By Greg Dyer
Chief Compliance Officer for the Utah Educational Savings Plan (UESP)
September 21, 2015
In his 2015 State of the Union address, President Obama proposed eliminating one of the tax benefits of 529 plans. The proposal, however, was quickly withdrawn about a week later in the face of a groundswell of opposition.¹
The vocal grassroots effort opposing the president’s proposal revealed a strong base of popular support for 529 plans. CSPN recently published statistics showing that there were 12.33 million 529 accounts as of June 30, 2015—up from 11.83 million on June 30, 2014.²
While those numbers are encouraging, here are three thoughts about how 529 plans can reach even more Americans:
SPREAD THE WORD
While most parents want to save for their kids’ college, many may not know how best to do it. For example, I have a friend who set a goal to pay for the first year of college for each of her kids. When I asked her how she was saving that money, she told me she had it in a savings account at the bank.
Sadly, her story is far too common. 529 plans must continue their education and outreach efforts so that parents and grandparents know what a 529 account is and why they should be using one to save for college.
THE MIRACLE OF COMPOUND INTEREST
Many parents fear that the costs for college are so high as to be unattainable. Such reasoning ignores the miracle of compound interest, which allows even small amounts, saved regularly over time, to grow substantially.
For example, if a parent saves as little as $20 per month starting when a child is born, that parent would have accumulated $7,013 by the time that child is 18 years old (assuming a 5 percent compound annual rate of return). While not enough to cover four years at a university, it is a good start. More importantly, it can set a child’s expectations that college is possible—not just a dream.
THE POWER OF POSITIVE THINKING
Studies show that children with any college savings (even as little as $1) are three times more likely to attend college than children with no college savings account and four times more likely to graduate from college.³ This shows that college savings accounts are worth more to our children than simply the amount of the account balance. 529 accounts can give children hope and inspire them to get the education they need to realize their dreams.
Although the growth of college savings accounts has been exciting and impressive, we should not be satisfied. As parents and grandparents, we have “promises to keep”4 to our children and grandchildren. Our 529 accounts can help us do just that.
 “Building Expectations, Delivering Results: Asset-Based Financial Aid and the Future of Higher Education,” Lawrence: University of Kansas School of Social Welfare, Assets, and Education Initiative (AEDI), 2013.
 Robert Frost, “Stopping By Woods on A Snowy Evening” 14.
About the Author
Greg Dyer is the Chief Compliance Officer for the Utah Educational Savings Plan (UESP). UESP is Utah’s official 529 college savings plan, gold-rated by Morningstar. UESP offers multiple investment options, low fees, and requires no minimum contributions.
Read UESP’s Program Description for more information and consider all investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses before investing. Call 800.418.2551 for a copy of the Program Description or visit uesp.org.
Investments in UESP are not guaranteed by UESP, the Utah State Board of Regents, the Utah Higher Education Assistance Authority (UHEAA), or any other state or federal agency. However, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insurance is provided for the FDIC-insured savings account. Please read the Program Description to learn about the FDIC-insured savings account. Your investment could lose value.
Non-Utah taxpayers and residents: You should determine whether the state in which you or your beneficiary pays taxes or lives offers a 529 plan that provides state tax or other benefits not otherwise available to you by investing in UESP. You should consider such state tax treatment and benefits, if any, before investing in UESP.