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Recent Industry News
1Q 2016 529 plan assets up, continue to reach year-over-year highs
(May 18, 2016) - According to 1Q16 data from Strategic Insight, assets in 529 college savings plans increased by 2.1% over 4Q 2015, and increased 1.5% over the past year.
Net inflows in the 1st quarter of 2016 were $3.2 billion, compared to $3.3 billion in 1Q of 2015, demonstrating that investors are successfully withdrawing 529 plan funds for qualified higher education expenses.
Wealthfront pursuing new 529 plan in Nevada
(May 16, 2016) - Wealthfront has partnered with Ascensus College Savings to pursue a private labeled product. The April 12, 2016 State of Nevada “Notice of Public Meeting” reads:
For possible action: Board review and consent to the Wealthfront Private Label Product Agreement between Wealthfront and Ascensus to launch a new Section 529 college savings plans pursuant to the Direct Program Management Agreement; review and approve the resulting Wealthfront 529 Plan Plan Description and Participation Agreement.
Minutes from the meeting are not yet published, but it comes as no surprise that roboadvisors are taking a keen interest in the 529 space. Wealthfront would be the first roboadvisor to launch its own state-sponsored 529 savings plan. FutureAdvisor offers 529, Coverdell, and UGMA/UTMA advice on its platform. It is unclear what a Wealthfront product might look like yet, but the aforementioned announcement indicates that it would be its own unique plan.
Electronic 529 distributions now possible with participating universities
(April 14, 2016) - Ascensus College Savings (ACS), the largest administrator of 529 Plan assets, has partnered with Higher One to offer School ePay. This will allow 529 account owners to make tuition payments directly through the beneficiary’s school payment portal with participating institutions. School ePay is the first tuition payment solution of its kind.
The name might be unfamiliar, but ACS provides many 529 services behind the scenes at some of the largest 529 Plans in the nation, including Plans offered by JP Morgan, The Hartford, and American Century. For ACS to offer an electronic payment solution through the school’s portal is a huge benefit for all parties involved, simplifying and expediting the withdrawal process.
Expect competitors to follow suit to create similar payment solutions. Those whose accounts are administered by Ascensus will see a more immediate benefit, but the convenience of online payments will set a precedent for other 529 providers.