Many 529 Plans and States Offering Free Money for College on 529 Day

Posted By Monica Harvin on May 27, 2016 at 3:11 pm
Many 529 Plans and States Offering Free Money for College on 529 Day

This Sunday is 529 Day, celebrated each year on May 29th to spread awareness about the importance of saving for college. 529 Day is also an opportunity to get free money for college, with many 529 plans offering opportunities to win college savings sweepstakes or even matching your contribution when you open a new 529 plan.

In 2012, the GAO estimated that only 3% of families had a 529 college savings account. This number is on the rise in recent years, with 12.5 million active 529 accounts in the U.S. at the end of 2015, compared to 12.1 million accounts just one year earlier, according to the College Savings Plan Network.

What’s more, a recent study of Ascensus 529 accounts across 17 states found that approximately 62 percent of 529 contributions are $100 or less, which means most families with 529 plans are saving progressively and modestly, with an average account balance of $20,070. George DuCasse, senior vice president at Ascensus College Savings, tells GoodCall that the findings reveal families are “contributing what they can in order to lessen reliance on loans and avoid post-college debt.” This is welcome news at a time when higher education is more necessary than ever in the workforce and with student loan debt now surpassing $1.35 trillion.

For the millions of Americans still not saving for college or saving very little, 529 Day is a great opportunity to start saving as well as to get an extra boost in college savings. Here is this year’s breakdown of what 529 plans are offering up free money for college on 529 Day:

Contests and sweepstakes

Sweepstakes and contests with large college savings awards reign this 529 day. Here’s what some plans are offering for new and/or existing 529 plans.

Virginia residents who open an inVEST 529 account during the month of May will be entered to win a $1,000 contribution.

Missouri residents with a new or existing MOST 529 Plan account can enter to win a $5,290 contribution. Plus, ten others will each receive a $529 contribution to their account.

In Nebraska, residents can enter a variety of contests to win free money for college, from sharing a fun farm photo to win a chance at one of six $1,000 NEST College Savings Plan contributions to the chance to win one of four $5,000 contributions and more.

New York residents can enter for a chance to receive $500 for a new or existing New York’s 529 College Savings Program Direct Plan account.

In North Carolina, if you already have an NC 529 Account, you may be eligible to win one of three $529 plan contributions.

And, Ohio residents with a CollegeAdvantage Direct Plan can enter to win one of ten $529 college savings awards from the Ohio Tuition Trust Authority for 529 Day.

Giveaways offering college savings and special bonuses

Some plans are tossing in extras to make saving for college for more fun, combining chances to win contributions to 529 college savings with tickets to local attractions and events.

Kansas 529 plan provider Learning Quest is giving away a $1,529 contribution to a Learning Quest 529 Account and tickets to a Royals game, the opportunity to throw the first pitch of the game, and a behind-the-scenes tour of Kauffman Stadium. Kansas residents can enter for a chance to win here.

Each month, Oregon families can enter to win a household membership to the Oregon Zoo. At the end of the year, they’ll also be entered to win a $1,000 Oregon College Savings Plan account.

Also, don’t forget to check out the College Savings Plan Network’s interactive map to find out what’s going on in your state for 529 Day and more opportunities to get free money for college.

College savings for babies

Starting to save for college early is important and a big push this year on 529 Day. Many state plans are giving new parents the opportunity to start saving as soon as their baby is born. Here’s where new parents can cash in on free money for college for their bundles of joy:

Alabama parents with babies born this month can enter to win one of 31 $529 CollegeCounts savings accounts.

Parents and grandparents of Georgia babies born during 2015 can enter for a chance to win $5,529 towards a Path2College (Georgia) 529 Plan. Plus, the hospital where the baby will also get a $1,529 check.

Kentucky offers new parents the chance to win a $529 KESPT college savings account for babies born in the last 12 months. This offer actually occurs four times a year, with drawings held each quarter.

Parents and grandparents of 2016 newborns born in Oklahoma can enter to win $5,529 towards an Oklahoma College Savings Plan.

Connecticut newborns are in luck since they’re eligible for free money to start their college savings year-round, no contests needed thanks to the Connecticut Higher Education Trust (CHET) Baby Scholars Program. Parents of newborns or newly adopted children in Connecticut have within one year to open a CHET Baby Scholars account to receive up to $250 towards the child’s college savings.

Year-round in Maine, all newborns are automatically eligible for the $500 Harry Alfond grant for future education expenses, which they can link to a 529 plan. Plus, Maine residents have even more opportunities to earn money for college, from when they open a new Maine NextGen college savings account with $25 and receive an initial $200 matching grant and 50% of contribution matches of up to $300 annually to a $100 bonus for accounts that sign up for automatic contributions.

How to get free money for college year-round

529 plans in other states also offer opportunities to receive year-round matches as well as help for families to get started with college savings. According to the 529 plan comparison tool by College Savings Plans Network, there are 10 states that offer some sort of matching funds on at least one type of 529 offered in the state. The maximum match varies by state and plan, with many plans focusing on enhancing college savings for low- and middle-income families.

What’s more, in places like Massachusetts, Nevada, and San Francisco, kindergarteners in public schools receive a $50 contribution to kickstart their college savings. And, several lawmakers are proposing new ways to help boost college savings at the federal level.

In addition to saving for college, scholarships and grants are another great way to pay for college without going into debt. Check out GoodCall’s scholarship search engine to find thousands of scholarships to help you pay for college.

Monica Harvin
Monica is a GoodCall contributing editor, covering personal finance and education. She's also GoodCall's diversity expert, with a master's degree in Latin American studies from UCLA and bachelor's degree in history from the University of Florida.

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