State awarding college funds for newborns

It’s never too early to start planning for your children’s education. Which is why the state’s Path2College 529 Plan has officially kicked off its 2012 Newborn Sweepstakes, encouraging families to enter their newborns for a chance to win a prize that will put them on the path to a college education and a brighter future.

“A college education is becoming increasingly important in a number of fields, but unfortunately, college tuition continues to be on the rise, making it harder for families to afford,” said Mitch Seabaugh, Georgia’s deputy treasurer, who oversees the Path2College 529 Plan. “It’s never too early to begin saving for our children’s future education, and that’s why we are doing this sweepstakes — to help make new parents aware of their options and encourage them to start financial planning for their newborn.”

He said the 2012 sweepstakes will award one Georgia infant $5,529 toward his/her college savings. Parents and grandparents of Georgia babies born during 2012 may go to www.Path2College529.com, between Jan. 1 and April 14, 2013, to enter.

“Hospitals interested in becoming an official partner may contact the Path2College 529 Plan at (866) 529- 9529,” Seabaugh said. “Official hospital partners have the opportunity to win a $1,529 cash prize, if the winning newborn was born at their hospital.”

The Path2College 529 Plan is a state of Georgia program that helps families prepare for the future costs of college tuition and other qualified expenses, such as fees, books, and certain room-and-board costs for colleges in Georgia, and nationwide. According to the web site, the plan is easy to use and understand, with no sign-up, maintenance or third-party sales fees –– just a low annual asset-based management fee

An account can be opened online with as little as $25. Any earnings in the Path2College 529 Plan are tax-deferred, and withdrawals for qualified higher education expenses are income tax free, according to the web site.

In addition, added Seabaugh, Georgia offers a state income tax deduction on contributions of up to $2,000 per year, per beneficiary. “Your account assets can be used at virtually any college or university in the country,” he said. “The plan offers seven investment options, and participants can arrange for automatic contributions to their accounts to be drawn directly from a bank account, or made through payroll deduction with participating employers.”

He said Georgia’s program was recently rated “Above Average” by “Morningstar,” and it has maintained a 4.5-cap rating (on a 5-cap scale) from “SavingforCollege.com,” for more than eight years. The Path2College 529 Plan is managed by TIAA-CREF Tuition Financing, Inc., which is part of the TIAA-CREF group of companies.

Seabaugh said the plan had more than $1.1 billion in assets under management, and more than 129,000 accounts, as of April 2. To learn more about the 2012 Newborn Sweepstakes, register your newborn, or get more information about the plan, visit www.Path2College529.com.