A man and his son celebrate while watching a televised basketball game

Welcome to March Madness 2024! The great State of Ohio is again taking part in this tournament in many ways. The University of Dayton is hosting the First Four for the men’s tournament on March 19-20. The MidAmerican Conference and Greater Cleveland Sports Commission will host the women’s Final Four and the Championship games April 5-7 at the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland.

For Ohio schools, the University of Akron and University of Dayton men’s basketball teams, and Kent State University and Ohio State University women’s teams were selected for their respective NCAA tournaments.

Additionally, The Ohio State University and University of Cincinnati men’s basketball teams, as well as Bowling Green University and University of Cincinnati women’s teams are taking part in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT).

Ohio is again well represented in these nationwide tournaments. The teams’ hard work, perseverance, and dedication propelled them to the national stage. As a partner with all these universities and their athletic programs, Ohio’s 529 Plan is rooting for all these teams.

Ohio’s 529 Plan, CollegeAdvantage, has also been nationally recognized for our hard work, perseverance, and dedication to extend the best tax-free 529 program possible to Ohioans as well as out-of-state residents.

Ohio’s 529 Plan and March Madness

March Madness is yet another reminder of Ohio’s great higher education academic and athletic tradition. Since 1989, Ohio’s 529 Plan has been an active part of the state’s higher education landscape, helping families save for their children’s education or career training after high school. So, your Ohio’s 529 Plan can not only pay for the four-year universities or colleges that are part of March Madness, but your 529 account can also cover the costs of two-year community or technical colleges, trade or vocation schools, apprenticeships, certificate programs, or graduate or professional schools.

Therefore, just because you save in Ohio’s 529 Plan, this doesn’t mean your child can only attend one of Ohio’s great schools. You can send your child and your Ohio 529 account funds to any higher education institution that accepts federal financial aid nationwide. If the institution is listed in the Federal School Code Search as part of the Free Application For Federal Student Aid or FAFSA, it means the school accept federal financial aid. Therefore, your Ohio 529 plan funds can be used there. This means that there are over 30,000 schools across the country for you to use your own personal 529 account for your loved one’s education or career training after high school.

Easy savings three-pointer — three Ohio 529 tax benefits

Ohio’s 529 Plan helps families across the nation save money for their children’s future higher education costs with tax benefits. First, grow your 529 account with tax-free earnings. This means all the investment growth is yours to use for your children’s future college costs. Compound interest, which is the interest earned on contributions, earnings, and interest already accumulated in the 529 account, is included in the tax-free earnings. Second, when used for qualified higher education expenses, withdrawals from your 529 plan are tax-free. Third, if you are an Ohio resident, then you can deduct 529 contributions from your Ohio taxable income, up to $4,000 per year, per beneficiary, with unlimited carry forward. This means that the $4,000 per year, per beneficiary is not a contribution cap. You can continue to subtract $4,000 per year, per beneficiary, from your Ohio taxable income until all the 529 contributions have been deducted.

It's all about teamwork

Much of these teams’ success on the court is due to teamwork—operating as one unit for a singular goal. For these teams, that goal is going to the big game. You have your own team to support you for your higher education savings goals. Loved ones, family, and friends can all contribute to your Ohio 529 account. Ask for gifts of higher education for your children’s birthdays, holiday celebrations, graduations, special achievements, and other big celebrations. Loved ones want to give presents that have significance and what gift can last longer than education? A 529 gift contribution lasts a lifetime.

Ugift is an easy-button gift-giving feature with Ohio’s 529 Plan. Ugift is an innovative way to invite family and friends to save your children’s future qualified education expenses with gift contributions to your CollegeAdvantage Direct Plan account. After logging in to your Ohio Direct 529 Plan, you can set up an Ugift code to send to our loved ones who would like to give the gift of a higher education. Or if you have downloaded the READYSAVE 529 app, you can send the Ugift invitation to your family and friends either through a text message, email, Facebook Messenger, Facebook post, or Instagram Message.

This code allows others to make online gift contributions directly to your CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 Plan without your account number. Once you provide the Ugift code, friends and family can visit Ugift529.com to make their electronic contribution securely from their bank account.

Ohio’s 529 Plan one of nation’s best programs

Like the basketball teams heading to March Madness, Ohio’s 529 Plan is recognized as one of the best 529 programs across the nation.

Investopedia picked Ohio’s 529 Plan as its best 529 plan for 2024 for our high performance ratings, age-based or customized portfolios, competitive fees, and FDIC-insured savings accounts and CDs. In their overview, Investopedia said, “There are a lot of reasons to like Ohio’s CollegeAdvantage 529 plan—and a history of generating above-average returns is certainly one of them. According to performance reviews from Savingforcollege.com, the program is tops in the nation for 10-year returns. There’s no shortage of investment choices here, either. You can choose an age-based  portfolio that becomes more conservative over time or a static risk-based portfolio that doesn't change its asset mix over time. You can also customize your basket of investments by choosing your own mix of stock and bond funds. The plans include funds from Vanguard and Dimensional Fund Advisors, as well as Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)–insured certificates of deposit (CDs) and bank accounts. From a fee standpoint, Ohio’s plan is one of the best around. Age-based options range between 0.15% and 0.31% annually, well below the national average. And risk-based and individual options are all 0.44% or less. No doubt Ohioans have a strong incentive to sign up, with state tax breaks of up to $4,000 per beneficiary per year. However, with a stellar track record, numerous investment options, and low fees, people outside the Buckeye state will want to take notice as well.”

Trusted financial industry investment research and management company, Morningstar, reviews the nation’s 529 college savings programs and ranks the 529 plans in a report released every November. Ohio’s CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 Plan kept its silver rating for the eleventh year in a row. In addition, BlackRock CollegeAdvantage, Ohio’s Advisor 529 Plan, retained its bronze ranking for the fourth year. This makes Ohio one of only three state programs that have both their Direct and Advisor 529 Plans ranked as medal-class college savings programs by Morningstar. The high ranking for both CollegeAdvantage 529 Plans highlights the strength of Ohio’s two college savings plans as well as the industry’s regard for Ohio’s 529 Plan as one of the best in the nation.

Forbes Advisor continues to rank Ohio’s 529 Plan as one of the six best college savings programs in the nation. According to their explanation: “Ohio’s 529 Plan comes with features in line with the other plans on our list, including low fees, a range of investment options and a tax deduction for Ohio taxpayers. … The plan also comes with a minimum contribution, both to open the account and for each contribution thereafter. But it is small ($25) and likely manageable for many plan participants.”

CNBC consistently selects Ohio’s 529 Plan as one of the ten best programs nationwide. As they wrote, “With the CollegeAdvantage (Ohio) 529 plan, anyone can sign up. There’s a good mix of investment options (including FDIC-insured accounts), low fees and plans from top companies like Vanguard, Dimensional Fund Advisors and Fifth Third Bank. There’s just a minimum contribution amount of $25 and Ohio residents can get a tax deduction.”

Money Inc. ranks Ohio’s 529 Plan, CollegeAdvantage, second in its list of the top ten 529 programs nationwide. They highlighted the “tax break for Ohio residents, a diverse selection of investment alternatives, and low fees.”

While watching your favorite school play in March Madness, remember that it’s a lot cheaper to save for higher education now and earn interest in a 529 account than pay off students’ loans with accumulated interest later. 

Like the basketball teams representing the great State of Ohio, CollegeAdvantage is proud to represent Ohio’s 529 college savings program on the national stage. Like these teams, we’ve earned our accolades.

Since 1989, Ohio’s 529 Plan, CollegeAdvantage, has been helping families across the nation save for their children’s higher education. Ohio’s 529 Plan covers qualified expenses at any four-year college or university, two-year community college, trade or vocational school, apprenticeship approved by the U.S. Labor Department, or certificate programs, or continuing education classes nationwide that accepts federal financial aid. Learn, plan, and start for as little as $25 today at CollegeAdvantage.com.


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