• Payroll Deduction Made Savings Manageable

    by User Not Found | Jul 25, 2016

    Can't believe it's been over 25 years since we made the best decision for our family. We were a very busy young family with four children, very close together in ages.  In 1990, my husband, Jack, was a high school teacher and I was a registered nurse. The kids would have been 6, 8, 8, and 10 (yes, twins in the middle). We knew the potential of having three kids in college for four years in a row was a very overwhelming possibility. We so hoped for that possibility to come to fruition as we knew the importance of an education . . . but at the same time we knew how much that would cost. That, in and of itself, made us think of every penny we spent.

    Jack and I came from very different backgrounds.  He paid for his own college education, even withdrawing for a period of time to serve our country via the National Guard.  I, on the other hand, had college paid for by my parents.

    Budgeting for the education of our four children needed to be a priority. We wanted to invest in their future education in a way that wasn't so overwhelming.  Jack remembered the chunks of money he needed to pay his college tuition bill. I remembered my Dad writing the checks to cover mine. We knew college for our kids would have to be creatively financed by parents AND kids. We both agreed that CollegeAdvantage was the best way for us as parents to save by utilizing payroll deductions. With payroll deduction, we could save in reasonable amounts that would add up over time.  As our salary increased, that money was redirected into our CollegeAdvantage savings accounts.

    We knew that the kids would have to contribute, too. So, we encouraged a good work ethic, not only saving money for college but the value of earning good grades with the hopes of scholarships, grants, and other opportunities for higher education. All four children utilized their personal savings, scholarships or grants, and CollegeAdvantage to pay for their higher education, thus investing in their own future.

    Our children are now adults of whom we are very proud.  We have wonderful sons and daughter-in-laws, and ​four grandchildren. We continue the importance of saving for a higher education by contributing to our grandchildren's college funds.

    Thank you for this opportunity to help me reflect on my blessings in life and how Jack and I are honored to be their parents and grandparents.

    Linda Jacquemin

    Hamilton, Ohio

    Original published April 17, 2015. Information has been updated.
  • 3 Ways To Make 529 Payments To A College

    by Amy Lyle | Jul 22, 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.

  • How To Pay Other 529 Eligible Expenses

    by Amy Lyle | Jul 19, 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.

  • Direct Plan’s “Top Ten” Investment Options

    by Amy Lyle | Jul 15, 2016

    CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 Plan offers a diverse range of investment options, from ready-made age-based portfolios, ready-made risk-based portfolios, individual investment options, and FDIC insured banking options. 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 June 30, 2016):

    1. Vanguard Aggressive Age-Based Portfolio (ready-made age-based portfolio), $954.51
    2. Vanguard Moderate Age-Based Portfolio (ready-made age-based portfolio), $619.28
    3. Advantage Age-Based Portfolio (ready-made age-based portfolio), $497.52
    4. Vanguard 500 Index Option (individual investment option), $419.84
    5. Vanguard Aggressive Growth Index Portfolio (ready-made risk-based portfolio), $346.76
    6. Vanguard Growth Index Portfolio (ready-made risk-based portfolio), $227.20
    7. Vanguard Extended Market Index Option (individual investment option), $188.76
    8. Vanguard Wellington Option (individual investment option), $180.34
    9. Vanguard Moderate Growth Index Portfolio (ready-made risk-based portfolio), $164.81
    10. Fifth Third Savings Account (FDIC-insured bank option), $151.96

     

    The total balance of all 24 investment options offered in the CollegeAdvantage Direct Plan as of June 30, 2016, was $4.62 billion.

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

    Please Note:

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

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

  • How To Avoid Mistakes With Your 529 Withdrawal

    by Amy Lyle | Jul 13, 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). 

  • Gift Provides “Legacy Of Values”

    by Amy Lyle | Jul 11, 2016

    Our family has a long history of valuing a college education and utilizing CollegeAdvantage as a vehicle to make that possible.

    When our twin daughters were born, my husband and I made a decision that I would quit working and become a stay-at-home mother. However, once the girls were about 10 years old, I started working part time. When I got my paycheck, my priority was to fund their Ohio Tuition Trust Authority accounts because our goal was to have four years of tuition covered when they graduated from high school. So over the next eight years, with the help of family and gifts given on special occasions, our goal was accomplished.

    Without the benefit of CollegeAdvantage’s 529 plans, our daughters’ attainment of their college education would not have been a reality. They earned their undergraduate degrees at OSU then their master’s degrees. Amanda White Zimmerman earned a B.A. in Speech and Hearing Sciences and then a M.S. in Speech Language Pathology, while Lyndsey White Anderson earned a B.S. in Allied Health Professions and a M.A. in Counseling Education.

    Although the expense for tuition those first four years was paid from CollegeAdvantage, the girls were responsible for working and paying for room and board and other expenses associated with going to college. They were also responsible for paying for their master’s degree.

    Amanda is now a speech pathologist at Columbus Speech and Hearing Center and Lyndsey is an academic counselor at OSU Mansfield. They and their spouses are proud parents of two children each, all of whom have CollegeAdvantage accounts.

    My father, who passed away at age 90, was a strong influence in valuing a college education. Through CollegeAdvantage, he personally funded a generous gift for each of my grandchildren — even for the then-unborn granddaughter — prior to his death. His gift will provide a legacy of values that I trust will transfer to future generations of our family.

    Sherry White

    Mansfield

  • 529s Not Just For Four-Year Programs

    by Amy Lyle | Jul 08, 2016

    Not everyone is a traditional college student, seeking a four-year degree. There are great career opportunities on alternative collegiate paths. Can you still use a 529 plan if you choose another type of post-secondary education? Yes!

    529 plans are created to be used at any federally accredited educational institutions – whether for a two-year, four-year, graduate or professional degree, or any other post-secondary credential. Basically, you can use your account almost anywhere you’re comfortable sending both your student and your money.  If your school has a Federal School Code on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA, then withdrawals for qualified higher education expenses at that school will be 529-qualified withdrawals. Qualified withdrawals are not taxed.

    So what are some of these alternative collegiate pathways?

    Community colleges can be an excellent place to continue your education after high school. Usually  lower in cost than a four-year program, you can take required core classes that, in most cases, will transfer to other schools or explore different courses while searching for your dream profession. You can work toward your associate degree or use the community college as a stepping stone to a traditional four-year university. Either way, your 529 plan can cover qualified high education expenses.

    Prefer to express yourself creatively? Your 529 plans can help cover qualified costs at eligible institutions that are hyper-focused on the arts or music. Considering a career in religion? You can use your 529 plan to cover expenses at eligible universities. If you want to study abroad, your 529 plan ​may potentially cover education costs overseas. You will need to check FAFSA and toggle to “Foreign Country” to see which universities have a Federal School Code.

    Vocational or trade schools can provide you a great education in specialized skills. Because of these schools’ close connections to professional trades, you may graduate with a full-time, well-paying job already lined up. The schools’ areas of expertise can range from broadcasting, cosmetology, culinary arts, diagnostic imaging, graphic design, information technology, massage therapy, mortuary science, nursing, restaurant management, truck driving, to welding, to name a few. Your 529 plan may be applied here, too.

    Most graduate schools — whether business, law, medical, or other studies — may also be eligible institutions.

    Your CollegeAdvantage 529 Plan can be used at many different education institutions, not just a traditional four-year program. And there are thousands of them across the country. Wherever you would like to continue your post-secondary schooling, your 529 plan can be there to help cover qualified expenses. Just check for the eligibility of the school and be sure to use your 529 plan funds for qualified expenses. If you haven’t opened an account yet, visit here to learn more.

  • We Put Two Sons Through BGSU

    by Amy Lyle | Jul 05, 2016

    When the CollegeAdvantage program started, I knew it was something we had to do while our children were still young because the cost of college was increasing. Twenty-six years ago, our boys were 11 and 10. Keith and I knew we needed to start saving for their college education. We opened our account and started saving for both boys. By the time they were in high school, we had covered four years of tuition for each of them.

    When they got to Bowling Green State University — one in the fall of 1998 for applied science and the other in the fall of 1999 for integrated language arts/secondary education — we tapped into our funds.

    Our younger son got a partial scholarship, which meant that we didn’t use his entire fund. So when the older son needed to attend BGSU for an extra year, we were able to transfer what was left in one account to the other. We then used all of that for the son who took a bit longer to finish college. I think there was only one semester that we actually had to pay for; the rest was covered by what we had saved. I might add that college tuition costs more than doubled from the time the first one started college, but what we had saved with CollegeAdvantage covered it all!

    Jonathan and Jason are both graduates of BGSU and both successful in their chosen careers.  

    I think it’s great that CollegeAdvantage is still making a difference in the education of our youth.  

    Sue and Keith Hamen (both retired teachers)

  • New Guaranteed Plan Description And Form Now Available

    by Amy Lyle | Jul 01, 2016

    On July 1, CollegeAdvantage released a new Plan Description for the CollegeAdvantage Guaranteed 529 Savings Plan, formerly known as the Ohio Prepaid Tuition Plan.

    We will mail out this update to all CollegeAdvantage Guaranteed Savings Plan account owners around Friday, July 1. Some account owners will receive multiple copies if they have accounts for different beneficiaries.

    The Plan Description is published to update information regarding the terms and conditions governing the use of the account. This document, as well as other account maintenance information and forms, can be found with Guaranteed Plan Resources.

    This update will not change the value of any Units or Credits you purchased and currently hold. Please view the current payout rate for the CollegeAdvantage Guaranteed Savings Plan. The Guaranteed Savings Plan remains closed to contributions and new enrollments.

    Also, an Agent Authorization form is being added as an option. Once notarized, you can use this form to allow another individual specified access to your account over the phone. For example, because accounts can be owned by only one individual, you may authorize your spouse to have access to the account as an authorized agent, or your personal financial advisor to have access to your account information. 

    Please note that an authorized agent cannot to do any of the following:

    • change the account owner or beneficiary address of record;
    • add, delete, or change any banking information on file;
    • change the beneficiary;
    • withdraw assets; or
    • transfer assets to another account.

    As you continue to work toward your college savings goals, you should consider the age of your child, the number of years you have to save before college, your risk tolerance, investment goals, and tuition cost projections. Depending on your goals, you always have the option to rollover funds from your CollegeAdvantage Guaranteed Plan account to any 529 plan, including the CollegeAdvantage Direct (open and manage yourself) or Advisor Plan (you would need to work with a financial advisor to open an account or already have an advisor plan) at any time, without incurring tax consequences and a penalty. To do so, complete the Guaranteed Plan Withdrawal form.

  • 529 Day College Savings Award Winners Announced

    by Amy Lyle | Jun 22, 2016

    CollegeAdvantage recently celebrated 529 Day (held on May 29), showcasing the importance of saving now for your child’s college education. 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.

    To celebrate 529 Day, we gave away $529 College Savings Awards to ten lucky people! Our giveaway, which ran from May 1 to June 12, was open to account owners and non-account owners alike.

    Here’s the list of the 10 lucky people randomly selected June 12*:

    1. Frank Murphy
    2. Jennifer Strawn
    3. Stephen Reichel
    4. Russell Abney
    5. Arthur Hagen
    6. Eric Andersen
    7. Bryan Miller
    8. Matthew Falk
    9. Gretchen Prine
    10. Eric Shirey

    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.

  • Saving Since The Beginning

    by Amy Lyle | Jun 20, 2016

    My wife, Cheryl, and I established CollegeAdvantage accounts for our girls, Heather and Kimberly, about 25 years ago when the program first opened.

    Heather went to Miami University and majored in psychology. The CollegeAdvantage account paid for all four years of her undergraduate education. She graduated in 2002 and was accepted in the Teach for America program where she taught for two years in the St. Louis (MO) City Schools. She then got her master’s degree in counseling at Western Michigan University. She worked at several counseling and related jobs in the state of Michigan where she won an award for the best home-based counselor in the state. Currently, she works for Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame (IN) as a student counselor. She and her husband have two boys who are 4 (soon to be 5) and 2.

    Our other daughter, Kimberly, chose to go out of state and started at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona. She had a scholarship that paid half the out-of-state tuition and she used monies from CollegeAdvantage to pay the remaining amounts. After her sophomore year, she came back to Ohio and finished her degree at The Ohio State University by using her CollegeAdvantage account, a scholarship from OSU, and some other college fund savings. While she majored in water management, she worked at Whole Foods. She is now the Associate Store Team Lead at the Whole Foods store at Easton. Kimberly has two girls who are 11 and 7 and has already set up CollegeAdvantage accounts for both of them.

    We were very interested in CollegeAdvantage when the program first started and were glad we had the ability to utilize the program from its inception. We were also fortunate to have benefited from an inheritance, which was sufficiently large enough to entitle them to four years of college education.

     

    Jim Fergus

    Delaware, Ohio

  • Storybook Village Ticket Winners Announced

    by Amy Lyle | Jun 17, 2016

    Ohio History Connection and CollegeAdvantage, Ohio’s college savings 529 plan, have partnered to inspire a lifelong love of reading in children at Storybook Village, a celebration of books and where your children can visit with some of their favorite characters. This year’s event will mark the 150th birthday of Beatrix Potter. Interested in attending? Learn more here.

    As a sponsor of Storybook Village, CollegeAdvantage held a Facebook ticket giveaway for tomorrow’s event at the Ohio Village. The five lucky winners, who each received four tickets, were randomly selected and they are:

    Leslie Strader, Westerville, Ohio

    Anne Galbreath, Vincent, Ohio

    Lexi Brofford, Columbus, Ohio

    Ashley Blake, Lancaster, Ohio

    Mary Pedigo, Westerville, Ohio

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

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

  • My Savings Story: Sleva Family

    by User Not Found | Jun 14, 2016

    In April 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. 

    I have been a methodical college saver. Long ago, my father-in-law gave me some good advice. He said to put something away each month, no matter how small, and it would grow and grow. So my wife and I began saving for our children’s college fund when they were very young. We started small, and just automatically put money aside, every month.

    Then I heard about CollegeAdvantage (initially from a radio ad, and then from a financial advisor). So I looked into it. My daughter was in college already and my son would be starting just four years later, so I had plenty of motivation to take advantage of the CollegeAdvantage program. I started putting money into our CollegeAdvantage account in 2008. After researching the costs of college, we decided the best strategy was to divide the lump sum of what we would still need into monthly contribution amounts. That way, we knew the same amount was coming out of our checking account and going straight into our CollegeAdvantage account, before we could spend it elsewhere.

    As a result, we were fortunate enough to be able to pay for all of the college expenses for both kids, using our CollegeAdvantage account. Also, we were able to pay for an entire semester using only the interest earnings on our investment options!

    M. Sleva
    Elyria, Ohio​

    This article was ​last published on June 1, 2015.

  • 3 Key Points For Grandparents Funding 529 Plans

    by Amy Lyle | Jun 13, 2016

    CollegeAdvantage welcomes the following guest blog from Kenneth O'Connor, Director of Customer Care and Content at Invite Education, a company dedicated to providing the information, tools and services families need to effectively plan and pay for college.

    It’s wonderful to see so many grandparents participate in college graduation ceremonies, cheering on their grandchildren! It turns out many grandparents were also able to provide some financial support along the way which minimized their grandchildren’s student loan debt. If you are a grandparent (or soon to be one) here are a few things to consider when planning to help with college costs using a 529 plan.

    1. Early savings is key: Most grandparents understand the value and importance of savings and compound interest and the resultant benefit to them and their family members of a patient and disciplined strategy. Saving for college is a great example, since it takes patience to stick with a college savings plan for young toddlers and children. Grandparents are already well aware that “time flies” all too fast and what is required when making a long term commitment to a financial goal. By helping to start a college savings plan, grandparents can make a big difference for long term college savings, increasing college options, and minimize student debt for their grandchildren.
    2. Utilize the special five-year 529 gifting rule for estate planning purposes: Grandparents should consider utilizing their estate plans to kick-start college savings. Up to $14,000 per year in 529 contributions can be made without triggering any gift taxes, considering the annual gift exclusion rule from the IRS. Under the special five-year accelerating gifting rule, grandparents can gift as much as $70,000 contribution to a particular 529 plan beneficiary in a single year, but this would require no subsequent gifts over the next five years in order to average out a $70,000 lump sum within the $14,000 guideline. Utilizing this rule and infusing a large amount now would certainly make a huge difference in the amount available in the future for college tuition.
    3. Be aware of financial aid policy; Use 529 accounts in junior and senior year of college: Grandparent assets are not directly disclosed on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) since they are not the custodial parents or the student, obviously. However, when 529 funding distributions are provided to the student, the money is treated as “income” in the student’s name for financial aid purposes in the year it was received. This additional income may actually decrease financial aid eligibility for the student as it is weighed even more heavily against need based grants, even more so than income in the parent’s name! Wise planners simply look ahead and determine if the student would qualify for need-based funding considering the custodial parent’s household income (Like using Invite Education’s financial calculators). If drawing high disbursements from the 529 accounts would sacrifice financial aid eligibility, then hold off on disbursements until the student’s junior and senior years. This way the student can qualify for maximum need based financial aid for the early years, and then use the 529 to fund perhaps the entire cost of their last two years of college. Or the 529 funding could be used to pay for Graduate school, where need based grants are not awarded on the scale of undergraduates. If there are excess funds, the grandparents can change the beneficiary or even take the money back. No one wants to be punished for savings, so always go back and re-evaluate the funding strategy each year for optimization.

    Kenneth O’Connor is the Chief Impact Officer of Invite Education, a company dedicated to providing the information, tools and services families need to effectively plan and pay for college. Learn more about Kenneth on LinkedIn and Twitter

  • Reds Community Fund Giveaway Winners Announced

    by Amy Lyle | Jun 10, 2016

    As a sponsor of the Reds Community Fund Family Catch, CollegeAdvantage held a Facebook giveaway of packages for this June 12 event, to be held after Sunday’s Reds game against the Oakland A’s.

    The lucky winners were randomly selected. They are:

    Warren Smith, Cincinnati, Ohio

    Pamela Benson, Blacklick, Ohio

    Stefanie Doran, Huber Heights, Ohio

    Jason Rodino, Burlington, Kentucky

    Jennifer Greyer, Fremont, Ohio

    Christopher Camp, North Olmstead, Ohio

    Steve Reese, Milford,Ohio

    Jamie Mack, Cincinnati, Ohio

    Lindsay Rayner, Chandlersville, Ohio

    Rita Simpson-Vlach, Shaker Heights, Ohio

    Additionally, Warren Smith was selected to represent CollegeAdvantage at this game to throw the first pitch.

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

    Would you like to see your name on a winners’ list from CollegeAdvantage? Here are several opportunities to do so.

    Check out the Reds Heads Kids Club. Kids Club members can enter to win one of several $529 college savings awards throughout the season. The next drawing will be held in early August.

    You also still have time to enter to win one of ten $529 college savings awards as CollegeAdvantage continues to celebrate 529 Day (May 29)! But you will need to act quickly; this giveaway closes at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, June 12.

    Lastly, inspire a lifelong love of reading in your child by coming to Storybook Village, which runs from 10 a.m. to 5p.m. Saturday, June 18, at Ohio Village in Columbus. This year’s event will mark the 150th birthday of Beatrix Potter. CollegeAdvantage is giving away family four-packs of tickets to five lucky winners for this fun, character-filled celebration of books. Visit here to enter and do ​it soon. This drawing ends at 11:59 p.m. Monday, June 13!

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

     

  • Lucky And Grateful

    by User Not Found | Jun 06, 2016

    In April 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. 

    I enrolled our son in the CollegeAdvantage program almost as soon as it became available. My husband and I researched the program and investigated similar programs in other states at the time. We felt we couldn't go wrong! Overall, the investment in this program was one of the best decisions we ever made for our son. He graduated from college, debt free! He is now able to put his income into brokerage accounts instead of paying college loans. He knows how lucky he is and is grateful for the insight of his parents.

    I funded his tuition and room and board entirely from my earnings. As a teacher, I knew a college education was the best gift I could ever provide. It was a painless way to save for my son's future ... I had payroll deduction from my teacher paycheck directly to the fund. I never missed the money and oh how proud I was when I received my statements and watched the contributions accumulate.

    This is a photo of our son at his graduation from the Columbus College of Art and Design. He is currently working in his field at head graphic designer for Lima Memorial Health System.

    My husband and I have encouraged our nieces to set up the accounts for their children, and we have advised other couples with young children to do the same. In fact, I served as a volunteer ambassador to the program back in the early days because I believed in it so much.

    Patricia Johnson

    Lima, Ohio

    This Saving Story was originally published on April 25, 2015.
  • Saving Wisdom Passed Down Through Generations

    by Amy Lyle | May 31, 2016

    It is hard to believe the 25th anniversary of CollegeAdvantage has come and gone. My wife, Christine, and I are retired elementary school teachers as well as empty nesters. Twenty-six years ago, we were raising Jim Jr., Lindsey Ann, and Elizabeth, who goes by Betsy. Being a middle-class family, we needed to plan how to pay for our kids to go to college. We knew that there would be 11 straight years of our children going to college, and during two of those years, we would have two kids in college at the same time.

    My father, also named James, was a retired school teacher in his late 70s. He read about CollegeAdvantage in the newspaper and told me about it. Dad grew up in Columbus, Ohio, during the Depression and worked his way through Ohio State University in the 1930s. He was in classes with Jesse Owens. It took Dad six years to earn his bachelor’s degree and then he entered the teaching profession. He encouraged my wife and me to invest in the CollegeAdvantage program.

    So my wife and I enrolled our kids in the program in the early 1990s. With each paycheck, we went to the bank and deposited money into a savings account we called our college fund. Then each year, we took money out of the account and paid into our eldest son’s 529 plan account. By the time Jim Jr. had finished third grade, we had the equivalent to four years of college tuition in his fund.

    Next, we continued taking money out of each paycheck to save for Lindsey and Betsy’s college years. By the time Lindsey was in sixth grade, we had enough to cover her four years of college tuition. Then it was time to focus on our youngest, Betsy, and we continued to save for her.

    Fast forward: Our oldest, Jim Jr., graduated from high school, and he knew we had been saving for his college expenses. When we showed him the CollegeAdvantage investment in his name, he had tears of happiness in his eyes, knowing that he did not have to borrow money to go to college. He had a partial academic scholarship to Urbana University and we used some of his CollegeAdvantage account to pay the rest. He decided to transfer to nearby Wright State University to major in business administration. Over the next three years, he continued to work in the summer and we continued to use his CollegeAdvantage account to pay Wright State. He earned his B.S. in three-and-one-half years and still had over $7,000 unused in his account. He landed a position with National City Bank and started his career.

    When our middle child, Lindsey, graduated from high school, she enrolled at Mt. Vernon Nazarene University in Mt. Vernon, Ohio. She decided to study business and marketing. Lindsey worked summer jobs and had a small academic scholarship. She also worked at the university as a dorm resident assistant and even was editor of the college yearbook. Lindsey did very well academically and graduated a semester early. We did use up all of her account as she graduated with honors and debt free.

    We were now in our eighth year of having kids in college. Betsy, our youngest, earned an academic/golf scholarship to Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, Tenn. Eighty percent of her fees was covered by her scholarship. We used her CollegeAdvantage account to supplement the scholarship. Betsy continued her fine academic achievement there and earned All-Conference - Golf and Academic All-American Honors at Trevecca. For Betsy’s senior year, we transferred the $7,000 that was left in Jim Jr.’s account to her account. Betsy graduated with a B.S. degree in education. She was debt free and began teaching in Nashville. Our 11 years of college were over! We made it.

    My father, who encouraged us to do the CollegeAdvantage program, lived to age 80. He passed away knowing we had paid up the four years of college for our oldest and were well on our way to investing in four years of tuition for our middle child. He knew he had given us some smart advice and was pleased that we listened to him and followed through by investing in the CollegeAdvantage fund.

    Where are our kids now?

    Jim Jr. is married, and he and his wife, Jen, have two young girls, ages 5 and 2. Jim Jr. is a debt counselor for area Wright-Patt Credit Unions. His wife is an instructor at Miami Jacobs Career College in Troy, Ohio. He earned a MBA degree three years ago. He has opened 529 plan accounts for their two children.

    Lindsey is in marketing at the corporate Wendy’s in Columbus. She is married to a finance supervisor. His name is also James. They have a three-year-old and now a one-month-old. Lindsey and James have opened a CollegeAdvantage account for both their children.

    Our youngest, Betsy, now teaches social studies in Columbus. She is presently working on her master’s degree. She is not married. Perhaps she is looking for a wise man named James …

    James & Christine Beaver

    Dayton, Ohio

  • Give The Littlest Grads The Gift Of College

    by Amy Lyle | May 26, 2016

    “Pomp and Circumstance” swells as the sounds of rustling gowns and shuffling feet fill the air. The whole audience waits in eager anticipation with outstretched arms with cameras at the ready. Suddenly you see them, with tassels swaying on their paper plate “mortar boards,” crossing the stage to receive their mini diplomas. At the end of the ceremony, they are moving up to . . . kindergarten! Overwhelmed with pride, you think, “Wow, they are growing up so fast.” And then you realize, “Wow, they are growing up SO fast!”  

    They really do grow up in the blink of an eye. By starting early, a college savings fund can grow with them. It’s easy, too, with CollegeAdvantage, Ohio’s 529 plan.

    529s are a great way to save over time in a tax-advantaged way. The sooner you start saving, the longer you have to reach your goals. You can save small amounts over time, as little as $25, and the money you contribute to a 529 plan can grow tax free If you’re an Ohio tax payer, you can deduct up to $2,000 in contributions per beneficiary, per year from your Ohio taxable income. Later as you begin to use the plan to pay for 529-qualified higher education expenses, withdrawals are tax free as well.

    You probably weren’t alone as you watched your preschooler graduate. Family and friends will want to give meaningful gifts for this and other important milestones in your child’s life. You can invite them to contribute to your child’s CollegeAdvantage account instead of giving traditional gifts for graduations, birthdays, holidays, achievements, and other special occasions. And it’s easy to arrange. You just need to log in to your CollegeAdvantage Direct Plan and click on Ugift to request a unique code. If the gift giver is an Ohio taxpayer, they too can deduct their own contributions from their Ohio taxable income. Their gift contribution just needs to be made payable directly to the account, not to the child.

    Also, now that your child will be starting kindergarten, you can add the money from disappearing preschool expenses to your child’s CollegeAdvantage account. Disappearing expenses are those costs that are in your budget for only a limited time span. And daycare/preschool is one of the largest disappearing expenses for families as their children grow. Once your child enters kindergarten, consider turning those dollars into regular contributions to your CollegeAdvantage 529 account. You won’t miss it and you will be continuing to support your child’s educational needs.

    As you’ll soon experience, they go from preschool to college really fast! Your college savings can grow with them by using Ohio’s 529 plan. If you are ready to start saving with CollegeAdvantage, it’s easy to open an account online here. If you already have an account, learn more about Ugift today. 

  • Making The Dream Of College Affordable

    by Amy Lyle | May 24, 2016

    I was one of the earliest advocates for the Ohio Tuition Trust Authority, working with my state senator at the time, Paul Pfeiffer.

    Sen. Pfeiffer understood the value of a college education as I did. We believed it would be a significant benefit to be able to establish a tax-deferred savings account for our families. I immediately set an account up upon the passage of the legislation and over the years, built up a substantial savings fund.

    As we watched college costs increase, contributions to the program gained in value. At the time the program was started, my son was very young, just starting primary school. By the time he graduated high school, we have invested enough money to send him to any state school and to pay for the first two years.

    He did enroll in Owens Technical College and Marion Technical College and finally, he graduated from Sinclair Community College. Then he went on to earn another degree from Wright State University. He now is gainfully employed with the State of Ohio Department of Public Safety as a program engineer.

    Having the ability to make contributions to the Ohio Tuition Trust Authority over the years gave my family the peace of mind that we could make the dream of a college education affordable. It is one of the best programs that the State of Ohio has ever established.

    I would share my story with everyone and urge them to set up an account today for their children or grandchildren.

    Steve Chaffin

    Marion, Ohio 

  • Give High School Grads The Gift Of College

    by Amy Lyle | May 20, 2016

    Congratulations to the Class of 2016! If you are invited to graduation celebrations, you may be wondering what you should give the recent high school grad. A gift card to some restaurant or online store that you hope they like? Something practical like sheets, towels, or a shower caddy to take to college? Something expensive like a laptop?

    Would you rather give a gift that has meaning and significance? How about giving the gift of college by adding to the graduate’s 529 plan? It’s never too late to add to their account to cover upcoming college expenses. And it’s simple to do.

    If the parents have established a CollegeAdvantage 529 account for the graduate, you can write a check made payable to the Ohio Tuition Trust Authority. Simply present the check as your gift to your recipient who can then mail the contribution, hopefully along with other gift contribution checks, to CollegeAdvantage. You can also order a graduation greeting card to announce your contribution. And there is no fee to make a gift donation so the graduate receives the full dollar amount in their account.

    Another method of giving the gift of college is to ask the parents if they have an Ugift code for the child’s CollegeAdvantage Direct Plan account. Ugift allows account owners (usually the parents) to set up a code which allows gift givers to donate online directly to an already established CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 plan account without needing the actual account number. Once you have the unique Ugift code for the gift recipient, you can visit Ugift529.com to make your electronic contribution securely from your bank account. It's that easy. It’s also quick and easy for parents to request an Ugift code for their existing accounts. They just need to log in to their account and click on Ugift. Again, you can order a graduation greeting card to announce your online contribution.

    And, if you are an Ohio tax payer who contributed to a CollegeAdvantage account, even if you are not the account owner, you can deduct up to $2,000 in contributions per beneficiary, per year from your Ohio taxable income. (For tax purposes, you must keep your own proof and record of contributions.) In this way, your gift of college savings can help the graduate and it can help you, too!

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