Nebraska State Treasurer Don Stenberg urged northeast Nebraska families to begin saving for their children’s education through the Nebraska Educational Savings Trust, a state-sponsored 529 college savings program.
In remarks prepared for delivery at NESTFest in Norfolk, Treasurer Stenberg said the Nebraska Educational Savings Trust, known as NEST, offers four unique plans that make saving for college simple and affordable for Nebraskans as well as families across the United States. State-sponsored 529 plans take their name from Section 529 of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code.
“We have one of the best college savings programs in the country right here in Nebraska,” Treasurer Stenberg said. “That’s why more than 53,000 Nebraska families and more than 190,000 families nationwide are saving for college with NEST plans.”
Today’s NESTFest festivities at Sunset Plaza parking lot in Norfolk are hosted by First National Bank and Trust of Norfolk. Other guests expected to attend NESTFest are Norfolk Mayor Sue Fuchtman; Sen. Mike Flood of Norfolk, Speaker of the Legislature; and Deborah Goodkin, managing director of College Savings Plans, First National Bank of Omaha.
NESTFest activities include musical entertainment, dance performances, and a magic show. Similar festivities are also going on today in Gothenburg and Scottsbluff and Oct. 13 in Grand Island. This is the second year for NESTFest, which is sponsored by First National Bank of Omaha, the program manager of the Nebraska Educational Savings Trust. The State Treasurer is Trustee of NEST.
“College savings plans like NEST help our children and grandchildren go to the college of their choice, whether that is a four-year college, a community college, or a technical school, either in Nebraska or another state,” Treasurer Stenberg said.
“There are also tax advantages for Nebraska taxpayers. An account owner—either single or a married couple—who contributes to a NEST plan and files Nebraska state income tax can deduct up to $5,000 of contributions per year or $2,500 per year if married filing separately. In addition, earnings on a NEST account are exempt from federal and Nebraska state income taxes if the account is used for qualified education expenses,” the Treasurer said.
Stenberg said Nebraska’s college savings program was strengthened recently with the addition of a low-cost investment option that is not subject to stock market fluctuation.
“The Bank Savings Investment Option is FDIC insured and is an attractive choice for families seeking stability of principal, low risk, and locked-in earnings. The option is particularly attractive for families with children near college age. It’s a conservative, safe way to save for college,” Stenberg said.
The Treasurer said he is proud of Nebraska’s college savings program, citing national recognition the program has received in the last year.
“For example, NEST was recognized by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine as the ‘Best 529 Plan for Fund Selection.’ And two of our NEST plans—NEST Direct and NEST Advisor—recently received the highest rating possible from savingforcollege.com, a popular, highly regarded website,” the Treasurer said.
In his prepared remarks, the Treasurer also urged families attending NESTFest to take advantage of scholarship opportunities offered throughout the year by NEST.
“We offer essay contests like ‘NEST on the Farm’ for children from farm families and art contests like ‘Draw Your Dreams’ for aspiring artists,” Stenberg said. “And in the spring we have a writing contest for seventh and eighth graders on ‘Why I Want to Go to College.’”
Winning entries in these contests receive contributions to NEST accounts. In the last year, the NEST team—including First National Bank and the Treasurer’s Office—gave more than $102,000 in NEST scholarships for children from first through eighth grade and in bonuses to families establishing new accounts. Of that total, more than $96,000 went to Nebraska children and families. NEST is also offering a $50 bonus for new accounts through November 13.