Arkansas 529 College Investing Plan nears $1B in Assets

Education
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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (News release) – The Arkansas 529 College Investing Plan, administered by Treasurer of State Dennis Milligan, is nearing $1 billion in assets under management, Milligan announced to the Arkansas 529 College Investing Board earlier this month. 

The plan’s assets when Milligan took office in 2015 were $568 million. As of April 30, assets had grown to $905 million – nearly a 60 percent increase.

“When I first took office, the program had been around for about 20 years but it was dormant,” Milligan said. “I challenged my staff to create an awareness campaign about the program. We visited every county in the state and have spoken to countless people about the benefits of owning a 529 college-savings plan, and our work has paid off.” 

One of those benefits is the state tax deduction of up to $5,000 for individuals or $10,000 per married couple. In 2017, Milligan worked with the state legislature to pass additional tax incentives for people contributing to an Arkansas 529 plan – including giving businesses a tax break for matching employee contributions; allowing people to “roll over” their contributions for up to four years; and offering out-of-state account owners to take a tax deduction when they transfer their plan to an Arkansas plan upon moving to the Natural State. 

Milligan heard from the Arkansas 529 Board that the tax law changes in 2017 have made a significant difference in the growth of the plan. From January to April 30, the plan has seen assets increase by $74 million, or 12 percent. 

“I really applaud the consistent work that Treasurer Milligan has done with promoting the Arkansas 529 program since he stepped into office,” said Emma Willis, executive director of the Arkansas 529 College Investing Plan. “I think the tax incentives – especially the one that allows out-of-state owners to transfer their plan to Arkansas – has allowed us to be more competitive with other states’ 529 college-savings plans, resulting in a boost in growth of our assets.”

Not only are the Arkansas 529 plan’s assets growing, but the partnerships with which the program collaborates are coming together to form a one-stop resource for students exiting high school. 

The Treasurer of State’s office, along with the Arkansas 529 College Investing Plan, the Department of Higher Education and the Arkansas Student Loan Authority have formed a pilot program that will be an online resource for families in Arkansas to better save, plan for, and pay for college.

“We plan to offer a College Planning Center with dozens of calculators and tools that will give Arkansas families a well-rounded idea of the cost of things like financial aid, repayment of student loans, and the price one pays by delaying saving for higher education,” Milligan said. “Our partners will come aboard and offer their own tools for completing financial aid applications, applying for scholarships, and comparing tuition at various institutions.

“Our goal is for this to be the single resource that families in Arkansas will use in order to plan for their students’ education beyond high school,” Milligan said. 

The Treasurer’s office expects to have the pilot program available this fall.

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