Improving College Savings Plans

Earlier this week my colleague Rourke O'Brien and I had an op-ed on improving 529 college savings plans published in the Oregonian. In it, we argue that 529s are a promising saving vehicle for helping families of all incomes pay for college and get ahead, but they need to be reformed in order to work better particularly for low- and moderate-income families. The excerpt below describes some of the reforms we suggest:

"Some of the changes they should recommend include the federal government or states providing direct incentives for low- and middle-income families to invest in college savings plans by matching a portion of annual deposits. Thirteen states already do this or something similar to it. The federal government could also provide tax incentives for employers to encourage them to enroll their employees in 529s for their children and match contributions, similar to what many do for retirement today with 401(k) plans."

The Treasury Department also released a report this week with additional recommendations for reforming 529s and an emphasis on making sure more low- and moderate-income families are able to benefit from this important savings vehicle. For more information on improving and expanding 529s or the College Savings Initiative, please go to


David Newville is director of government affairs at the Corporation for Enterprise Development, where he oversees CFED's federal policy and advocacy work. He was previously a Senior Policy Advisor in the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Consumer Policy.