• College Advantage Partners With America Saves

    by Amy Lyle | Feb 21, 2017

    CollegeAdvantage is pleased to participate in America Save Week, which will run Monday, Feb. 27 - Saturday, March 4. America Saves is an organization, managed by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), which is dedicated to helping individuals save money, reduce household debt, and build wealth. In 2007, America Saves Week was established to encourage households and individuals to develop good saving habits.

    To do so, America Saves Week advocates to first set a savings goal, then create a plan to reach the goal. The plan should include this year’s theme, saving automatically. To promote this, America Saves Week offers an online pledge to save money for a variety of goals — including education — and guides the participant to design a saving strategy to reach that goal. America Saves Week will send tips, reminders, and encouragements to keep the pledge-taker focused on attaining the saving goal. In a recent survey, many past participants said that taking the pledge was the needed push to start and/or increase their savings.

    CollegeAdvantage stands in complete agreement with America Saves in encouraging people to save as well as to save automatically, especially for their children’s post-secondary educations.

    Ohio’s 529 Savings Program helps families across the nation to save for their children’s future college costs in a tax-advantaged manner. First, all contributions and earnings will grow tax free in a 529 plan. Second, a 529 account withdrawal will be tax free when used to pay for 529 qualified higher education expenses. Third, if an Ohio resident is the CollegeAdvantage account owner, then their 529 contributions can be deducted from their state taxable income, up to $2,000 per year, per beneficiary, with unlimited carry forward. This means that $2,000 per year is not a contribution cap. The Ohio resident can subtract $2,000 per year from their Ohio taxable income until all the 529 contributions have been deducted.

    Scheduling automatic deposits to be placed in an Ohio 529 College Savings Account is the easiest way to save before the funds are unintentionally used for other expenses. As America Saves Week learned, “the most effective way to save money is automatically.” That’s why it’s this year’s theme: Saving automatically is a simple yet powerful tool. With CollegeAdvantage, 529 account contributions can be scheduled to match paycheck deposits or monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, or annual contribution schedule.

    America Saves Weeks also reminds that “saving a portion of your tax return can be a big step toward meeting your saving goals.” A tax refund also makes a great CollegeAdvantage 529 contribution. It’s an easy saving strategy. The average 2015 federal tax refund was $2,466. By adding $2,500 a year to a 529 plan, the account could cover as much as 40% of college at an Ohio public university, based on 18 years at 6% growth.

    CollegeAdvantage is your plan, your way. By saving regularly through automatic contributions, even small amounts add up to big savings over time. Also, a 529 account is an excellent alternative to student loan debt. Saving for college now is far cheaper than paying off students loans later.

    Ready to start with Ohio’s 529 Savings Program? It’s easy to open an account here. Already have an account and want to make some adjustments? Log in to a 529 account to update information, perform account maintenance, or increase the frequency or the amount of automatic deposits.

  • OTTA Will Be Closed Presidents’ Day

    by Amy Lyle | Feb 17, 2017

    The offices of the Ohio Tuition Trust Authority will be closed on Monday, Feb. 20, 2017, in observance Presidents’ Day.

    Our Customer Service department (1-800-AFFORD-IT) will also be closed on this day. Customer Service representatives are available to assist you on regular business days from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET before or after a specific holiday. However, you always have access to your 529 account online 24/7.

    The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) will also 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.

  • Fund Your 529 With Tax Refund

    by Amy Lyle | Feb 15, 2017

    Your tax refund makes a great CollegeAdvantage 529 fund. It’s also a great and easy saving strategy. The average 2015 federal tax refund was $2,466. By adding $2,500 a year to a 529 plan, you could cover as much as 40% of college at an Ohio public university, based on 18 years at 6% growth.

    Would you like to see the math behind this number? Ohio’s 529 Savings Program offers a college savings planner to calculate how much you can save by contributing your tax refund every year. Additionally, you can use the tool to see what the estimated 529 account total could be if you deposited monthly automatic contributions, as well as increased the dollar amount or the frequency of 529 contributions. Every amount contributed, whether big or small, can help you reach your savings goal.

    Keep in mind, if you deposit your tax refund or other contributions into your CollegeAdvantage ​529 plan, there is a tax advantage for Ohio residents. In addition to tax-free earnings and tax-free withdrawals when used to pay qualified higher education expenses, 529 contributions of up to $2000, per beneficiary, per year, can be deducted from your state of Ohio taxable income. Deductions for contributions over $2,000 can be carried forward to future tax years until fully deducted.

    The tax season is also an excellent time to assess your progress on your college savings goals, or if you haven’t yet, set your college savings goals! CollegeAdvantage offers tools to help you build a 529 plan that best fits your family’s needs. You can set or rework your college savings goal, compare long-term tax benefits, or even see the cost of waiting to save. Also, take the opportunity to review your child’s time horizon to college. If your child just started kindergarten, you have more time to save even more as well as benefit from the power of compound interest. If your child is in 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.

    529 plans are a great alternative to student loan debt. If you haven’t started a CollegeAdvantage account, you can open an account today! If you already have an account and would like to make some changes, log in to perform account maintenance, or increase automatic deposits. CollegeAdvantage is your plan, your way.

  • Life Stories Just Beginning

    by User Not Found | Feb 14, 2017

    In 2015, CollegeAdvantage celebrated its 25th anniversary. In honor of this milestone, many longtime account owners shared their Saving Stories and how using CollegeAdvantage helped them achieve their goals. We are fortunate to have these encouraging stories of how families prioritized their children’s higher education and are sharing them again. 

    Our story begins with the ethic that it’s the parents’ duty to provide opportunities for their children. For my wife and me, each of our mother and father did the best they could to help provide each of us an opportunity to attend college. We wanted to do the same for our children. We expect our children will do the same for theirs.

    The very week in 1985 that our daughter was born, we began putting money aside for college. When our son was born three years later, we repeated the same strategy. Every single month, we allocated a portion of our income to their college fund. In the early years, our contribution was small; but in time, as we earned more we set aside more. Our goal was to have enough in their college fund by the time they were eighteen to allow them to choose just about any school across the country. When we learned of Ohio’s new program for college, we thought this would be a smart way to supplement our savings. My wife and I had both seen how the cost of college tuition had skyrocketed in just the few years since we graduated. The program made sense as a way to help assure there would be enough funds on hand when the time came for our children to begin their advanced education. In later years, we also took advantage of the various stock market and fixed income investment options the program offered.

    Our daughter attended the University of Mary Washington in Virginia majoring in Geography. She has pursued a career as a world traveler and sailor. Immediately after graduating college, she joined Sea/mester, a study abroad program for college students aboard a 112’ sailboat. As a crew member for five years, she circumnavigated the world, visited scores of foreign countries, was a mentor and teacher, and led students on excursions in Africa, Asia and South America. She grew up fast. During that time, she also earned a large vessel Captain’s license. She continues to sail and is currently employed aboard a privately-owned sailing yacht in the Mediterranean Sea. I like to think that some of my tales as a merchant seaman hauling coal and iron ore aboard the lake freighters were of some inspiration for her to seek a life of adventure on the sea.

    Our son attended Ohio State University with a degree in Business. Upon graduation he joined an international bank as an analyst and continued with them for two years before leaving to begin his MBA studies at Georgetown in Washington, DC. Following a successful internship in Houston this past summer in the oil and gas investment banking division of another international bank, he was offered a full-time job. Following graduation in May, he will become part of the company’s Defense, Aerospace, Technology & Services investment banking team in Charlotte, NC. Like our daughter, he also has the bug for traveling the world.

    That’s pretty much the story so far. These two kids have gone way beyond anything Bonnie or I could have imagined for them. As I am sure you know, it takes so many ingredients to succeed in life. And along the way there are so many bumps and bruises. I know the story for each of them has only just begun.

    CollegeAdvantage was a part of it.

    Craig Shopneck

    Bay Village, Ohio

    This Saving Story was originally published April 12, 2015.
  • Honoring A Loved One

    by User Not Found | Feb 07, 2017

    In 2015, CollegeAdvantage celebrated its 25th anniversary. In honor of this milestone, many longtime account owners shared their Saving Stories and how using CollegeAdvantage helped them achieve their goals. We are fortunate to have these encouraging stories of how families prioritized their children’s higher education and are sharing them again. 

    When the CollegeAdvantage program first started, we began saving to help defray the future costs of college for our daughters. We were investing a little at a time toward our goal.

    When a dear friend of ours passed away, she kindly had named us in her will and estate planning. She was always very fond of our children, and our girls were fond of her, too. She was like a grandmother to them. She was aware of our plans to provide our children with a ways and means of furthering their education after high school. So, we thought it would be a great way to honor her legacy by using the money toward the girls’ educations by saving it in their CollegeAdvantage accounts. I know she would be very happy and proud that they both benefited in this way from her thoughtfulness.

    Our oldest daughter now has a Master’s degree in special education and is presently teaching. Our youngest has an Associate's degree in business and accounting, and is currently working in a distribution center (hoping for a better job in future).

    Randall and Debra Carr

    Somerset, Ohio

    This S​aving Story originally was published April 19, 2015.
  • Huddle Homework Folder Winners Announced

    by Amy Lyle | Feb 03, 2017

    CollegeAdvantage, Ohio’s 529 Savings Program, encourages families to start saving for their children’s future college costs while the children are still young. By planning ahead for higher education expenses, you can take full advantage of long-term savings, tax benefits, and the power of compound earnings with a 529 plan. The sooner you start saving, the longer you have to reach your college-savings goals.

    To raise awareness of the importance of college savings, CollegeAdvantage teamed with the Ohio Department of Education, OhioMeansJobs.com and Huddle to provide homework folders to elementary schools across the State of Ohio for the 2016-2017 school year. As part of this initiative, CollegeAdvantage also offered a giveaway to provide $529 college savings awards to ten lucky people! The giveaway, which ran until Dec. 31, 2016, was open to account owners and non-account owners alike.

    Here’s the list of the 10 participants randomly selected*:

    1. Valerie Lemmie Thomas of Dayton, Ohio
    2. Shannon Amos of Canal Winchester, Ohio
    3. Venkat Badri of Powell, Ohio
    4. Greg Hoge of Lewis Center, Ohio
    5. Trisha Pollard of Canton, Ohio
    6. Erin West of Mogadore, Ohio
    7. Keri Aylor of Delaware, Ohio
    8. Rajesh Chandramohan of Lewis Center, Ohio
    9. Sheila Factor of North Jackson, Ohio
    10. John Keane of Lewis Center, Ohio

    Winners who already own CollegeAdvantage Direct Plan accounts will use the awards to boost their 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 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. Email Amy Lyle at alyle@CollegeAdvantage.com to claim your prize as soon as possible. Please note that the list of winners is subject to change.

  • Save Now For Future College Costs

    by Amy Lyle | Feb 01, 2017

    Saving for college is a forward-looking action plan. No matter the age of a child, it is never too early and it is never too late to start saving for them.

    CollegeAdvantage, Ohio’s 529 Savings Program, helps families across the nation save money for their children’s future college costs in a tax-advantaged manner. What are the benefits? First, all contributions and earnings grow tax-free in a 529 plan. Second, when a 529 account withdrawal is requested to cover qualified higher education expenses, the amount taken out will be tax-free. Third, a CollegeAdvantage account owner who is an Ohio resident can deduct 529 contributions from their Ohio taxable income, up to $2,000 per year, per beneficiary, with unlimited carry forward. This means that $2,000 per year is not a contribution cap. The taxpayer can continue to subtract $2,000 per year from their Ohio taxable income until all the 529 contributions have been deducted.

    A 529 account is an excellent alternative to student loan debt. Saving for college now, while potentially challenging initially to include in a budget, is far cheaper than paying off students loans later in life. There are steps to take once a 529 account has been open that can simplify setting aside college savings.

    A straightforward way to save is to set up automatic deposits to be placed in an Ohio 529 College Savings Account and then forget about it. Many account owners find it’s easiest to have contributions automatically transferred to the 529 account before the funds are unintentionally used for other expenses. Electronically transferred 529 contributions can be scheduled to match paycheck deposits or to another monthly contribution schedule.

    Some employers also offer payroll deduction, where a portion of a paycheck can be deposited directly into a CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 account. Direct deposit of payroll contributions makes it easy to save regularly to meet college-saving goals. The 529 account owner can login to their account and establish payroll deduction through direct deposit or complete and mail a payroll deduction form. A side note: A FifthThird Certificate of Deposit (CD), which requires a $500 minimum contribution to open, is not available for purchase through automatic recurring contributions or payroll deduction.

    Additionally, another way to boost a 529 college savings plan is to contribute federal and state tax returns, pay raises, or bonuses to the 529 account. The average tax return is $2,466. Adding $2,500 a year to a 529 plan could cover as much as 40% of college at an Ohio public university, based on 18 years at 6% growth.

    CollegeAdvantage is your plan, your way. By saving regularly through automatic contributions or payroll deduction, even small amounts add up to big savings over time. Every amount contributed to a 529 will grow tax-free and can be withdrawn tax-free. For Ohio taxpayers, CollegeAdvantage 529 plan contributions can be deducted from their state taxable income, up to $2,000 per year, per beneficiary. Keep moving forward to reach your college savings goal for ​your child.

    Ready to start with Ohio’s 529 Savings Program? It’s easy to open an account here. Already have an account and want to make some changes? Log in to a 529 account to update information, perform account maintenance, or increase automatic deposits or payroll deduction contribution amount.

  • Two Generations Of Savers

    by User Not Found | Jan 30, 2017

    In 2015, CollegeAdvantage celebrated its 25th anniversary. In honor of this milestone, many longtime account owners shared their Saving Stories and how using CollegeAdvantage helped them achieve their goals. We are fortunate to have these encouraging stories of how families prioritized their children’s higher education and are sharing them again. 

    We had two children, four years apart. We were concerned that when it came time to go to college we might find ourselves in a bind if my son, the older child, took more than four years to complete his program. That would mean two children in college at the same time. So, we decided to start a CollegeAdvantage program for the younger of the two. (We felt it would not benefit our son as he was too close to graduating from high school. The fund would not have accumulated enough with time so limited.) As it turned out, just days before our younger child graduated from high school, my husband Jon died. That meant that I was now a single parent with children about to go to college.

    When my husband and I started the program we, of course, never dreamed that anything as horrible as death would occur in our lives, especially at such a time. But, the future happens in strange ways.

    CollegeAdvantage helped me put my daughter through school. That part of it worked out well. We had added to her account by contributing any monetary gifts received, bonuses, and a small amount each month.

    My daughter went to Toledo University for her freshman year, but found Toledo was too far from home after losing her father so suddenly. For her sophomore year, she transferred to Kent State University. She received her degree in Hospitality from Kent. She used her degree at Judson Manor in Cleveland and then at University Hospital.

    She is now married with two children and is a stay-at-home mom. She uses her college knowledge to plan block parties, recipe exchanges, and themed children's birthday celebrations, in addition to running a household.

    She and her husband have 529 plans for each of their children. She knows how it helped her to graduate from college without debt. Her intention is to pass that on to her own children.

    Marlene Laidley

    Jefferson, Ohio

    This Saving Story originally was posted April 16, 2015.

  • Tax Time Documents Available Soon

    by Amy Lyle | Jan 27, 2017

    You’ve made it through the first month of the New Year. As January comes to an end, it’s time to start collecting all the documents you’ll need to prepare your federal, state, and local income tax filings. If you’ve been saving for college in a CollegeAdvantage 529 plan and enjoying its tax benefits, you will be receiving some records from us soon.

    Here’s what to look for:

    Annual Tax Documents

    Any account owner, who made a withdrawal from a CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 plan to cover qualified higher education expenses in 2016, will receive a federal form 1099-Q. This form will report the total distributions, earnings, and basis (also known as principal) for tax reporting purposes. Depending on the preferences you selected when setting up your 529 account, the 1099-Q will either be sent through U.S. Postal Service or email. You can also find this form online. After you’ve logged into your account, on the left side of the account page, select “view profile and documents.” After that link redirects you, select “Statement, confirm & tax forms,” to look at the available tax information.

    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.

    Contribution Records for Tax Purposes

    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. 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. This means that $2,000 per year is not a contribution cap. If you have College Advantage 529 accounts for each of your children, you receive the deduction to your Ohio taxable income for contributions made to each beneficiary’s account. 

    Your annual account contributions summary can be viewed online and is also provided on quarterly account statements. After you’ve logged into your account, on the first page, scroll down to the “Year To Date Contributions” to see the calendar year and the total amount of contributions made into the 529 account during that year. Beneath that section is a listing of all the account transactions through the calendar year. The annual contribution summary will include contributions from other sources, such as gift contributions from grandparents, family, and friends. When adding up your eligible contributions to claim your Ohio tax deduction, exclude gift contributions from others and any college savings awards that you might have won. For the purpose the State of Ohio tax deduction, it is important you have your bank statements and/or copies of cashed check as the back-up documentation for this deduction.  The CollegeAdvantage Statement is not sufficient as it includes contributions from all sources.

    As for your grandparents, family, and friends who gave gift contributions, if they are also Ohio taxpayers, then they are also eligible for the Ohio income tax deduction. They will need to keep their own records of any gift contributions which were paid directly to a CollegeAdvantage account to receive the tax deduction. If they wrote a check you or your child, then that amount is not eligible for the state income tax deduction. For the purpose the State of Ohio tax deduction, it is important you have your bank statements and/or copies of cashed check as the back-up documentation for this deduction. 

    As always, please consult your tax advisor to discuss the treatment of your 529 account for your individual tax situation.

  • Keep Your New Year’s Financial Resolutions

    by Amy Lyle | Jan 25, 2017

    It’s the end of January; how are you doing on your New Year’s resolutions? If everything is going to according to plan, you should be taking steps to achieve your goals. If you’re feeling a little bit behind on your fiscally fit objectives, CollegeAdvantage has some pointers to help you reach your college-saving goals.

    If you haven’t already, first open a CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 plan. An account with Ohio’s 529 Savings Program is simple to open; review our website to learn more about 529s. CollegeAdvantage offers calculators and tools to help set your savings goals. If you’re curious about what you should aim to save for your child’s future college costs or if you want to determine your risk tolerance, use these tools to gain better insight. Remember, time is your best friend when saving money because of the power of compound interest. Every amount contributed, whether big or small, can help you reach your savings goal.

    Would you like more reasons why you should start a 529 plan? There are many tax advantages for saving for college in a 529 account.

    All contributions to a CollegeAdvantage 529 plan will grow tax-free and withdrawals will be tax-free, as long as the funds are used to pay 529 qualified higher education expenses. To see how tax-free growth adds up with a 529 savings plan, CollegeAdvantage has a tax benefit tool that you can use to compare a 529 college-savings account and a taxable savings account. Unlike a taxable account, a CollegeAdvantage 529 plan ensures that every bit of investment growth is yours to use, tax-free.

    Another tax benefit of a CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 plan is the State of Ohio tax deduction. If you are an Ohio taxpayer, contributions to CollegeAdvantage may be subtracted 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. If you contribute more than $2,000 in a calendar year, any amount 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 also qualify for this tax benefit when they give monetary contributions directly to CollegeAdvantage accounts.

     

    If you’ve already opened a CollegeAdvantage 529 plan, consider following some of these steps to ensure you are on target with your college-saving goals.

    1. Review your 529 account. Are you putting enough funds aside to cover what you’d like of your child’s college costs? If you want to check the numbers, use College Savings Planner to receive personalized saving information. You can vary your college-savings goals in this tool to learn the projected costs for each goal as well as receive an estimated monthly amount needed to meet that savings objective. Please note that these examples are for illustrative purposes only. For additional advice, consult with your legal, financial, tax, or other advisor. If you’ve determined that what saving goal is the right for your family, you can change the current contribution amount to the new number.
    2. See if you need to change your savings strategy. As you child reaches a new life stage, you may want to update your plan of action to reach your college savings goals.
    3. Check your account balance and track the investment performances. If you would like to make a substitution to your 529 savings portfolio, you can make an exchange of an asset from one investment option to another investment option, twice in a calendar year for the same beneficiary.
    4. Simplify your savings by setting up automatic deposits into your Ohio 529 College Savings Account. Many account owners have said that it’s best to have money automatically transferred from their checking or savings account to the 529 before unintentionally using those funds for other expenses. You can set up contributions to be transferred electronically to match your paycheck deposits or create your own monthly contribution schedule. Some employers offer payroll deduction, where a portion of your pay could be deposited directly into a 529 account.
    5. Convert your disappearing expenses into regular 529 contributions. Disappearing expenses are those costs in your family’s budget for only a limited time span. For example, preschool and day care are large disappearing expenses once a child starts kindergarten. Once those services are no longer needed, deposit those funds into your 529 plan. You won’t miss the money while you continue to support your child’s educational needs.
    6. Add your federal tax returns, pay raises, or bonuses to the 529 account. The average tax return is $2,466. Adding $2,500 a year to a 529 plan could cover as much as 40% of college at an Ohio public university, based on 18 years at 6% growth.
    7. Invite other family members and friends to make contributions to your child’s 529 plan with Ugift rather than giving toys or clothes. You can assure them that giving the gift of college is much more meaningful and beneficial for your child’s long–term success.
    8. Shop with Upromise. Upromise is a free loyalty program that offers its members cash back for their purchases from a wide variety of businesses partners. When you connect your debit and/or credit card to your Upromise account, you can start earning rewards with your everyday shopping. Then link your Upromise account to your CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 Plan account to roll over these rebates.

     

    CollegeAdvantage is your plan, your way. Remember, every amount contributed to a 529 will grow tax-free and can be withdrawn tax-free. So keep moving forward to reach your college-savings goal. If you are ready to start with Ohio’s 529 Savings Program, it’s easy to open an account here. If you already have an account and want to make some changes, log in to your account to update information or do other account maintenance.

  • My Father Started Our Tradition Of Saving

    by User Not Found | Jan 23, 2017

    In 2015, CollegeAdvantage celebrated its 25th anniversary. In honor of this milestone, many longtime account owners shared their Saving Stories and how using CollegeAdvantage helped them achieve their goals. We are fortunate to have these encouraging stories of how families prioritized their children’s higher education and are sharing them again. 

    My father, who was active in schools within Ohio, opened the first accounts for our daughters in 1990. He was excited to have a way to save money for his two granddaughters to go to college. The extended family of aunts, uncles, as well as my husband and I, hopped on board with that idea and we all were contributing to the girls' educational future. While the accounts were not long duration, they were extremely helpful as the girls began their college experiences.

    Both girls are graduates of Miami University in Oxford (1998, 1999), with degrees in Education and both are successful educators within schools here in Ohio. The bonus of all this was that both graduated with the help and caring of family without one dollar of student loans! The moneys contributed to their funds were "gifts forward" from the generations before them, all wanting them to have the chance to gain a college degree and become a productive citizen in society. The toy or game we might have purchased would have been played with or discarded in months, but the money we sent to CollegeAdvantage just kept on adding up. Both girls were thankful each time they received a card for any holiday with the short message, "we have sent a contribution to your college fund." 

    Now our daughters have opened CollegeAdvantage plans for their children. They both had seen the benefit of such a plan for themselves, and they wanted to have that for their own kids. So now my husband and I, the other aunts and uncles and grandparents are building the little kids’ future by those contributions each birthday or holiday. It is amazing to see their accounts grow. So now the four grandchildren are second generation CollegeAdvantage kids who will also have an opportunity to attend collegewithout accruing hefty college loans.

    Thanks for giving us this opportunity to share our story, and thank you for maintaining such a positive avenue for parents and families to save of their children's education. If our story helps one more family consider saving for the future of the children and grandchildren in their lives, then that is a good thing. We are thankful to my dad, Great Pa Chet, who started all of us on the path of education for the future. 

    Jeanie Roush Wolfe

    Kettering, Ohio

    This Saving Story was first published on April 26, 2015.
  • Just A Reminder: Don’t Forget About FAFSA

    by Amy Lyle | Jan 20, 2017

    Your high school senior has mailed off their college applications and now it’s your turn to do some paperwork: Have you filled out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)? If your child is heading off to college this fall, you should start the New Year off right and apply now. The FAFSA process began in October but it’s never too late to apply for federal financial aid.

    FAFSA is the form you and your child must complete to apply for need-based federal financial support while attending four-year colleges and universities, community colleges, vocational schools, and graduate schools. This assistance can include grants, which don’t have to be repaid; federal low-interest loans, which will need to be repaid; and work-study programs. The financial aid is offered on first-come, first-serve basis; so the sooner your child submits a FAFSA, the better the chances are to receive federal monetary assistance.

    If your child is gifted academically, artistically, or athletically, and you’re planning that they’ll earn scholarships for their specialized skill set, you should still apply for need-based federal financial aid. Quite often, scholarships will not cover the entire cost of a college education. And your CollegeAdvantage 529 account can easily be used in conjunction with financial aid and scholarships.

    Here’s another reason why you should fill in the FAFSA: States, universities, colleges, and private organizations will use FAFSA to determine what grants or loans to offer to eligible students interested in attending their school system.

    To simplify the application process, starting with the 2017-2018 school year application, you can now use the information found on income tax return from two years ago, known as “prior-prior year.” For this FAFSA, you will use the 2015 federal income tax filings. With the “prior-prior year” tax return, you can complete the application with most up-to-date financial information. Originally, FAFSA was filled out with the tax return information from the prior year and most families weren’t able to start their tax returns until well after the release of FAFSA. This slowed down the financial assistance process.

    The use of the “prior-prior year” tax return on FAFSA also benefits universities and colleges because it can reduce the time needed to verify asset information as the IRS already has it. Potentially, the schools can then more quickly determine and distribute their financial aid to students.

    Don’t overlook FAFSA even if you don’t think your child will qualify for any need-based financial aid. . You never know for what financial assistance your child might qualify to use with your CollegeAdvantage account. If you wait until your child is accepted at a higher education institute before applying, you could miss out on federal, state, and university-given monetary support.

    If you need help filling out FAFSA, the Ohio Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (OASFAA) offers online help as well as some in-person events across the state. 

  • New Year, New Resolutions

    by Amy Lyle | Jan 18, 2017

    Trying to get fiscally fit for 2017? Here are some simple steps to take to boost your CollegeAdvantage 529 college savings plan.

    1. Build Your Savings With Disappearing Expenses

    It may seem overwhelming at first to find money in your budget to add to a 529 plan while your children are young. But Ohio’s 529 Savings Program can help. Using our tools and calculators, you can start by determining your long-term college-savings goals and see the benefits of saving in a tax-advantaged 529 plan. You may also want to review how much of a difference saving early can make by taking advantage of growth through compound interest. After exploring all the options you have in a 529 account, set aside what you can afford now and then focus on the disappearing expenses in your budget as your children grow older.

    Disappearing expenses are those costs in your family’s budget for only a limited time span. For example, preschool is a large disappearing expense. Once your child starts kindergarten, consider transforming those former day care or preschool costs into regular contributions to their 529 account. You won’t miss the funds and you are continuing to support your child’s educational needs.

    Other disappearing expenses can include paying off a car loan, medical or dental bills, credit card debt, or even your own student loans. Again, these items have been part of your budget so you aren’t losing any additional income by shifting those dollars to a 529 account. As you know from paying off those bills, it’s far cheaper to save now than pay off loans later.

    Many account owners will also contribute a portion of an annual raise, bonus, or even their tax return refund towards a 529 plan. You may be surprised how every little amount you place in the 529 account can grow it closer to your college-savings goals.

    2. Build Your Savings With Help From Others

    It may be after the holiday gift-giving season, but keep in mind that anyone can contribute to a 529 plan at any time for any occasion — birthdays, graduations, even baby showers. Most everyone would prefer to give gifts that retain long-standing value, not the newest toy or clothes that can quickly be forgotten.

    Start a conversation your loved ones about giving the gift of college by contributing to your child’s 529 plan. CollegeAdvantage has partnered with Ugift, a company which creates a unique code to give to family and friends so they can make a contribution to your 529 without having the account number. This gift of college is a legacy that will always be treasured and appreciated.

    3. Build Your Savings With Automatic Contributions

    It’s an oldie but a goodie savings method: Take away the temptation to spend money by automatically depositing it into your 529 savings account. Many 529 plan account owners say the easiest way to save is to routinely transfer the money before there’s a chance to spend it elsewhere. And you can simplify this process by setting up automatic recurring contributions from your bank account or paycheck. You can align your automated 529 plan deposits with your paydays or set a monthly contribution schedule.

    4. Build Your Savings While Shopping With Upromise

    CollegeAdvantage has partnered with Upromise* to help you save more for college without any extra effort. Upromise is a free loyalty program that offers its members cash back for their purchases from a wide variety of businesses partners. When you connect your debit and/or credit card to your Upromise account, you can start earning rewards with your everyday shopping. You can then link your Upromise account to your CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 Plan account to roll over these rebates.

    Participating businesses include over 850 online retail stores and 10,000 restaurants at which Upromise members can earn 5% cash back. Others organizations include over 20,000 grocery and drug stores, where you can not only earn money back for your everyday purchases but earn additional rebates by using eCoupons as well. You can collect more cash back as you book your travel arrangements, including airfare, hotels, car rentals and more, through Upromise participants.

    Would you like to see how others used Upromise? Read this Saving Story from a CollegeAdvantage family who used it to add to their 529 savings.

    Interested in joining? Visit Upromise to sign up for free. Already an Upromise member? Log in to your account and link it to your CollegeAdvantage Direct Plan and watch your account grow with automatic transfers of your rewards. Every dollar you spend with Upromise can get you closer to your college savings goal.

    CollegeAdvantage is your plan, your way. We have the tools for you to shape your 529 plan to best fit your family’s needs. If you are ready to start with Ohio’s 529 Savings Program, it’s easy to open an account here. CollegeAdvantage also has pointers on age-based strategies based on in which stage of life your child is. If you already have an account and want to make some changes, log in to your account to update information or do other maintenance.

    * Upromise is an optional service offered by Upromise, Inc., as an added value to CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 Plan Account Owners. Upromise is separate from the CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 Plan and is not affiliated with the Ohio Tuition Trust Authority of the State of Ohio. Participation in Upromise is optional and voluntary. Specific terms and conditions apply. Participating companies, contribution levels, terms, and conditions are subject to change without notice. Upromise and the Upromise logo are registered service marks of Upromise, Inc.

  • Office Closed for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

    by Amy Lyle | Jan 13, 2017

    The offices of the Ohio Tuition Trust Authority will be closed on Monday, Jan. 16, 2017, in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

    Our Customer Service department (1-800-AFFORD-IT) will also be closed on this day. Customer Service is available to assist you on regular business days from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET before or after a specific holiday. Please be aware that you may transact business online as usual. To make a contribution, you can access your account online 24/7.

    The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) will also be closed on Monday, Jan. 16, 2017. Any transaction requested on a holiday, weekend, or after the NYSE closes will be processed on the next business day.

    If you’re interested in how the State of Ohio is commemorating Dr. King and the holiday, read more here. Ohio History Center will honor Dr. King with a Civil Rights Weekend. The King Arts Complex in Columbus will also host an open house to celebrate Dr. King’s legacy.

    Here’s a list of events celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. around Canton, central Ohio, Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, northeast Ohio, and Toledo.

     

  • Direct Plan’s “Top Ten” Investment Options

    by Amy Lyle | Jan 11, 2017

    CollegeAdvantage is your plan, your way. The Direct Plan from Ohio’s 529 Savings Program offers a diverse range of investment options from which you can create a strategy that is best fits your family’s needs as well as your college-saving goals. These 529 saving options include ready-made age-based portfolios, ready-made risk-based portfolios, individual investment options, and FDIC-insured banking options, all provided from our partners and leading investment managers — Vanguard, Dimensional Fund Advisors, and Fifth Third Bank.

    Are you wondering which ones are the most popular with Direct Plan account owners? We’ve gathered that data into a “Top Ten” list so you can see which investment options hold the largest balances of customer’s Direct Plan accounts.

    Here are the 10 investment options with the highest value of assets under management (fund balances in millions, as of Dec. 31, 2016):

    1. Vanguard Aggressive Age-Based Portfolio (ready-made age-based portfolio), $1,004.94
    2. Vanguard Moderate Age-Based Portfolio (ready-made age-based portfolio), $637.09
    3. Advantage Age-Based Portfolio (ready-made age-based portfolio), $524.04
    4. Vanguard 500 Index Option (individual investment option), $458.40
    5. Vanguard Aggressive Growth Index Portfolio (ready-made risk-based portfolio), $366.50
    6. Vanguard Growth Index Portfolio (ready-made risk-based portfolio), $231.90
    7. Vanguard Extended Market Index Option (individual investment option), $208.99
    8. Vanguard Wellington Option (individual investment option), $193.74
    9. Vanguard Moderate Growth Index Portfolio (ready-made risk-based portfolio), $166.53
    10. Fifth Third Savings Account (FDIC-insured bank option), $152.12

    The total balance of all 24 investment options offered in the CollegeAdvantage Direct Plan as of Dec. 31, 2016, was $4.854 billion, an increase of 12.4% over the prior year (as of Dec. 31, 2015).

    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. 

  • A New Year, A New College Savings Story

    by Ben Gibbons | Jan 10, 2017

    We regularly receive and share College Savings Stories from CollegeAdvantage account owners. Here’s a 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 ​alyle@CollegeAdvantage.com.

    This Saving Story first posted on Jan. 5, 2016.
  • CollegeAdvantage Direct Plan At Top Of 5-Cap Ratings And 529 Plan Rankings

    by Amy Lyle | Jan 06, 2017

    Ohio’s Direct 529 Plan, offered by CollegeAdvantage, has earned the top 5-Cap Rating from Savingforcollege.com, an industry-trusted informational website which provides analysis and articles on 529 plans, financial aid, and scholarships, as well as tools to estimate college expenses.

    CollegeAdvantage continues to be one of the few 529 plans nationwide to receive the 5-Cap Rating for both in-state and out-of-state residents. In fact, the Ohio Direct Plan was one of only four states to receive this dual recognition in the most recent ratings.

    Savingforcollege.com awards their 5-Cap Rating to plans that offer” outstanding flexibility, attractive investments, and additional economic benefits (such as generous tax incentives) that can offer a substantial boost in savings for some investors. There are few, if any, weaknesses in these programs.”

    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; and
    5. Extra advantages like tax benefits for any account owner as well as additional tax breaks for state residents.

    CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 Plan was also recognized by Savingforcollege.com in its most recent performance rankings. The performance score was determined by comparing seven similar asset-allocation categories between all the 529 plans, the historical performance of each selected portfolio category, and then averaging the score of all the groupings. The rankings were then based on one-year, three-year, five-year and ten-year performance scores.

    The CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 Plan ranked tenth in the one-year category; fourth for three-year performance; sixth for five-year performance; and third in the ten-year performance category, as of Sept. 30, 2016.*

    As Tim Gorrell, the executive director of Ohio Tuition Trust Authority stated, “We ask people to trust us with their resources and our ability to assist them in realizing their higher education goals; these rankings, based on respected independent industry analysis, demonstrates the credibility of our programs and encourages this principle of trust.”

    CollegeAdvantage is proud to have earned these high ratings from this reputable investment research organization.

    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: The performance data underlying these rankings represent past performance and are not a guarantee of future performance.

  • Kickoff College Savings Giveaway Winners Announced!

    by Amy Lyle | Dec 19, 2016

    Our fifth annual Kickoff College Savings Giveaway with the Cincinnati Bengals ended recently. This giveaway ran from Sept. 11 to Dec. 4, 2016. During that time, we received more than 16,500 entries!

    Our grand prize winner, Amanda Moss, won the $10,000 college savings award! Amanda was presented the award Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016, at the 50-yard line of Paul Brown Stadium, before the Bengals took on the Pittsburgh Steelers. Amanda will be using her award to continue her education in speech pathology and audiology with minors in psychology and gerontology. After she finishes her undergraduate studies, Amanda plans to earn her doctorate degree in audiology to test her patients’ hearing ability and find their best fit solution. And she adds, “I am very grateful to have been chosen for the scholarship and will contribute it towards my goal of becoming an audiologist. Go Bengals!”

    The second-place winner, Rob Cordes, is the lucky winner of a visit from a Bengals team member to his grandson’s school. 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: Amanda Moss, Youngstown

    Second place winner: Rob Cordes, Amelia

    Runners-Up: Autographed Bengals Memorabilia

    • Karen Axelrad, Miamisburg
    • Austin Ward, McArthur
    • Ann Tepley, Norwalk
    • Patrick Walters, Dublin
    • Brian Collins, Mansfield
    • Andy Yantes, Youngstown
    • Marianne Landfried, Niles
    • Adam Mezzacapo, Norton
    • Christopher Bennett, Columbus
    • Megan Higgins, Newark 


    Runners-Up: Bengals Prize

    • Jen Sanicky, Stow
    • Michael Carter, Columbus
    • Derek McNutt, Maineville

    Thank you to everyone who participated. Congratulations to Amanda and 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! Email the communications coordinator, Amy Lyle, at alyle@CollegeAdvantage.com.

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

  • How To Avoid Mistakes With Your 529 Withdrawal

    by Amy Lyle | Dec 16, 2016

    NOTE: This is information for CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 Plan accounts only. The process is different for Guaranteed Plan accounts. Here’s guidance for withdrawals from the Guaranteed Plan.

    You’re in a rush, trying to get through today’s to-do list when you look at the last item –paying your child’s college tuition bill. As you start your Direct 529 Plan withdrawal request, CollegeAdvantage has some pointers on how to avoid mistakes that may cost you in the long run.

    1) To start, create a payment timeline to follow before completing the withdrawal request form. It’s better to prepare this timetable now than to accrue late fees at the end of the process. Two time constraints that should be included in this schedule are:

    • The time it will take for the 529 Plan withdrawal to be deposited into your bank account. If you make your 529 withdrawal request online, then you can expect funds to be received by your bank within three to five business days after the date of the request. However, if you choose to use a paper withdrawal request form, it is potentially the slowest withdrawal method and you will need to plan accordingly to make sure your payment arrives on time.
    • The time it will take for the school to receive then process your funds. Most schools have an electronic payment option as well as traditional procedures. Check with your school’s bursar office for details as payment processing times will vary. You will want to know how long this stage will take so you can start the withdrawal early to prevent penalties. Additionally, electing to pay your bill electronically will be the fastest method of remittance. (Reminder: If you elect to have the funds sent directly to the school from your CollegeAdvantage account, these are only sent as checks.)

    2) Next, you will want to check that your banking information on your CollegeAdvantage Direct Plan is correct and up to date. For security purposes, this information must be on file with your CollegeAdvantage account(s) for at least 15 business days before you can make a request. No withdrawals will be processed during this time period. Log in to your 529 account and use the “Asset Management” menu to verify, or add, your bank account information in the “Manage Banks” section. If you don’t review this information before the withdrawal request, you may be adding unnecessary delays to receiving your funds.

    3) The simplest and quickest method to request a withdrawal of your 529 funds is by doing it online.  It’s also the most accurate: by entering the information in the online withdrawal process, you minimize the chances of any errors being entered — unless you mistype —and you won’t be able to submit the form until it’s fully completed. Paper withdrawal forms run the risk of illegibility or other errors, slowing the withdrawal process down until the information can be verified. Also, the online withdrawal process expedites the deposit of the withdrawal to either your bank account or directly to the eligible education institution.

    4) Your withdrawal must be for 529-qualified higher education expenses. These eligible expenses include: tuition, mandatory fees, computer equipment and related technology and services, books, supplies, and equipment required for enrollment or attendance; room and board costs during any academic period the beneficiary is enrolled at least half-time; and certain expenses for a special-needs student. As such, these withdrawals are not subject to federal or state income taxes.

    Avoid the mistake of withdrawing funds to cover any costs other than these qualified higher education expenses; it will be considered a non-qualified withdrawal. Some examples are transportations costs, insurance, fees and equipment that are not required for enrollment, parking tickets, library fines, and payment for student loans. As a non-qualified withdrawal, a 10% federal tax penalty will be imposed on the earnings portion of the withdrawal. You will also owe federal and state income taxes on the earnings.

    5) If your child earns a scholarship, you can withdraw up to the same dollar amount as the scholarship from the 529 plan. This will be a non-qualified withdrawal but only the earnings portion will be subject to federal and state income taxes. Normally, there would be an additional 10% federal tax penalty on the earnings; however, since this withdrawal is due to a scholarship, the tax penalty will not be imposed. However, if you mistakenly make a withdrawal over the dollar amount of the scholarship, the overage will have the 10% federal tax penalty as well as federal and state income taxes levied on the earnings portion.

    If your student has other qualified expenses that the scholarship doesn’t cover, you can instead use your account to cover these qualified expenses. As with any other qualified withdrawal, this type of withdrawal would not be subject to federal or state income taxes, or the 10% penalty.

    These are just a few suggestions on what missteps to avoid with 529 plan withdrawals. If you have any questions during the process, please visit our website or call CollegeAdvantage Customer Service at 1-800-AFFORD-IT (233-6734). 

  • How To Pay Other 529 Eligible Expenses

    by Amy Lyle | Dec 14, 2016

    NOTE: This is the process for CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 Plan accounts only. The process is different for Guaranteed Plan accounts. Here’s guidance for withdrawals from the Guaranteed Plan.

    Summer is cruising on by and back-to-school time is fast approaching. It’s also the time of the year when CollegeAdvantage 529 Plan account owners prepare to make withdrawals to cover their children’s 529-qualified higher education expenses. CollegeAdvantage is here to give you some guidance on the best methods for making those withdrawals, especially those that aren’t paid to the school.

    First, begin the withdrawal transaction online. By initiating the request online, you are taking advantage of the fastest and most accurate method of accessing funds from your 529 plan account. However, if you prefer to manually fill in the paperwork, CollegeAdvantage offers a Withdrawal Request Form. Just be aware that it is potentially the slowest process to withdrawal money from your 529.

    As you are preparing to pay a qualified higher education expense, consider where you would like the 529 funds deposited: your bank account, your student’s bank account, or have the check mailed directly to school, you or the beneficiary.

    For example, if the school lists your child’s room and board on the bill, you have the option of requesting that CollegeAdvantage mail the check directly to the school. However, if your child’s living expenses are separated from their tuition and fees expenses, then you will need to pay the property manager (or landlord, or fraternity/sorority, etc.) directly. For this and other off-campus housing, withdraw the needed funds from your CollegeAdvantage account. The money can be directly deposited to your or the beneficiary’s bank account, or CollegeAdvantage can mail a check directly to you or the beneficiary to cover the costs. Then you can pay the upcoming bill. Please keep in mind the bank account that you would like the withdrawal to be deposited into must be on your CollegeAdvantage account for a minimum of 15 days prior to the withdrawal.

    What if you’ve already paid for some 529-qualified higher education expenses, such as books, mandatory fees, or the bill for your student’s internet access? You can reimburse these qualified costs from your 529 plan! Be sure to hold onto the receipts and bills to keep track of what you spent. Once you have a final total, request a 529 withdrawal for that amount. You can have it deposited to your bank account to compensate for the payment of the qualified expenses.

    If you would like additional guidance on making 529 withdrawals to pay tuition or room and board, please read this article for suggestions. If you’re concerned about avoiding mistakes on your withdrawal, this blog can guide you.

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