• Now We Help Save For A Grandchild

    by User Not Found | Sep 26, 2016

    When the CollegeAdvantage program first started, I knew that contributing to this program was something that I just had to make a priority. My parents helped me with funding for my college education, and I knew it was something that I wanted to do for my children as well. To have my children come out of school debt-free of any student loans was a goal I set for myself. I started by investing $25 per week to each of their accounts through payroll deductions . . . it made it so simple to save. And as time went on, I continued to increase the weekly contributions to their accounts. I even became a volunteer Ambassador for the Ohio Tuition Trust Authority, and I spent time helping other parents understand the importance of the program. 

    As our girls went through college, using the program was so simple and the tax benefits it provided to us were also a great benefit! By utilizing the program, both of our girls graduated on time and they came out of school 100% debt-free. 

    Our oldest daughter attended The University of Akron, and she was a member of the Honors College. She received an academic scholarship, so the money we had invested in CollegeAdvantage was able to be applied to cover a portion of her tuition, along with the cost of her books, fees and housing costs while living on campus. She also had the opportunity to study abroad while she attended U of A. Today, she is working as the Director of Human Resources at 1 EDI Source. She also went on to complete her Master’s Degree at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve. She missed her graduation ceremony at Case as she gave birth to her first son. We gave her a special surprise graduation ceremony at Summa Hospital in Akron instead! 

    Our youngest daughter attended The Ohio State University and received her degree in Human Resources from the OSU's Fisher Business School. She is working as a recruiter and lives in Columbus. 

    Our oldest daughter and her husband are now saving for our grandson’s college education. They established a 529 account with CollegeAdvantage shortly after his birth. For every holiday or birthday, they suggest gift contributions to his college fund . . . and all of the grandparents make this a priority.

    Thanks CollegeAdvantage for helping our family to achieve our educational goals! 

    Jami Dunphy

    Mogadore, Ohio   

  • Coming Soon: Redesigned Pages After Account Log In

    by Amy Lyle | Sep 23, 2016

    Beginning Sept. 30, you will notice new UNITE secure web pages after you log in to your CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 Plan account. These enhancements are designed to optimize the use of these secure pages.

    The layout of the secure web pages has changed, and there are a number of enhanced features available. You will now have the ability to complete electronic contributions from one screen for multiple accounts as well as the ability to search by date for account values. To enhance the ease of using the new pages, a process diagram providing the number of steps to complete the request and where you are in the process has been added. Lastly, you will notice there are links on the main page for the most frequently completed transactions.

    We are excited about the changes to the secure webpages, and encourage you to review your accounts.

  • Apply For FAFSA Starting In October!

    by Amy Lyle | Sep 21, 2016

    You’ve been saving for your child’s future college education in a 529 plan over the years. Now, it’s finally time to start preparing for them to head off to college in 2017. You’ve taken family trips to scout out campuses. You’ve researched where are the best post-secondary educational institutions for your child’s chosen career path. The next step: filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

    FAFSA is the form you and your child must complete to apply for need-based federal financial support in 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. Remember, your CollegeAdvantage account can be used in conjunction with financial aid and scholarships.

    At the end of 2015, the federal U.S. government made significant changes to FAFSA to simplify this process for students and their families. These permanent adjustments are in effect for the 2017-18 school year.

    First, your child will be able to start the financial-aid application in October 2016, for the 2017-18 school year. The FAFSA form will be released three months earlier than previously distributed. Beforehand, the earliest a FAFSA could be completed was the first day of January of the year in which a student planned to start college. By moving forward the FAFSA start date, the timing of the financial-aid process is now more closely aligned with that of college applications. By submitting FAFSA earlier, college-bound students may receive speedier notification of what level of federal financial assistance they may receive. With this information, you and your child can better determine what school offers the best financial fit. As the 529 plan account owner, knowing the level of monetary assistance will allow you to better determine your child’s out-of-pocket expenses to attend the chosen eligible education institution, and how to best manage the accrued savings in your 529 account.

    Additionally, 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. So you and your student may learn earlier if there will be any additional state and college financial assistance.

    Second, for the 2017-18 school year, your child will be able to fill in FAFSA with your 2015 income tax return. The use of the income tax return from two years ago is known as “prior-prior year.” With the “prior-prior year” tax return, your child can complete the application with most up-to-date financial information. Previously, FAFSA was filled out with the tax return information from the prior year. For example, if your child filed a FAFSA for the 2016-2017 school year, it would have contained your 2015 tax return information. Typically, most families weren’t able to start their tax returns until well after the January release of FAFSA. This slowed down the financial assistance process. If the application was turned in later because of delayed tax return filings, then the chance of receiving federal financial aid could be lower. Now, with the use of the “prior-prior year” tax return, you can more readily fill in the FAFSA starting in October, and therefore, potentially increase the chance to receive financial assistance.

    The ability to use the “prior-prior year” tax return on FAFSA also benefits universities and colleges because it can reduce the amount of 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.

    Third, with the use of “prior-prior year” tax return, your child can now take advantage of the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT). DRT electronically imports accurate IRS information to the FAFSA form. This can reduce the amount of errors entered on the application as well as reduce your and your child’s time needed to complete the FAFSA. Again, the use of DRT will help colleges and universities to speed up their approval process as there will be less need to authenticate the financial information.

    Even if you don’t think your child will qualify for any need-based financial aid, don’t neglect to fill out the FAFSA in October. You never know for what financial assistance your child might qualify to use in conjunction with your CollegeAdvantage account. If you wait until your child is accepted at a higher education institute before applying, you could miss out on some monetary support, because, as you now know, federal financial aid is offered on first-come, first-serve basis.

    For more tips on how to file the FAFSA, visit here. For an estimate of how much financial aid you might receive before doing the FAFSA paperwork, start by providing the necessary information to this form. Or you can read this article from the U.S. Department of Education to learn more about the changes for the 2017-2018 FAFSA.

    Now you know — collect your paperwork and get ready to fill out the FAFSA on Oct. 1!

  • Team Effort To Savings

    by User Not Found | Sep 19, 2016

    Sometime in early 1990, I attended an Ohio Tuition Trust Authority seminar in Lakewood, Ohio. We decided that an early savings plan would be the only way that we could afford to send three children to college, virtually at the same time. For the next dozen years, we took no vacations etc., and put any extra money that we had into the CollegeAdvantage plan. Additionally, our children started with paper routes and worked through high school, and that extra money also went toward college. It was genuinely a team effort.

    Both of our daughters graduated from The Ohio State University. One has a degree in Occupational Therapy and is currently an operations manager with a contract rehab service company in Toledo. Our other daughter graduated with a degree in Psychology and then a Psychology Doctorate. She is part of the psychology staff at the VA Center in Louisville, Kentucky. Our son went another direction, but is very successful in his own right.

    We have two suggestions for families: save early and do your best to get your children out with as little debt as possible and with a meaningful degree that leads to good career opportunities.

    We’re pleased to have this opportunity to tell our story and to help others.

    Robert and Cynthia Forest

    Estero, FL 

  • What Are The Tax Advantages Of A 529?

    by Amy Lyle | Sep 16, 2016

    When thinking of your child’s future, you understand that a key to starting a successful career is a post-secondary education. Whether it’s a two-year, four-year, graduate, technical, or professional degree, you know it would be best to start saving now to decrease student debt later. As you research tips for how to save for college, you may keep coming across 529 plans and wonder, “What is a 529 plan?”

    The Ohio 529 plan was established by Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code to encourage parents to save their children’s future college costs in a tax-advantaged manner. CollegeAdvantage is Ohio’s 529 college savings program. The tax benefits of opening a CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 Plan account are:

    1. Tax-free earnings
    2. Tax-free withdrawals
    3. State of Ohio tax deduction (for residents of Ohio only)



    1) Tax-free earnings 


    Fact1

    All of the money you contribute to a CollegeAdvantage 529 plan will grow tax-free and you can withdraw all earnings tax-free, provided that the account is used forqualified higher education expenses. To see just how tax-free growth adds up with a 529 savings plan, use the tax benefit tool and immediately see the difference between a 529 plan account in comparison to a taxable account. Unlike a taxable account, a CollegeAdvantage 529 plan ensures that every bit of investment growth is yours to use, tax-free. CollegeAdvantage has additional aids to help you set or adjust your college savings goals. If you’re curious about how much you’ll need tosave or you want to double-check your risk tolerance, use these tools to gain better insights and to get questions answered. As you research, always remember that time is your best friend. Over time, every amount contributed, big or small, will help you reach your savings goal. 


    2) Tax-free withdrawals
      
    Fact2

    Not only does your CollegeAdvantage 529 plan grow tax-free, it also remains tax-free when the withdrawals are used for qualified higher education expenses. These expenses must be for eligible education institutions that have a Federal School Code through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The definition of a 529-qualified higher education expense is broad and includes many major costs, including: tuition, room and board costs during any academic period the beneficiary is enrolled at least half-time, computer equipment and related technology and services, mandatory fees, books, supplies, any equipment required for enrollment or attendance, and certain expenses for special-need students.

    Some of the costs that are not qualified as higher education expenses include: Transportation costs, insurance, fees and equipment which are not required for enrollment, parking tickets, library fines, and payment for student loans.

    To help create even more benefits to opening a college savings account, the U.S. Congress passed the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH Act) of 2015. Signed by the president, this law allowed the sole account beneficiary enrolled in college to use their 529 account toward computers, educational software, and related expenses. Entertainment software, including gaming systems, do not qualify.


    3) State of Ohio tax deduction 

    Fact3

    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. 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. Non-account owners who are Ohio taxpayers qualify for this tax deduction when they give gifts for college directly to CollegeAdvantage accounts.

    A bottom line benefit of a 529 plan? It’s far cheaper to save money and earn interest in an account now than pay off students loans with accumulated interest later. With all the tax benefits offered with a 529 plan, your account can grow to reach your college savings goal. If you’ve made it this far and don’t have a CollegeAdvantage account, we have a tool to help you see how just how much it costs to wait to save for college. 

  • What Qualified Costs Do 529 Plans Cover?

    by Amy Lyle | Sep 14, 2016

    529 plans are a great, tax-advantaged way to save for your child’s future college costs.

    One of the major benefits of a 529 plan is that when you withdrawal funds for a qualified higher education expense, the money will not be taxed at the federal or state level. So what exactly are 529-qualified higher education expenses? They are the costs involved with attending a federally accredited educational institute to earn a two-year, four-year, graduate or professional degree.

    The breadth of what is considered a 529-qualified higher education expense is broad. 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 or off campus housing during any academic period the beneficiary is enrolled at least half-time; and certain expenses for a special-needs student.

    What makes an expense qualify? The key is if it is related to enrollment or attendance at an eligible educational institute. For example, tuition is a mandatory expense; books, fees, supplies that are required for classes are necessary cost; and room and board if your beneficiary is living on or off campus is a qualified cost. What are some costs that aren’t qualified higher education expenses? Transportations costs, insurance, fees and equipment which are not required for enrollment, parking tickets, library fines, and payment for student loans.

    Thanks to the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH Act) of 2015, computers, software, related equipment and internet access expenses, used by the account beneficiary while enrolled in college, are all now considered qualified higher education expenses. Related equipment and software must for educational purposes, not for entertainment. That means gaming systems do not qualify.

    As is the case with all college savings 529s, the burden of proof for tax purposes for qualified expenses and withdrawals is on the Account Owner. Pleas retain all documentation of all 529-qualifed expenses.

    If you are wondering how to make a 529 withdrawal to pay tuition or room and board, please read this article. This blog offers some tips on how to be reimbursed from your 529 account for other qualified higher education expenses. If you want to avoid making mistakes on your withdrawal, this blog offers some suggestions.

  • One Of The Best Decisions We’ve Made

    by User Not Found | Sep 12, 2016

    It's hard to believe it has been over 25 years! I am an elementary school teacher and first heard about the program from a coworker. After doing a little research, my husband and I decided to open an account for our son. Six years later, when our daughter was born, we also enrolled her in the program.

    We had always hoped for our children to attend college. The CollegeAdvantage plan helped make this dream a reality. I regularly deposited a portion of my paycheck into our children's accounts. By making this a routine part of our budget, it was a relatively painless and effective way to help our children afford a college education. In addition, monetary gifts from family and friends were also deposited into these accounts. From an early age, both of our children knew that they would attend college and often heard us say, "An education is something that can never be taken away from you."

    Our son graduated from The Ohio State University where he received a bachelor's degree in international studies. He later obtained a business degree from Governor's University. He is currently employed as a manager with FedEx in Reynoldsburg, Ohio.

    Our daughter also attended The Ohio State University. While on campus, she was employed part time at the Digital Union, helping staff and students with technology projects. She also acquired a few academic scholarships. With the bulk of her college expenses being covered by her CollegeAdvantage savings, she was able to attend OSU for five years. During this time, she earned two degrees. She received a marketing degree from the Max Fisher College of Business and also earned a BA in communication technology. In 2010, she graduated magna cum laude from The Ohio State University. As an added bonus, she was awarded an internship with AESU, an alumni travel group, and spent five weeks traveling with and videotaping the group in Europe. She is currently employed as an associate consultant at HMB, a business technology firm in Columbus, Ohio.

    Dennis is now retired, and I will retire in June after 35 years in education. We do not yet have grandchildren, but plan to open CollegeAdvantage accounts in the future. Enrolling our children in this plan was one of the best decisions we've made.

    I certainly recommend CollegeAdvantage to others.

    Diana and Dennis Copp

    Kenton, Ohio

  • Unique Non-Qualified Withdrawals Lead To Unique Exceptions

    by Amy Lyle | Sep 07, 2016

    529 plans offer many tax benefits to help you save over time for your children’s future college costs. These benefits include: tax-free earnings; tax-free withdrawals, provided that the account is used for qualified higher education expenses; and State of Ohio tax deduction for Ohio residents.

    You can request funds from the 529 plan for non-qualified withdrawals, but the earnings will be taxed on the federal, state, and local level. Additionally, like other tax-advantage saving programs   there is a 10% federal tax penalty assessed for withdrawing money from the 529 plan for costs that aren’t considered qualified higher education expenses. However, there are three specific exceptions to this federal tax penalty:

    1. Scholarships
    2. Attendance in a U.S. military academy
    3. Death or permanent disability of the 529 plan’s beneficiary

    1) Scholarships. If the 529 plan beneficiary earns a scholarship, you can withdraw up to the same dollar amount as the scholarship from the 529 plan within the same calendar year. It’s a non-qualified withdrawal because it’s not used to pay 529-qualfied higher education expenses such as 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. However, since the scholarship covered these qualified costs, only the earnings portion of the withdrawal will be subject to federal, state, and local income taxes. Please note that any amount withdrawn to cover qualified higher education expenses over and above the amount of the scholarship would be considered a qualified withdrawal.

    2) Attendance at a U.S. military academy. You may make a non-qualified withdrawal up to the estimated cost of attendance within the same calendar year at a military academy without incurring the additional 10% federal tax penalty. Again, the earnings portion of such withdrawal will be subject to federal and state income taxes.

    3) Death or permanent disability of beneficiary. In the unfortunate event where the beneficiary has passed away, you may elect to choose a new beneficiary (who must be a member of the family of the previous beneficiary) for the 529 plan account without penalty. Another option is that you can authorize a payment to the estate of the beneficiary. The earnings portion of a payment to the beneficiary’s estate will not be subject to the additional 10% federal tax penalty, but will be subject to federal,  state, and local income taxes. If the beneficiary of the 529 plan becomes permanently disabled, then you may select a new beneficiary or withdraw all or a portion of the account. The earnings portion of any withdrawal will not be subject to the additional 10% federal tax penalty, but will be subject to federal, state, and local income taxes.

    Rollovers
    There is one another unique circumstance where the 10% federal tax penalty may not be assessed on a withdrawal: Rollover withdrawals to another 529 plan. If you withdraw funds to roll them over to another qualified 529 plan for the same beneficiary, then the earnings portion of such withdrawal would not be subject to federal, state, and local taxation, nor the additional 10% federal tax penalty, provided it has been more than 12 months since any previous rollover was done for that same beneficiary, and the funds must be deposited to another 529 plan within 60 days of the withdrawal.

    You also may withdraw funds and roll them out to an account in another state’s 529 plan at any time without federal tax consequences when the account beneficiary is changed, provided that the new beneficiary is a member of the family of the previous beneficiary. The funds must be deposited to another 529 plan within 60 days of the withdrawal. A CollegeAdvantage 529 plan rollover withdrawal to another state’s 529 plan will be subject to recapture of any State of Ohio tax deductions claimed in prior years.

    Again, a 529 plan rollover that does not meet these criteria in these two circumstances will be considered by the IRS to be a non-qualified withdrawal; therefore, the 529 plan rollover will be subject to taxation at both the federal and state level and is subject to recapture of any State of Ohio tax deductions claimed in prior years.

    You always have access to all the funds saved in a 529 plan. It is the intended use of the withdrawal that determines if there will be federal and state tax applied and/or a 10% federal tax penalty assessed on the earnings in the withdrawal, Before making a qualified or non-qualified withdrawal, you should consult your financial advisor or tax consultant.

    If you haven’t signed up for a CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 Plan yet, are you ready to become a an account owner for one of your loved ones? Visit here to sign up today. To help you monitor your investments and make investment decisions that are right for your savings strategy, there are online reports, tools, and calculators. These resources are provided for informational purposes only, so you should again consult your financial advisor or tax consultant about your personal situation and savings goals.

  • One Child’s Savings Helps Another

    by User Not Found | Sep 05, 2016

    In 1990, my husband and I first became aware of the new college savings program in Ohio. At that time, our three children were in grades 10, 3, and 1. After investigating the program thoroughly, we signed up for an account for each of our children. My husband worked for the State of Ohio and was able to use payroll deduction for monthly contributions to the three accounts. It was a very simple, painless way to save!

    Since it was only two years later that our son began college at BGSU and he had a room scholarship for four years as well as several other smaller grants, we did not need to use any of his account for his education. He was able to graduate in four years with no college loans. We transferred his unused balance from his CollegeAdvantage account to his sister.

    Our older daughter enrolled at Ohio Wesleyan. She was granted a scholarship of 50% tuition plus several smaller grants. In the fall of her junior year, my husband passed away unexpectedly. Luckily, her account balance, with the addition of her brother’s funds, made it possible for her to graduate with no loans, like her brother. 

    Then the youngest daughter graduated from high school and enrolled at Notre Dame. She was fortunate to receive a full scholarship there for four years, which covered room, board, tuition, books and a stipend for living expenses. Her tuition account remained in Ohio and kept growing. After graduating from Notre Dame, she enrolled in law school at the Ohio State University. She had several scholarships, but it was also necessary to utilize her college savings account, which had been in existence since she was in first grade. The account had a healthy balance and she, too, was able to graduate with no loans!

    All three are married now and successful, professional adults.  My son is an IT consultant living in Atlanta. The oldest daughter is a former English teacher, now a stay-at-home mom of three in Dallas, and the younger daughter is an attorney living in Chicago.

    I have four grandchildren--who all have CollegeAdvantage accounts. Birthday and Christmas gifts for them consist primarily of contributions to their college funds. I will be enrolling a new granddaughter as soon as she receives her social security number. 

    Another generation of our family will be helped along the way to a college education by the Ohio CollegeAdvantage Program.

    Bonnie Jean Bolsen

    Lancaster, Ohio

  • Buckeye Football Ticket Winners Announced

    by Amy Lyle | Sep 02, 2016

    Four lucky Ohio State football fans won tickets to see their favorite college team play at home. This ticket giveaway was held through our Facebook page. The giveaway was open to CollegeAdvantage 529 plan account owners and non-account owners. The winners were randomly selected.

    They are:

    1. Sidney Saewitz – Cincinnati, OH
    2. Shaun Fair – Elkridge, MD.
    3. Christine Held – Columbus, OH
    4. Tracy George – Westerville, OH

    Sidney was selected as the Grand Prize Winner and won season tickets to all the Buckeye home games.

    Don’t see your name on this list? You can still enter to win one of ten $529 college saving awards during the CollegeAdvantage celebration of September as College Savings Month! You can sign up here through 11:59 p.m. ET Sept. 30, 2016. And, you can enter once per day, per email address. See complete contest rules here.

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

  • Celebrate College Savings Month With A $529 College Savings Award!

    by Amy Lyle | Sep 01, 2016

    Happy College Savings Month! September is designated as College Savings Month and CollegeAdvantage, Ohio’s 529 College Savings Program, is excited to celebrate it with you!

    So excited that we are giving away ten (!) $529 CollegeAdvantage 529 Direct Plan College Savings Awards to get you in on the celebration. You can sign up here through 11:59 p.m. ET Sept. 30, 2016. And, you can enter once per day, per email address. See complete contest rules here.

    Now, these college savings awards are to encourage you to save now for your children’s future college costs. The earlier you start saving, the longer you get to enjoy the power of compound interest to grow your 529 account balance. Additionally, a CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 Plan offers many tax advantages, including tax-free growth, tax-free withdrawals for qualified higher education expenses, and up to $2,000 deduction from your state taxable income per year, per beneficiary, for Ohio residents .

    Have a child that’s starting kindergarten, but you haven’t started a CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 Plan yet? Now is a great time to get started. Almost anyone can open an account and anyone can contribute — whether parents, grandparents, family members, or friends — directly to a CollegeAdvantage account. Enrollment in CollegeAdvantage is easy. Even if your children are older, it’s never too late to save what you can while also taking advantage of the great tax benefits. 

    Enter to win $529 today to start or boost your college savings with CollegeAdvantage! 

  • Investing In A Child’s Future Is Rewarded

    by Amy Lyle | Aug 30, 2016

    We were happy to receive a letter from the Ohio Tuition Trust Authority, asking us, as a very earlier customer, to reflect on this program and the meaning and value it has had for our family.

    It’s easy to look back and have positive feelings on good financial decisions that we made. We were excited when the State of Ohio made this college savings program available because, with four children under the age of 12, we knew college costs were going be a big number the future. The program made it easy to save, a little bit at a time, for each child. From the start of our investing in the program 1990 through 2005, we contributed regularly to the program and we encouraged the children to make deposits, when possible, through earnings from their part-time jobs.

    Our four children are all now grown and each of them a college graduate, and three of them with master’s degrees. We are a very traditional, middle-class family, who places great trust in the value of education. Even though the money invested in the OTTA was only able to fund a portion of college expenses, it was vital in making our college dreams a reality and was able to keep our children’s college debts reasonable.

    Our oldest daughter, Janet, used her funds to attend Gannon University in Erie, PA, to obtain her degree in physician assistant studies. It was wonderful that our Ohio savings was able to be used in a private, out-of-state college. She has subsequently obtained her master’s degree and is employed as a pediatric surgical physician assistant at Mercy Health in Toledo.

    Our next two daughters, Carolyn, and Jill, both attended Wright State University to obtain their bachelor’s degrees. Carolyn has her degree in early childhood education and is currently a stay-at-home mom, using her education to raise two of our perfect grandchildren. Jill, who earned a bachelor’s degree from WSU in business administration, is currently an admissions and communications coordinator at Wright State University Lake Campus in Celina. She also obtained her MBA from Wright State.

    The youngest member of our family, David, is a graduate of the University of Toledo with his bachelor’s and master’s degree in recreation and leisure studies. He is a senior program director and teen director at the Wolf Creek YMCA in Maumee, Ohio.

    Our family and the Ohio Tuition Trust Authority have had many changes in the past years. But the fundamentals remain the same; there is great value in education and investing in a child’s future is rewarded. We are so grateful, that through their hard work, and our financial help our children are all skilled and productive members of society. Our trust in the CollegeAdvantage program continues and we are currently contributing to CollegeAdvantage accounts to each of our eight grandchildren. These little ones may not be excited about receiving a notice on their birthdays and Christmas time that grandpa and grandma put money is their accounts, but eventually they will understand what a great gift this can be! 

    We would encourage all Ohioans to learn about the opportunity and ease of using the CollegeAdvantage program and that making small, regular investments in a college savings program can make a big, rewarding result!

     

    Elmer and Karen Klepaski

    Coldwater, Ohio

  • Office Closed For Labor Day

    by Amy Lyle | Aug 29, 2016

    The offices of the Ohio Tuition Trust Authority will be closed on Monday, Sept. 5, 2016 in observance of Labor Day.

    Because of this holiday, 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, where you can even make account contributions. However, please note that the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) will close in observance of the Labor Day holiday as well. As such, any transaction requested on a holiday, weekend, or after the NYSE closes will be processed on the next business day.

    In recognition of the holiday, the Ohio History Connection will be hosting events around the state during the weekend to celebrate Labor Day. Ohio Village will be hosting the Ohio Cup Vintage Base Ball Festival Sept. 3-4.

    Additionally, there are many festivals scheduled around Ohio during the Labor Day weekend.

  • How Much Should I Save?

    by Amy Lyle | Aug 26, 2016

    When considering your child’s future, you may ask yourself “How much should I save for my child’s future college expenses?” Although costs can be compared across colleges, this question comes down to personal preference. To help navigate through the options, CollegeAdvantage has some guidance to help you select a savings goal that’s right for your family and your circumstances.

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    Maybe you want to cover some of your child’s college expenses, like books or part of tuition. Maybe you would like to pay half of their tuition and room and board with your child covering the rest of the costs. Or maybe your goal is to cover nearly every college expense for your child.

    Whichever scenario you choose, College Advantage offers useful tools to help set and meet your savings goal. If you need help determining how much to put aside each month, use our College Savings Planner to receive personalized saving information. After inputting your college savings goals and examining your total projected costs, you will receive an estimated monthly amount needed to meet your savings objective. Please note, this is an example for illustrative purposes only. For additional advice, consult with your legal, financial, tax, or other advisor.

    To create a savings plan on College Savings Planner, enter your child’s name and age. From there, a line will automatically populate the annual cost for college: public, in-state, and four-year college. There is also an option to select a specific out-of-state university. The following box will ask you to input the amount you plan to contribute, whether it be monthly or yearly, then you will be provided with an estimated savings balance. From there, you’ll receive an annual rate as well as how much of the costs will be covered by you.

    So with that information, you can now apply it to an example. Imagine Brad, who is a one-year-old child. Let’s plan on him entering a public, in-state, or four-year college program. The 529 plan will start with an initial $2,000 contribution, planned monthly contribution of $200, and expected coverage of half of his college costs. With a selected hypothetical rate of 6%, hit calculate to receive the results. These will include the estimated total education cost, the amount to be funded, the dollar amount you will cover based on current savings and if there’s any additional steps to take to reach your saving goal. Again, please remember that this example is for illustrative purposes only. You should consult with your legal, financial, tax, or other advisor for advice. You can keep working on the College Savings Planner until you create a plan that’s right for you and your family. Remember, it’s your plan, your way.

    If you are still considering a College Advantage Direct 529 Plan, check out the cost of waiting tool to see how waiting can affect the balance in your account. The earlier you start, the longer you can take advantage of compound interest. Are you looking at the investment options and are wondering what your risk tolerance is? We can help you determine it. Lastly, if you are currently saving money in a taxable savings account, rather than taking advantage of the tax-free growth in a 529 plan, we can show how the difference can affect the account balance.

    If you’re already putting money aside in an Ohio 529 Plan, you can track your investment performance, see if you need to change your saving strategy as your child grows, or perform regular maintenance on your 529 account.

    Outside of automatic recurring contributions, there are also many ways to add to your 529 account. You can contribute your tax return refund, and add your disappearing expenses (those costs that are in your family’s budget for a limited time span — like daycare) to the account. You can also join Upromise, in which your membership can earn you cash back on purchases you would typically buy.

    Lastly, you don’t have to save on your own. Family and friends want to give meaningful gifts for the milestones in your child’s life. You can ask them to consider giving the gift of college by contributing to your child’s 529 plan in lieu of gifts for baby showers, birthdays, holidays, graduations, and many other special occasions. Through Ugift, you can set up a code which authorizes gift givers to donate online to your 529 plan without needing the actual account number. You’ll simply give a Ugift code to your family and friends. They can then visit Ugift529.com to make their electronic contribution securely from their bank account.

    And as you save, don’t forget about another tax advantage of a 529 plan. 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. If you have accounts for each of your children, you receive the deduction to your Ohio taxable income for contributions made to each beneficiary’s account.

    So, how much should you save for your child’s future college expenses? That is up to you. But CollegeAdvantage is here and ready to help you start.

    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. Investment options should be selected based on your investment goals, risk tolerance, and savings time horizon.

  • Can Others Contribute To A 529 Plan?

    by Amy Lyle | Aug 24, 2016

    You work hard to save money for your child’s future college costs. But did you know that there is more than one way to save in a CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 plan? You can visit the CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 plan website and follow the life stage guide to calculate the best ways to optimize your account​. You can also contribute to your tax return as well as add some disappearing expenses (i.e. costs that are in a family’s budget for a limited time span) to the account. Another way to benefit from contributing to a 529 plan is by joining Upromise. With this membership, you’re earning cash back as you shop online, dine out, fill your gas tank, buy groceries, book hotels, and more. By linking your Upromise account to your CollegeAdvantage Direct Plan, your earnings are automatically transferred on a periodic basis, subject to a $25 minimum. If you sign up for automatic recurring contributions, you could transfer money from your bank account to the Ohio 529 plan.

    After considering every potential option available when opening a 529, you may even begin to wonder how others can help contribute to your child’s 529 savings plan. For example, after celebrating your child’s first birthday, you may look around to find toys scattered, some of which haven’t even been used. This brings up the question: Is there a better way to celebrate this milestone? The answer: Yes. Instead of receiving unnecessary toys from family members, consider asking for the gift of college by having loved ones contribute to your child’s 529 plan.
    Fact_Post2CAnOthersContribute

    Family and friends want to give meaningful gifts for your child’s milestones. By asking them to consider gifts for college in lieu of gifts at baby showers, birthdays, holidays, graduations, and many other special occasions, your child’s future will only continue to benefit. The first, and easiest, option for CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 plan gift contributions is through Ugift. Ugift makes it easy for an account owner to set up a code which will authorize gift givers to donate directly to a 529 plan online without needing the actual account number. They can even check to make sure their electronic contribution is securely transferred from their bank account by visiting Ugift529.com. It's that easy. Once a gift giver has the code, they can continue to make one-time or recurring electronic gifts for college without fees. Plus, if the gift giver is an Ohio taxpayer, they can also deduct up to $2,000 in contributions per beneficiary, per year, from their state taxable income. Their gift contribution must be made payable directly to the account, not to the child.

    Have gift givers who may prefer paying by check? Simply encourage them to write a check payable to the Ohio Tuition Trust Authority, rather than the beneficiary, and give them the 11-digit account number to add to the memo line. ​You can then mail it with an Additional Contribution Form to the listed address and it will be added to your CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 Plan account. Again, if the gift giver is a taxpayer in Ohio, they can deduct their own gift contributions from their state taxable income.

    Another option to consider? Having heart-to-heart conversations with your child’s grandparents. It has been shown that a large number of 529 plan gift givers are grandparents who place a high value on higher education. After you talk with them, they may wish to make a gift to your existing 529 plan or they may want to establish their own account for your child. As the account owner, the grandparents will oversee the account and determine when to make withdrawals to pay for your child’s higher education expenses. They also control transfers between accounts, which is especially flexible if there is a need to transfer surplus funds from one grandchild to another. Or they can transfer their 529 account funds into an account that you’ve already established as college approaches.

    Grandparents who are Ohio taxpayers can take the deduction from their state income tax for gift contributions to CollegeAdvantage accounts of up to $2,000 in contributions per beneficiary, per year. Make sure that your grandparents are aware that there are gift tax considerations that may come into play depending on the amount of the gift contributions. The current annual gift tax exclusion is up to $14,000 per person to each beneficiary, per year, but that amount is inclusive of all gifts to a beneficiary, not just gifts to a 529 account. Additionally, your child’s grandparents can use 529 plans as part of their estate-planning strategy. As this is a complicated area of tax law and strategies vary from person to person, please have them consult with a tax or financial advisor for information on this option.

    As the next future celebration approaches, when family and friends ask what they can give, encourage them to give the gift of college by contributing to your CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 Plan.

  • Money Set Aside For Future Generations

    by Amy Lyle | Aug 23, 2016

    We started with CollegeAdvantage as soon as the program was open. Originally, we opened two accounts but as our family kept growing, we kept saving for their college expenses by adding new accounts. In total, we now have six 529 plan accounts with CollegeAdvantage for our six children.

    When we moved to California 11 years ago, we continued to save with CollegeAdvantage. So far, we have used our account to cover college expenses back in Ohio as well as California.

    Three of our children have graduated. Our daughter stayed in Ohio to attend the Ohio State University; one son went to University of California – Irvine; and another to University of California – Riverside. Our youngest daughter is going to Massachusetts College of Pharmacy in Boston. Our 529 accounts helped quite a bit at OSU and covered about half of the expenses at California schools where colleges are costly.  Our 529 account is now being used to help fund our pharmacy bound daughter.

    We still have two more children to go through college; we are looking forward to using their accounts for their college costs.

    These 529 plans are my lifeline. This money came in handy. I do not think people realize how this is a forced savings that with the money being put away it is being used for our future generation.  I would definitely use this program again for my grandchildren.

     

    Tammy Cooper

    Irvine, Calif.

  • Direct 529 Plan Changes To Be Implemented Sept. 8-9

    by Amy Lyle | Aug 22, 2016

    College Advantage will be adjusting some of the investment options offered in the Direct 529 Plan per one of the investment manager’s, Vanguard, recommendations. These changes were approved by the Ohio Tuition Trust Authority (OTTA) Board and will be implemented as of Sept. 8-9, 2016. The following changes will be made for you automatically.

    The current Vanguard Prime Money Market Option will be closed. In its place, a new Vanguard Federal Money Market Option will be launched, and will be named Vanguard Money Market Option. This exchange will be performed to be in compliance with the new Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC) rules. This investment option exchange is non-taxable and will not count toward your twice-per-calendar year limit on exchanges because it is initiated by CollegeAdvantage.

    Vanguard Federal Money Market Fund will replace the Vanguard Prime Money Market Fund in the Vanguard Income Portfolio; in the Advantage Age-Based Portfolio (AABP) for Age Band 6-9, 10-12, 13-16, and 17+; and Vanguard Conservative Age-Based Portfolio for Age Band 19+. The underlying fund changes do not result in an actual exchange for your CollegeAdvantage account. The replacement of the Vanguard Prime Money Market Option for the Vanguard Money Market Option is simply one of the investment options within portfolio.

    Additionally, the OTTA Board approved Vanguard’s recommended changes to its ready-made age-based and ready-made risk-based offerings. The changes include increasing allocations to a portion of the international component of its equity and bond allocations. All of the changes to the CollegeAdvantage Direct Plan Investment Options will occur automatically. This change will remove the home country bias in the Vanguard Ready-Made Risk Based and Vanguard Ready-Made Age-Based Portfolios. The affected portfolios are Vanguard Aggressive Growth Index Portfolio, Vanguard Growth Index Portfolio, Vanguard Moderate Growth Index Portfolio, Vanguard Conservative Growth Index Portfolio, and Vanguard Income Portfolio. Remember, these investment option exchanges are non-taxable and will not count toward your twice-per-calendar year limit on exchanges because they are initiated by CollegeAdvantage.

    A new Offering Statement detailing these adjustments will be available online on Sept. 8. Additionally, the new Offering Statement will also be mailed to all current CollegeAdvantage Direct Plan account owners during in September.

    If you have any additional questions after you have read the Offering Statement, please call our Customer Service Department at 1-800-AFFORD-IT (233-6734) or visit us

  • Start The New School Year With A $529 College Savings Award!

    by Amy Lyle | Aug 16, 2016

    September is College Savings Month and CollegeAdvantage, Ohio’s 529 Savings Program, is excited to celebrate it with you!

    So excited, in fact, that we are giving away ten (!) $529 CollegeAdvantage 529 Direct Plan College Savings Awards.  And the good news is, you don’t have to wait till College Savings Month to enter! You can sign up here starting today through 11:59 p.m. ET Sept. 30, 2016. And, you can enter once per day, per email address. See complete contest rules here.

    Now , these awards are to encourage you to save now for future college costs. The earlier you start saving, the longer you get to enjoy the power of compound interest to grow your account balance. Additionally, a CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 Plan offers many tax advantages, including tax-free growth, tax-free withdrawals for qualified higher education expenses, and a deduction from your state taxable income for Ohio residents. And, if “back to school” for your student means back to college, you could even use the award this school year (if you’re a winner).

    Have a child that’s starting kindergarten, but you haven’t started a CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 Plan yet? Now is a great time to get started. Almost anyone can open an account and anyone can contribute — whether parents, grandparents, family members, or friends — directly to a CollegeAdvantage account. Enrollment in CollegeAdvantage is easy. Even if your children are older, it’s never too late to save what you can while also taking advantage of the great tax benefits. 

    Enter to win $529 today, and start your college savings with CollegeAdvantage this new school year! 

  • Education Is Important For Children’s Future

    by Amy Lyle | Aug 15, 2016

    We were among the first families to join the OTTA when it was formed 26 years ago. As young parents, first starting out, we knew that education was important for our children’s future.  We are both career special education teachers in Ohio public schools, and we knew that the only way to afford college would be step by step, putting away as much as we could every paycheck. We also had support from grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other family members on holidays and birthdays.

    Well, we are proud to say that our seven children have grown with a love of learning. We still have two high schoolers at home, and their OTTA accounts are waiting for them upon graduation. The next older son is a college senior. Our youngest daughter graduated from Ohio Dominican University two years ago and is teaching a special education classroom herself. Our middle daughter used her OTTA account for her undergraduate work, and she is currently a children’s librarian while she is completing her Master’s in Library Science at Kent State. Our oldest son has completed both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and is teaching in Columbus while he completes his TESOL certificate at Ohio State. Finally, our oldest daughter graduated from both the University of Toledo and Ohio State and is teaching elementary art in the Columbus area.

    We are very grateful that a program like OTTA was available to help us make all of these wonderful things happen. When our first grandchild arrived last year, we opened an OTTA account in his name.

     

    Michael and Trisha Prunty

    Fremont, Ohio

  • 3 Ways To Make 529 Payments To A College

    by Amy Lyle | Aug 12, 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.

    CollegeAdvantage wants your 529 plan withdrawal and subsequent payment for qualified higher education expenses to be simple and quick. By initiating these transactions online, you are taking advantage of the fastest and most accurate method; however, there are other procedures you can also follow. Keep an eye on your payment timeline as you start the withdrawal process. It’s better to prepare now than to be surprised by time constraints after making the request. This guide can serve as a useful reference now and in the future.


    Online

    Online withdrawal requests followed by online tuition payments to the school are the fastest way to move money from your CollegeAdvantage 529 account to a college or university. Here’s how to do it all online:

    1. Add your bank’s information now. Before you can make a withdrawal, you must have your bank account information on file for 15 business days. For security purposes, no withdrawals will be processed until your bank information has been on file with your CollegeAdvantage account(s) for at least 15 business days. This is a one-time waiting period unless you change your banking information. To add your current 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. The fastest delivery method that CollegeAdvantage offers is to have your 529 withdrawal sent electronically to your bank account. Withdrawals requested before 4 p.m. ET on business days will be processed and approved in two business days. It may take additional time for your bank to show the 529 withdrawal as being deposited. From the date of your request, you can expect the funds to be received by your bank within three to five business days.
    3. Pay your tuition online from your bank account. Once the 529 funds have been deposited to your bank account, use your college’s online portal to pay your higher-education expenses from the school from your bank account. Most schools have their own electronic tuition payment process as well as other traditional methods. Check your school’s bursar office for details. Processing times will vary by school; you should ask what it is then start the withdrawal process early to avoid late fees.


    Paper Check Delivery to the School

    CollegeAdvantage can send the payment directly to the school, but be aware that we only send paper checks by U.S. mail. Depending on the U.S. Postal Service’s delivery schedule as well as the school’s paper check processing procedures, this may cause delays in the payment. If you still choose the paper check delivery, 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 the school knows to whom to credit the payment.
    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 also take the school additional time to apply the payment to your student’s expenses.


    Paper Withdrawal Request Form

    For those who prefer to use a paper form, CollegeAdvantage offers a Withdrawal Request Form. Please be aware that this is potentially the slowest withdrawal method. 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 make your withdrawal request online, rather than download the form. The form is available as a fillable PDF, which we recommend taking advantage of if you plan to use it.

    You may also print the form and clearly write on it. The completed paper form must be signed then mailed to the address provided on it.

    You may have the funds sent to you as the Account Owner, or to the Beneficiary, either by mailed paper check, or by Automated Clearing House (ACH) which electronically deposited the 529 withdrawal in you or the Beneficiary’s bank account. Once you receive the funds, you will have to decide how to pay the school.

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

    The most important step is to prepare now for upcoming 529 withdrawals. Make sure your bank information is correct on your CollegeAdvantage accounts and that you know how much time the school needs to process your payment. These simple steps will expedite the withdrawal so you can pay the school expenses on time.

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