In addition to being National Chicken Month and National Library Card Sign Up Month, September is also College Savings Month. And for many states that means free money for residents towards college savings, typically via a 529 plan account. A 529 plan is a tax-advantaged college savings account sponsored by a state or institution.
Plus, October 1st is the earliest date you can file the FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. So if you are one of the 40% of Americans that have not yet started saving for a higher education – or if you want to give your savings a boost – this month brings with it opportunities.
States Offering Promotions
The College Savings Plans Network (CSPN), an affiliate to the National Association of State Treasurers (NAST), has compiled a list of all the promotions being run in states around the country to encourage Americans to save for a higher education. Typically this means additional media promotions or campaigns, but fourteen states are offering contribution matches or raffles for free money that will be contributed to a 529 account for the winner(s). Over 30 states are providing additional education on college savings or expansions of programs for state constituents as part of College Savings Month.
Note that states with “informational” promotions are hosting educational events, webinars, releasing research, or similar services to residents and plan stakeholders.
AL – (promo site) – Informational
AK – (promo site) – $529 contribution giveaways (random)
AZ – (site) – Informational
AR – No promotions
CA – (site) – $100 match on $1,000 account opening in Scholarshare
CO – No promotions
CT – (site) -$50 match on $500 account opening in CHET
DE – (site) – Informational
FL – (site) – $50 into a Savings account, Prepaid application fee waived (Starting 9/16)
GA – (site) – $1,529 contribution giveaways (random)
HI – No promotions
ID – (site) – Free $25 for first 100 accounts opened in Sept.
IL – (site) – Informational
IN – No promotions
IA – (site) – $1,000 contribution giveaway (random)
KS – No promotions
KY – No promotions
LA – (site) – Informational
ME – No promotions
MD – (site) – Informational
MA – (site) – Informational; program expansions
MI – (site) – Free $50 on $500 for new OR existing account owners
MN – No promotions
MS – No promotions
MO – No promotions
MT – No promotions
NE – (site) – Bonus $100 for first 300 accounts opened after 9/10 with over $100
NV – (site) – $529 contribution giveaways (random)
NH – (site) – Informational
NJ – No promotions
NM – No promotions
NY – (site) – Informational
NC – (site) – A raffle, but in some cases the raffle costs more than the match
ND – No promotions
OH – (site) – Informational
OK – (site) – $5,529 contribution giveaway AND $5,529 for their school (random)
OR – (site) – $100 contribution giveaways (random)
PA – (site) – Informational
RI – No promotions
SC – No promotions
SD – No promotions
TN – (site) – $529 contribution giveaways (random)
TX – (site) – Informational
UT – (site) – $1,000 contribution giveaways (random)
VT – (site) – $1,00 contribution giveaways (random)
VA – (site) – Informational
WA – (site) – Informational
WV – No promotions
WI – (site) – Informational
WY – No promotions
Source: College Savings Plans Network
Several states and cities are also expanding their college savings incentive programs, as well. Boston is funding a savings account with $50 for every kindergartener enrolled in a Boston Public School as part of the Boston Saves program. Boston Public Schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius said of the program, “”Every child deserves to hear the message ‘We believe in you and you can do anything’ from the first minute they walk through our school doors.”
Oregon started its new program, “Kinder Grad,” which makes an automatic $25 contribution for Oregon residents that open and fund an Oregon College Savings Plan account. Executive director for the Oregon Savings Network Michael Parker stated, “…we’ve found that even a small $25 incentive may be just the nudge families need to start saving for higher education.”
File The FAFSA Early Or Miss Out On Free Money
Students can file the FAFSA for the next academic year as early as October 1 of the current year. Financial aid can run out. That’s why it’s so important to get ready to file the FAFSA for the 2020-21 academic year if you have a rising or enrolled college student. For most parents it can seem a lifetime away when their child has just entered the current school year, but filing early is important.
There is a fixed amount of Federal Perkins Loans, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, and Federal Work-Study money available. These are need-based aid programs, so the sooner qualified applicants apply the more likely funds will be available for them.
Consider also the Federal Work-Study program: Just because a student is awarded funds does not guarantee them a job. This means that the student still must find and apply for a job in order to get the funds they’ve been allocated. Applying early leaves more time to search for and apply for jobs that may be coveted by other students.
Finally, if that were not enough of an incentive to file early, most states have deadlines that precede the federal deadline. This means that you could file the FAFSA in June of 2020 only to find that the state has a March deadline – or earlier! – for state aid. The institutions, as well, can have deadlines that are much earlier than federal deadlines, and their own aid programs that are granted on a first-come, first-served basis.