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Your Questions Answered

Get answers to frequently asked questions about NextGen.

What is NextGen?+

NextGen is Maine’s Section 529 plan. 529 plans are designed to help families prepare for college. Any earnings in a Section 529 plan are tax-free¹, when used to pay for qualified higher education expenses.

Who can open a NextGen account?+

Anyone who resides in the United States age 18 or older with a valid Social Security Number or U.S. taxpayer identification number can open a NextGen account. There are no income restrictions.

Parents, grandparents and even family friends can open an account, no matter their income or  age of the student. You also can open an account to invest for your own higher education expenses.

Who is the account owner and who is the designated beneficiary? +

The account owner (also sometimes called the Participant) is the person who opens and retains control of the account. Often, a parent is the account owner, but a grandparent – and even a family friend – can open a NextGen account and be the account owner.

The designated beneficiary is the student on whose behalf the account has been opened. The designated beneficiary may be of any age, with a valid Social Security Number or Taxpayer Identification Number.

An account owner may open accounts for multiple beneficiaries, and a student may be the beneficiary of more than one account.

An adult can also open an account for themselves to invest for their own higher education expenses.

Does it have to be a parent who opens a NextGen account on behalf of their child?+

No, often a parent is the account owner, but grandparents and even family friends, can open a NextGen account and be the account owner.

Where and what can NextGen account funds be used for?1+

NextGen account funds can be used for qualified expenses at eligible higher education institutions. Eligible higher education institutions include all accredited post-secondary institutions that are eligible to participate in federal financial aid programs. This broad list includes public universities, private colleges, graduate schools and vocational schools.

For more information on schools that are eligible to participate, visit the Federal Student Aid Website — www.fafsa.ed.gov — and enter the names of schools your child might attend. Eligible schools will have been assigned a federal school code. Even some foreign institutions of higher learning qualify. NextGen account funds may be used at any post-secondary school with a federal school code.

Qualified expenses generally include the big-ticket items such as college tuition and room and board, as well as books and supplies. The beneficiary must be attending an accredited institution at least half-time for room and board to be considered an eligible expense.1

What are the tax benefits of the NextGen College Investing Plan and other 529 plans?+

Any earnings have the opportunity to grow free from federal (and possibly state) income tax. Withdrawals, including any earnings, are federal tax-free when withdrawn to pay for qualified higher education expenses.1 Contributions are not deductible for federal income tax purposes. These tax benefits can help maximize your contributions to your 529 account.

In addition, a contribution to a 529 plan account is treated as a completed gift from the donor to the designated beneficiary of the account and qualifies for the annual federal gift tax exclusion ($15,000).  This affords a unique opportunity in which you can remove assets from your taxable estate while contributing to an account that you control.  You may also be able to take advantage of a federal gift tax election that applies only to 529 plan contributions.  This election allows you to make a lump-sum contribution up to five times the annual exclusion amount ($75,000) per beneficiary in one year and elect to treat the contribution as if it was made ratably over five years avoiding federal gift tax liability, as long as you make no other gifts to the same beneficiary for the next five years.  A married couple filing jointly generally can gift up to $150,000.  This gifting strategy may be an attractive option for grandparents wishing to help fund college for one or more grandchildren.²

How do I contribute to a NextGen account?+

Contributions can be made online, by check or by transferring or rolling over funds from another account. Make it easy by setting up automatic contributions from your checking or savings account, or using payroll deduction.

Learn more about making contributions.

What are the minimum and maximum plan contributions?+

The minimum amount required to open an account is $25. However, if you choose to fund your NextGen account through automated contributions from a checking or savings account or through payroll deduction (contributions of as little as $25 a month) an initial contribution is not required to open your account.

If you are a Maine Resident, you may open your account with $25 and receive a $200 Initial Matching Grant (if eligible), OR if your child qualifies for the $500 Alfond Grant, no initial contribution is necessary. Learn more about Grants for Maine Residents.

NextGen’s maximum contribution limit is generous – $475,000 per all accounts for the same beneficiary.

How is my money invested?+

With NextGen, you may choose from many investment options designed with your college savings goals in mind. There are age-based options that will automatically re-allocate as your child grows, as well as diversified and single fund portfolios. The Principal Plus or NextGen Savings Portfolios are also available and may be a great choice to consider if you have low risk tolerance or your child is near college-age.

NextGen does not guarantee your investment or any specific rate of return. The value of your account may increase or decrease, based on the investment performance of the investment(s) which you select.

How do assets in a 529 plan account impact financial aid for college?+

A family’s income (not savings or assets) is the primary factor in determining federal financial aid eligibility. The federal financial aid eligibility formula includes an Education Savings and Asset Protection Allowance that excludes a portion of the assets that are counted (primary residence and retirement accounts are already excluded). Only “countable” assets (including 529 plan assets) that exceed the allowance have ANY impact – and currently not more than 5.64%.

For some families, college savings won’t reduce financial aid at all.

Any savings that a student uses to pay for college are helpful because they can reduce reliance on loans, which must be repaid with interest.3

What if my child doesn’t go to college?+

In the event your child does not choose college, you can:

  1. Leave it invested! The assets can stay in the account where they continue to have the opportunity to grow tax-deferred until your child decides to attend college in the future.  There is currently no time limit on when funds must be withdrawn.
  2. You could change the beneficiary of the account to a sibling (or other qualifying family member – see below), for instance, to pay for that child’s college costs. You could even change the beneficiary to yourself and pursue your own higher education!4
  3. Take the money back. However, if you take a non-qualified withdrawal, the earnings portion of the withdrawal, if any, will be subject to ordinary income tax and an additional 10% tax, and may also be subject to state and local income taxes. The additional 10% tax does not apply under the following conditions:
  • If the beneficiary receives a scholarship, you can withdraw up to the amount of the scholarship from your account.
  • If the beneficiary becomes disabled.
  • If the beneficiary dies and the withdrawal is paid to the beneficiary’s estate.

Who is considered a qualifying family member?

A qualifying family member of the current beneficiary includes the beneficiary’s sons and the:

  • Son, daughter, stepchild, foster child, adopted child;
  • Brother, sister, stepbrother, or stepsister;
  • Father or mother or ancestor of either;
  • Stepfather or stepmother;
  • Son or daughter of a brother or sister;
  • Brother or sister of father or mother;
  • Son-in-law, daughter-in-law, father-in-law, mother-in-law, brother-in-law, or sister-in-law;
  • The spouse of any individual listed above;
  • First cousin.
What if my child gets scholarships that leave me with little or no cost for college?+

If your child is fortunate enough to receive scholarships, that’s cause for celebration!

Remember, though, that you will probably still have qualifying college expenses to pay — such as room and board, required fees, books or supplies.1 The beneficiary must be attending an accredited institution at least half-time for room and board to be considered a qualified expense.

You could also choose to keep any remaining funds in the 529 account to cover your beneficiary’s expenses for graduate school or you could change the beneficiary on the account to another family member.4

You also have the option of withdrawing funds from your account for the amount of the scholarship without being subject to the 10% additional tax. You would, however, be required to pay federal and applicable state income tax on the earnings portion of the withdrawn amount.

Can my child access funds in the account?+

No. As the NextGen College Investing Plan account owner, you retain control of the account. Only you can instruct how and when withdrawals are made from the account.

Can I transfer funds from a Uniform Gift/Transfer to Minors Account (UGMA/UTMA) custodial account into a NextGen account?+

Yes. But, because securities cannot be contributed to a NextGen account, you must first liquidate any securities in the UGMA/UTMA account and invest the cash into your NextGen account. In addition, you will have to report any gains/losses incurred from liquidating the custodial accounts on your personal tax return. You should discuss any financial transactions with your professional tax advisor. The good news is that once the custodial assets are deposited into a NextGen account, you have the opportunity to benefit from the advantages of NextGen and eliminate any need to file an annual tax return for the UGMA/UTMA assets held in the NextGen account.

Can I contribute to both a Coverdell Education Savings account (Education IRA) and a 529 plan such as NextGen in the same year?+

Yes. Currently you can contribute to both a Section 529 account and a Coverdell ESA in the same year for the same beneficiary.

Can funds be transferred into a NextGen account from a Coverdell account or another state's 529 plan?+

Yes. Currently, you are permitted one rollover per 12 month period from a Coverdell or other Section 529 plan without having to change the beneficiary.

Can I still benefit from American Opportunity tax credits (Hope Scholarship tax credits) and/or Lifetime Learning credits if I contribute to a NextGen account?+

Yes. Contributing to a NextGen account will not affect your eligibility to receive these credits. However, you must meet the federal income requirements for these credits. Visit the Internal Revenue Service website at www.irs.gov, and consult your tax advisor for more information on the American Opportunity and Lifetime Learning credits.

Would I be better off investing in the 529 plan sponsored by my own state?+

Maybe. Each state offers its own features to the general population and/or to its own residents. Compare plans and find out what is truly right for you and your beneficiary.

Visit collegesavings.org or savingforcollege.com to do a comparison of various state Section 529 plans across the country.

Important Notice:

  1. To be eligible for favorable tax treatment afforded to any earnings portion of withdrawals from Section 529 accounts, such withdrawals must be used for “qualified higher education expenses,” as defined in the Internal Revenue Code. Any earnings withdrawn that are not used for such expenses are subject to federal income tax and may be subject to a 10% additional federal tax as well as state and local income taxes.
  2. If you make the five-year election to prorate a lump-sum contribution that exceeds the annual federal gift tax exclusion amount and you die before the end of the five-year period, the amounts allocated to the years after your death will be included in your gross estate for tax purposes.  Please consult your tax and/or legal advisor for specific guidance before making investment decisions that could affect your taxes or estate or Medicaid planning needs.
  3. This is based on interpretation of current federal financial aid rules. Financial aid rules may change, and the rules in effect at the time the beneficiary applies may be different. Distributions from Section 529 accounts owned by a party other than the parent or the student may be treated differently when calculating the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). For more complete information, please go to the Department of Education’s website at www.ed.gov.
  4. Some restrictions apply. You generally are permitted to change the beneficiary to another qualified member of the family, as defined under the Internal Revenue Code, without triggering income tax and 10% additional federal tax. Not applicable for accounts opened under a Uniform Gifts/Transfers to Minors Act registration.