified withdrawal for these expenses. Act before December 31 at 4:00 p.m. ET to have your withdrawal for these now-qualified expenses recorded by OTTA in your account records for the 2015 tax year.2

    In addition, if for some reason a qualified withdrawal has been returned to you by your Beneficiary’s college, you can now recontribute those funds back into your CollegeAdvantage account3 anytime within 60 days of the refund, without any tax penalties.  Please note that the individual making the re-contribution is responsible for maintaining all documentation linking the re-contribution to the refund from the eligible educational institution.  Without such documentation the original withdrawal may be considered a non-qualified withdrawal by the IRS. You should consult your tax advisor regarding the tax implications (including but not limited to income, gift and generation-skipping taxes) of any refunds and/or re-contributions and any related documentation that you should maintain.

    This re-contribution provision was also retroactive to January 1, 2015. If you’ve received a refund from your eligible higher education institution of a qualified withdrawal anytime during 2015, you have until February 16, 2016 to re-contribute those funds without ​penalty.

    In early January, we will publish on the CollegeAdvantage website a Supplemented Offering Statement with further detail on, and related procedures around, these enhancements to the CollegeAdvantage 529 Program.  

    In the meantime, if you have account-specific questions, particularly if they’re related to qualified withdrawals for 2015, please be sure to contact our Customer Service Department by phone at 1-800-AFFORD-IT (800-233-6734) or through our Contact Us page. Customer Service is available to assist you on regular business days from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. ET. The office will be closed on December 25 and January 1.

    1) Computer and related equipment and services: Qualified higher education expenses include expenses for the purchase of computer or peripheral equipment (as defined in section 168(i)(2)(B) of the Internal Revenue Code, computer software (as defined in section 197(e)(3)(B) of the Internal Revenue Code)), or Internet access and related services, if such equipment, software, or services are to be used primarily by the Beneficiary during any of the years the Beneficiary is enrolled at an eligible educational institution.

    2) Earnings on withdrawals used for qualified higher education expenses are not subject to taxation. In an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued on January 18, 2008, the Department of the Treasury and the IRS indicated that they are considering a rule that would require withdrawals and expenses to be matched up in the same tax year, or by March 31st of the following tax year. While there is no final rule on this issue, you should consider this possible requirement when making decisions concerning your Account(s) and discuss withdrawal timing with your financial and/or tax advisor. The Account Owner or the Beneficiary, not OTTA, is responsible for retaining records substantiating the qualified higher education expenses of the Beneficiary. Requests must be submitted in good order to be processed.

    3) Re-contributions cannot be made to the CollegeAdvantage Guaranteed Plan. If you wish to make a re-contribution, you must direct the re-contribution to an open account in another qualified 529 plan.

    Updated December 23, 2015

  • The 529 End-Of-Year To-Do List

    by Ben Gibbons | Dec 15, 2015

    The end of the year is one of the busiest times of the year. It’s also one of the best times to check in on your Ohio 529 Direct Plan. We’ve put together a checklist of “to-do’s” for your CollegeAdvantage account. Don’t wait, because you might miss out on tax benefits and tips to help reach your college savings goals!

    o Check your account balance and review your savings goals

    Be sure to log in to your Direct Plan account today to confirm your account balance and contributions to-date for 2015. While you’re doing that, you can also utilize some of our tools to help in setting or adjusting your college savings goals. Whether you’re curious about how much you’ll need to save or you want to double-check your risk tolerance. (And, if you’ve made it this far and don’t have a CollegeAdvantage account we’ve got a tool to help see how much it costs to wait to start saving for college!)

    o Make an end-of-year contribution and maximize Ohio tax deductions

    While doing so, you can also make any additional contributions toward your college savings goals and maximize your State of Ohio tax benefits for 2015. Contributions for 2015 are due in good order before Thursday, December 31st at 4:00 p.m. ET.

    The State of Ohio income tax deduction allows contributions up to $2,000 per beneficiary, per year to be deducted from Ohio residents’ taxable income. Contributions over $2,000 can be carried forward to future tax years until fully deducted.

    When reviewing your contributions for 2015, be sure that you don’t include gift contributions from family and friends or contributions from other sources in your total for Ohio tax deduction purposes.

    o Encourage others to give the gift of college savings

    Speaking of gift contributions, the holidays and end of year are a great time for others to help the family reach its college savings goals. There are a variety of ways for others to make gift contributions to an existing account. And, gift givers who are Ohio taxpayers may deduct such gift contributions from their own taxable income.

    Family and friends can even order greeting cards to share when they’ve made a gift for birthdays, graduations, or the holidays. Please allow 3-5 business days for shipping of greeting cards. And, if something is needed sooner, gift announcements are available to download and include with any holiday or end-of-year contributions.

    o Review your investment options

    The end of the year is also a good time to review the investment options you’ve selected for your child’s account.

    As you’re reviewing your college savings goals, you may find that the investment options you selected for your child when they were a newborn or kindergartner might need to be adjusted now that they’re in middle school. Don’t worry you can make changes to your investment twice per calendar year.

    And, if make any investment changes before December 31st, 2015, you’ll still be able to make two additional changes for the same beneficiary in 2016, if needed.

    o Make that end-of-year withdrawal request or plan for a request in January

    Need to make a year-end withdrawal now that computers are a qualified higher education expense?  Considering a withdrawal in January to pay for books? Here’s more information on withdrawals and college payments. Remember that withdrawn funds should be used for qualified expenses incurred in the same calendar year.

    If you’re planning to make an end-of-year contribution and then withdraw funds in early 2016, keep in mind that funds must be in the account for at least 7 business days prior to any distribution. 

    ​Updated December 21st, 2015

  • Kickoff Your College Savings with CollegeAdvantage and the Cincinnati Bengals

    by Ben Gibbons | Dec 08, 2015

    The Cincinnati Bengals and CollegeAdvantage have partnered every season since 2012 to present one lucky family with $10,000 to help reach their college savings goals.

    This season, the Grand Prize Winner will receive their $10,000 College Savings Award before kickoff of the Bengals’ last regular season home game, on January 3
    rd against the Baltimore Ravens.

    In addition, the second place winner will win a visit by a Bengals’ player to their child’s school! Here’s a slide show from the spring 2015
    school visit to the St. James White Oak School.

    Ten runners-up will win a piece of autographed Bengals memorabilia and three additional runners-up winners will receive other Bengals prizes.

    To enter, all you have to do is visit us on
    Facebook and enter before 11:59 pm ET on December 21st! You can enter once per day, per e-mail address. Click here for more information and sweepstakes rules.


    Don’t wait to enter. The clock is ticking down to kickoff your college savings in 2015. We hope to see you on the field at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday, January 3
    rd

  • Reaching Your College Savings Goal: $2,000 is not a cap

    by User Not Found | Dec 01, 2015

    Some account owners stop contributing at or around $2,000 annually, per beneficiary account. Are you doing this, too? Are you doing so because you thought contributions were capped at $2,000 a year?

    If you are, you are not alone! This is a common misperception that we work hard to dispel.

    You are allowed to DEDUCT contributions up to $2,000 from your Ohio taxable income per beneficiary, per year. But, you are allowed to CONTRIBUTE even more!* Contributions over $2,000 per beneficiary, per year, may be carried forward to deduct from future tax years until all of your contributions are fully deducted.

    With more than 75% of CollegeAdvantage Direct Plan assets being held by Ohio taxpayers, we understand that many account owners are trying to maximize the annual Ohio income tax deduction amount. While it’s good to maximize your deduction, make sure you define your savings goals so that you don’t stop short of your goal each year. If you’re trying to pay for all or most of your child’s future college expenses, saving $2,000 per year might leave you short of your goal when it comes time for college.

    To help you, we encourage you to set a college savings goal that fits your household budget, covers the portion of costs you hope to pay, and takes into account your time horizon. If your child just
    started kindergarten, you have more time to save even more. If your child is middle or high school, you may want to accelerate your savings. Even if your child is in college already, you can still save and take advantage of tax-free earnings (which helps you save even more) and you can maximize the Ohio tax deduction, too.

    If you haven’t set or recently re-evaluated your college savings goals, you might want to take a few minutes to visit the
    Planning Tools page on our website. You can set that college savings goal, compare long-term tax benefits, or even see the cost of waiting to save. Whatever the amount you are able to dedicate to college savings, if you are an Ohio taxpayer you will enjoy tax-free growth and a deduction from your Ohio taxable income by choosing to save with CollegeAdvantage. And, if you’ve made it this far and don’t already have a CollegeAdvantage Direct account, today’s a great day to open an account!

    We also have other tools available in the CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 Savings Plan to help you and your family reach your college savings goals:

    • Ugift® – Family and friends often look for significant, meaningful ways to celebrate holidays, birthdays, graduations, and other special occasions. With the CollegeAdvantage Direct Plan, you can get a unique Ugift code for each of your beneficiaries. The code can be shared with family and friends to allow them to make lasting gifts to your child’s college savings account. Without ever sharing your account number or your child’s social security number, anyone can contribute securely online at Ugift529.com. Learn more about receiving gifts.
    • AIP – We offer the Automatic Investment Plan (AIP) so that you can make savings an easy habit. AIP allows you to make automatic, regular contributions from any bank account. Just log in to your Direct Plan account and select “Automatic Investments” under Asset Management in the menu. Many account owners use this plan to set money aside before they have a chance to spend it on something else.

    Please note: contributions for 2015 must be received, in good order, by Thursday, December 31 before 4:00 p.m. ET.

    *You can make contributions at any time that such contributions will not cause your account value to exceed the Account Limit for Contributions (formerly Maximum Account Value) as described in the
    CollegeAdvantage Direct Plan Offering Statement and Participation Agreement. The current Account Limit for Contributions is $414,000. Beginning January 1, 2016, the Account Limit for Contributions will be $426,000.

  • The 411 on 529 Direct Plan Withdrawals

    by User Not Found | Nov 18, 2015

    We want the withdrawal and tuition payment process to be as simple and fast as possible. For the fastest and most accurate method, we recommend that you initiate these transactions online, though we do offer a few methods. Our guide below can serve as a useful reference to help you now and in the future.

    NOTE: This is the process for CollegeAdvantage Direct Plan accounts only. The process is different for Guaranteed Plan (prepaid) accounts. Here’s guidance for withdrawals from the Guaranteed Plan.

    Online

    Online withdrawal requests followed by online tuition payments are by far the fastest way to move money from your CollegeAdvantage account to the college or university requiring payment. Here’s how to do it all online:

    1. Before you can make a payment, you must have your bank account information on file for 15 days. Add your bank’s information now. For security purposes, no withdrawals can be processed until your bank information has been on file with your CollegeAdvantage account(s) for at least 15 days. This is a one-time waiting period only; you won’t have to wait again in the future, unless you change your banking information. To add your bank account details to each of your CollegeAdvantage Direct Plan accounts, log-in to your account, and use the “Asset Management” menu to add your bank information in the “Manage Banks” section.
    2. Request your withdrawal be paid electronically to your bank account. Though it’s not instantaneous, having your withdrawal sent electronically to your bank account is the fastest delivery we offer. Withdrawals requested before 4:00 p.m. ET on business days will be processed and approved with 2 business days. It may take additional time for your bank to show the funds as a deposit to your account. From the date of your request, you can expect the funds to be received by your bank within 3-5 business days.
    3. Pay your tuition online from your bank account. Once the funds have been deposited to your bank account, use your college’s tuition payment system to pay your tuition from your bank account. Most schools have their own electronic tuition payment process (e-check, e-payment, or ACH) as well as other forms of acceptable payment. Check your school’s bursar office for details. Payment processing times will vary according to the school.

    Paper Check Delivery to the School

    If you prefer to have us send payment to the school on your student’s behalf, be aware that CollegeAdvantage only sends paper checks by US mail. This may cause additional delays depending on the US Postal Service delivery and the school’s paper check processing procedures. If you still prefer to use the paper check delivery method, you must do the following:

    1. Provide CollegeAdvantage with the correct school address where the check should be sent.
    2. Provide your student’s school ID number with the withdrawal request so that the school knows how to credit the payment when the check arrives by mail.
    3. Allow at least an additional 10 business days after the date of your online withdrawal request for the check to arrive at the school. It will take the school additional time to apply the payment to your student’s tuition bill.

    Paper Withdrawal Request Form

    For those who prefer to use a paper form, we do still offer the
    Withdrawal Request Form. Please be aware that this is potentially the slowest withdrawal method available to you. This form, as well as other account maintenance forms can be found here.

    In the interest of time and prompt payment, we do encourage you to consider making your withdrawal request online, rather than download the form. If you must complete the form it is available as a fillable PDF, which we recommend using, or you may print the form and very clearly hand write it.

    The paper form must be mailed to the address provided on the form. You may opt to have the funds sent to you (the Account Owner) or to the Beneficiary, either by paper check in the mail, or by ACH (electronically deposited to your bank account or the Beneficiary’s bank account). Once you receive the funds, you will have to decide how you wish to pay the school.

    If you wish to have the payment sent directly to the school, please review the information provided above for Paper Check Delivery to the School and provide the required information in section 3 C of the Withdrawal Request Form.

  • Guaranteed Plan Withdrawals And Tuition Payments

    by User Not Found | Nov 17, 2015

    Whether you’re paying tuition for the first time, or you have a little experience with the Guaranteed Plan already, we recommend that you plan ahead so that you know exactly how you will process your withdrawal request and pay your school’s tuition bill.

    Effective August 10 2015, the payout rates for the CollegeAdvantage Guaranteed 529 Savings Plan are:

    Tuition Unit: $101.62

    Tuition Credit: $116.86

    There are several ways to request a withdrawal and pay for second semester expenses.

    You can request a withdrawal online. There are two online methods for making a withdrawal for tuition and other qualifies expenses. Here are some helpful tips for each:

    1) Request a withdrawal be paid directly to your school.

    Using the online account management system, you can request that CollegeAdvantage pay your withdrawal directly to the school. When using this method, keep in mind that CollegeAdvantage pays schools by sending a paper check.

    To have your withdrawal check sent directly to the school to pay toward tuition, you must do the following:

    • Allow at least 10 business days following your withdrawal request for the check to arrive at the school.

    • Provide CollegeAdvantage with the student's name, student ID number and correct address of the school your beneficiary is attending.

    2) Request a withdrawal be paid directly to your bank account (account owner only).

    The fastest way to pay tuition is to make your online withdrawal payable directly to your bank account. Then, use the funds from your bank account to pay your school using the school’s preferred method. Here are some instructions you should know:

    Log in to your CollegeAdvantage Guaranteed Plan account and click on Withdraw Funds.

    • Withdrawals requested online before 4:00 p.m. ET on business days will be processed by CollegeAdvantage overnight. It may take additional time for your bank to show the withdrawn funds deposited to your account. Typically, this is between 3-5 business days from your request date.

    • Once you receive your electronic withdrawal deposited to your bank account, use your college’s tuition payment system to pay your tuition from your bank account. Most schools have their own electronic tuition payment process, as well as other forms of acceptable payment. Payment processing times will vary according to the school. Confirm details with your school’s bursar or financial office. (CollegeAdvantage is not responsible for any late fees charged by the school, so please plan ahead!)

    Request a withdrawal by mail:

    You can also complete your withdrawal, whether payable to you, the beneficiary or the school, via a
    Withdrawal Request Form. This form, as well as all other forms for the CollegeAdvantage Guaranteed 529 Savings Plan can be downloaded here.

    Please keep in mind that mail delivery will increase the processing times outlined above. CollegeAdvantage is not responsible for any late fees charged by the school, so please plan ahead.

    Please Note: Some Guaranteed Plan withdrawals cannot be processed online, and may require additional steps, listed on the
    Withdrawal Request Form.

  • Weathering Fluctuations in Investment Markets

    by Ben Gibbons | Oct 27, 2015

    As investors, we feel great when our strategies result in gains. But unfortunately, investing can also sometimes result in losses. As we know from history, it is inevitable that markets go up and they go down, too. Any investment, including 529 plans, carries the assumption of risks. These risks even include the potential loss of principal. To best weather market corrections, advisors commonly suggest that investors employ a long-term savings strategy and maintain a diversified portfolio of investments.

    For those saving for college, savings strategies are also often based on the length of time available to save, your level of comfort with risk, and your personal savings goals. There is not a one-size-fits-all strategy to investing and saving for college; it is personal and requires each person to consider multiple factors like savings goals, timing, risk tolerance and others.  These factors may change with time, so it is important to continually review your investment strategy.

    CollegeAdvantage 529 offers customers a choice of 24 portfolios and options for your personal strategy. These include age-based portfolios that automatically exchange to more conservative investments as your child ages; risk-based portfolios you choose based on your level of comfort with risk; and individual investment options that allow you to select and maintain whatever mix of options you wish from higher-risk stock options to the most conservative FDIC-insured 529 bank savings and CD options.

    CollegeAdvantage also offers the tax advantages of investing with a 529 plan. Ohio taxpayers get even more; a deduction from Ohio taxable income for contributions up to $2,000 per beneficiary, per year with unlimited carryforward.

    To help you monitor your investments and make investment decisions that are right for your savings strategy, we provide online
    reports, tools, and calculators. For additional information about college savings strategies, please visit www.CollegeAdvantage.com. These resources are provided for informational purposes only, and we cannot and do not provide investment advice, so uou should also consult your financial advisor or tax consultant about your personal situation and savings goals.

  • College Savings Month Giveaway Winners Announced

    by Ben Gibbons | Oct 15, 2015

    September was National College Savings Month! To celebrate, we gave $529 College Savings Awards to 10 lucky people! Our giveaway, which ran from September 14th to October 4th, was open to account owners and non-account owners alike.

    Here’s the list of the 10 lucky people who were randomly selected on October 6
    th:

    1. Kelley Lee
    2. Christopher King
    3. Allen Werstiuk
    4. Stefanie Doran
    5. Michael Beilke
    6. Courtney Howard
    7. Teresa Robertson
    8. Angela Atha
    9. Steven Campbell
    10. Janet Wise

    Winners who already own CollegeAdvantage Direct Plan accounts will use their awards to boost ongoing savings. Those winners who are not current account owners, will open accounts and use their awards to get a jump start on their college savings!

    Thank you to everyone who participated. Congratulations to all our winners!

    If you don’t see you name on the list don’t worry. Visit us on
    Facebook today and you can enter to win a $10,000 College Savings Award! Visit us today to learn more about our 2015 Kickoff College Savings Giveaway with the Cincinnati Bengals.

    If your name is listed here as a winner and you have not yet contacted CollegeAdvantage, please do so now so that you don’t risk forfeiting your award. Call 614-752-9400 and ask for Judy.
    Please note that the list of winners is subject to change.

  • CollegeAdvantage Celebrates College Savings Month

    by Michele Schuck | Sep 14, 2015
    September 14, 2015 – Columbus, OH – September is national College Savings Month and CollegeAdvantage is giving away ten $529 college savings awards.  Beginning today through 11:59 pm ET on Sunday, October 4 individuals can enter to win one of ten $529 college savings awards from CollegeAdvantage. Individuals 18 years and older can enter to win by going to www.CollegeAdvantage.com.

    No purchase is necessary and residents from any state can enter once per day, per email address.  Current account owners and non-account owners are eligible.  Each $529 college savings award will be awarded as a contribution to an existing CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 Savings Plan account or used to open a new Direct Plan account.

    For 25 years, CollegeAdvantage has helped families save for college for more than 750,000 past, present and future college students.  Any Ohio taxpayer including parents, grandparents, family members and friends who contribute to a CollegeAdvantage account can claim a deduction of up to $2,000 in contributions, per beneficiary, per year from their state of Ohio taxable income. Account owners pay no taxes on the funds as they grow, and withdrawals used for 529-qualified higher education  expenses are free from state of Ohio and federal income taxes on the earnings.  Funds saved through CollegeAdvantage can be used at any accredited college in the country that is eligible to receive federal financial aid.  Families can open an account for as little as $25.  College Savings Month is a great time to begin saving for that special child’s future college education and an even better time to add to an existing account.


    Contact:          

    Judy Cunningham, Public Relations Manager
    jcunningham@CollegeAdvantage.com
    (614) 752-9350

    About the Ohio Tuition Trust Authority/CollegeAdvantage:
    CollegeAdvantage is Ohio’s 529 college savings program, offered and administered by the Ohio Tuition Trust Authority, a state agency under the Office of the Chancellor of the Ohio Department of Higher Education. Ohio is the fifth largest state sponsor of 529 plans in the country (Strategic Insight Q2 2015). CollegeAdvantage is offered as the CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 Savings Plan and the CollegeAdvantage Advisor 529 Saving Plan which is offered and marketed through BlackRock and sold through professional financial advisors. The CollegeAdvantage program, which offers families a tax-advantaged way to save for college, has more than $9.5 billion in assets under management and over 642,000 total accounts as of June 30, 2015. To learn more, visit www.CollegeAdvantage.com.

  • 2015 Kickoff College Savings with the Buckeyes Winners Announced

    by Ben Gibbons | Sep 11, 2015
    See the list of the four lucky people who won Ohio State football tickets from CollegeAdvantage!

    Here at CollegeAdvantage, we recently gave away football tickets to four lucky people. The Grand Prize was two Ohio State Football season tickets. Four runners-up were selected to receive additional tickets for other Ohio State home games.

    From more than 3,000 entries, here are our winners and their awards!

    Grand Prize, two 2015 season tickets for all Ohio State football home games:

    Jill Schellhase of Canal Winchester, Ohio

    Second Prize, two tickets to each of the following home games, Michigan State, Northern Illinois, and Western Michigan:

    Donna Wise of Westerville, Ohio

    Third Prize, two tickets to the following home games, Penn State and Hawaii:

    David Rudy, Enon, Ohio

    Fourth Prize, two tickets to each of the following home games, Maryland and Minnesota:

    Nathan Bersee, Grand Rapids, Ohio 

    Our giveaway was open to account owners and non-account owners. All entries were via Facebook.

    Thank you to everyone who participated. Congratulations to all our winners!

    And, if you don’t see you name on the list don’t worry! Visit us here on Monday, September 14th, as we announce our College Savings Month Giveaway.
  • Direct Plan Fees Reduced Again

    by Ben Gibbons | Aug 31, 2015

    We are pleased to announce that the fee charged by Vanguard to provide portfolio accounting and administration has been reduced from 0.025% to 0.02% effective August 1, 2015. This reduces the Total Annual Fee for the investment options in the Direct Plan. This fee reduction was made possible due to the Direct Plan Assets Under Management (AUM) reaching a high-enough level to trigger contract-specified price reductions. View the updated Fee Table.

    This fee reduction comes on the heels of further reductions that were effective June 19, 2015. On that date, we reduced the OTTA Fee from 0.04% to 0.02%. The volume of AUM also made this reduction possible.

    As assets grow, OTTA is able to consider plan efficiencies that include reductions like these. Making contributions to your account helps you to grow your savings to meet your savings goals. At the same time, your contributions also help to grow AUM, which allows for efficiencies and triggers AUM-based fee reductions. New accounts grow our plan, too, and everyone benefits. If you know someone with small children, tell them about the advantages of saving for college with CollegeAdvantage. You’ll be helping them to save for the future college dreams of their children or grandchildren, and you’ll be helping to grow the Plan, too. Refer family and friends to Whatisa529.com to learn more and to request a CollegeAdvantage Kit.

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