States that offer 529 plan grant programs

Kathryn FlynnBy Kathryn FlynnBy Savingforcollege.com

A dozen states make it easier to save for college by offering grants to residents who use their 529 plans. Some states provide matching grants for 529 plan contributions and others seed new 529 plan accounts with an initial contribution.

Why do states offer matching grants?

Studies show that children with even small amounts of college savings are more likely to enroll in and graduate from college. States provide incentives such as state income tax deductions and credits and grants programs to increase enrollment and participation in their 529 plans.

How do 529 plan grants work?

There are different rules for each state’s 529 plan grant program. Some states offer matching grants for 529 plan contributions. Matching grants work similar to an employer 401(k) match, where the state matches contributions, or a portion of contributions, up to a specified amount. Some grants can only be claimed once, while others may be available to residents each year until a cap is reached.

For example, Colorado’s CollegeInvest Matching Grant Program matches contributions to a CollegeInvest 529 plan up to $500 each year for up to five years. However, only lower to middle-income families who have an adjusted gross income below certain limits based on federal poverty guidelines may qualify for the grant. Limits are adjusted by household size.

Although a 529 plan beneficiary can be any age, many states’ 529 plan grant programs are limited to children or babies. States want to encourage residents to start saving in a 529 plan as early as possible to take advantage of the tax-free compounding. Investments in a 529 plan grow on a tax-deferred basis, and distributions are tax-free when the funds are used to pay for qualified college or K-12 expenses.

What if your state doesn’t offer a matching grant?

Your state may offer other incentives, such as a state income tax deduction or credit for 529 plan contributions or an employer 529 plan match, that can help boost your college savings. However, a 529 plan grant or state income tax benefit should not be the only consideration when selecting a 529 plan. High fees and poor investment performance can diminish savings and outweigh the benefits of other incentives. Families should also carefully review the 529 plan to make sure it offers suitable investment options that will help them meet their college savings goals.

Another option to boost 529 plan savings is to sign up for a free Upromise account and use the Upromise Mastercard. Upromise members can earn around 3% - 7% cash bask on purchases from participating online retailers and 2.5% cash back from dining at participating restaurants. All purchases made with the Upromise Mastercard earn an additional 1.25% cash back, with the option to "Round Up" purchases to the nearest dollar to earn even more rewards. Cash back and Round Up rewards earn an additional 15% bonus when an eligible 529 plan is linked to the account.

States that offer 529 plan grants

State

Eligible 529 Plans

529 Plan Grant

Age Limits

Income Restrictions

California

ScholarShare 529

The ScholarShare 529 Matching Grant Program matches contributions dollar for dollar, up to $200; plus an additional $25 when enrolled in automatic contribution plan

Beneficiary must be 14 years or younger on December 31

Household annual AGI must be $75,000 or less

Colorado

CollegeInvest Direct Portfolio College Savings Plan

CollegeInvest Stable Value Plus College Savings Program

Smart Choice College Savings Plan

The CollegeInvest Matching Grant Program matches contributions up to $500 each year for up to 5 years.

Beneficiary must be 12 years old or younger at the time of the initial application

Household annual AGI must be 400% or less of the federal poverty guidelines based on family size

Connecticut

Connecticut Higher Education Trust (CHET)

Connecticut Higher Education Trust (CHET) -- Advisor Plan

CHET Baby Scholars provides 529 plan accounts with $100. If at least $150 in contributions are made before the child turns 4, there will be an additional $150 match.

Beneficiary must be 1 year old or younger, or have been adopted within 1 yea

None

Kansas

Learning Quest 529 Education Savings Program (Direct-Sold)

Learning Quest Advisor

The K.I.D.S. Matching Grant Program is based on eligible contributions during the previous year up to $600.

No

Household annual AGI must be less than 200% of the federal poverty guidelines based on family size

Louisiana

START Saving Program

The state matches up to 14% of contributions.

No

Yes, earnings enhancement rate is determined by household income

Maine

NextGen 529 -- Client Direct Series

NextGen 529 -- Client Select Series

Initial matching grant ($200); Alfond Grant ($500); Next Step Matching Grant (50% up to $300); Automated Funding Grant ($100)

No

No

Maryland

Maryland College Investment Plan

The Save4College State Contribution Program offers $250 or $500, depending on amount of 529 plan contribution and household taxable income

No

Yes, state contribution amount is determined by household taxable income

Nevada

SSgA Upromise

The Silver State Matching Grant Program matches contributions dollar-for-dollar, up to $300 per year, with a lifetime maximum of $1,500 over 5 years for a beneficiary

Beneficiary must be 13 or younger as of December 31 of the year the account owner first applies for the matching grant

Household adjusted gross income must not exceed $74,999

North Dakota

College SAVE

College SAVE (Advisor)

The BND Match program matches up to $300 in 529 plan contributions; the New Baby Match matches up to $200 in contributions

Beneficiary must be 15 years old or younger, for BND Match; 12 months or younger for New Baby Match

$0 - $80,000 (single filers)

$0 - $120,000 (married filing jointly)

Rhode Island

CollegeBound Saver (Direct-Sold)

CollegeBound 529 (Advisor-Sold)

CollegeBoundbaby offers a one-time $100 grant to every baby born in Rhode Island or adopted by Rhode Island residents

Must enroll before the child’s first birthday or within one year of adoption

No

Tennessee

TNStars College Savings 529 Program

The Tennessee Investments Preparing Scholars (TIPS) Program provides $100 for every $25 contributed, with a maximum $500 match per year for up to three years

Beneficiary must be less than 15 years old at the time of application

Household annual AGI must be less than 250% of the federal poverty guidelines based on family size

West Virginia

SMART529 WV Direct College Savings Plan

With the Bright Babies program, a $100 contribution is made to all new West Virginia SMART529 accounts

Must enroll before the child’s first birthday or within one year of adoption

No






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