New Study: 71% Of Americans Have Never Contributed to a 529 Plan
‘National 2020 College Savings Survey’ Released by Nebraska’s NEST 529 College Savings Plan

In recognition of National 529 College Savings Day (5/29), Nebraska’s NEST 529 College Savings Plan released the results of its ‘2020 College Savings Survey’. The national survey covered an array of topics to better understand Americans’ behaviors, attitudes and priorities as they relate to college savings and higher education.

According to the survey, 71% of Americans report they have never contributed to either their own or a friend/family member’s 529 plan - and 52% of Americans report they are unfamiliar with 529 plans. When asked about debt, 30% of respondents report their student loan debt is higher than their current credit card debt.

“Higher education is a critical step on the path to future success, so it is imperative that families plan for the high costs associated with opening these doors,” said Nebraska State Treasurer John Murante, Trustee of NEST 529. “National 529 Day is an opportunity to raise awareness for one of the best resources in the college savings space – 529 college savings plans. It is my hope that families across our nation continuously engage in these important conversations and take advantage of all the resources available to help them pave the path towards achieving a debt free future.”

Among the survey’s additional findings:

  • COVID-19 and College: 42% of respondents think high school graduates should wait until college classes resume in person before enrolling in college.
  • Stimulus Check Contributions: One quarter of Americans report that they have or plan to put stimulus check funds towards college savings.
  • Adult Education: 46% of adults report they have pursued continuing education as an adult and an additional 19% report that they plan to.
  • Footing the Tuition Bill: Over half (54%) of Americans think college should be paid for by a combination of both the parent and child, whereas one quarter (25%) think higher education should be paid solely by the parent.The most common methods that respondents are paying for higher education include scholarships (30%), personal savings (30%), financial aid (27%), student or parent loans (23%), 529 college savings plans (17%).
  • Retirement Savings: 47% of Americans report it is difficult to balance saving for retirement with saving for higher education.
  • Parenting Habits: One third of Americans currently or plan to give their child an allowance, and 35% of current parents feel their child is receiving an adequate financial literacy education.

This survey is a follow-up to NEST 529’s 2019 College Savings Survey, which found 57% of Americans were unfamiliar with 529 plans. 

The study was conducted online using Survey Monkey. One thousand participants were polled, spanning across the United States. The demographic of those polled represented a broad range in generation, geographic location, and gender.

About NEST 529

NEST 529 is a tax-advantaged 529 college savings plan and provides four plans to help make saving for college simple and affordable: NEST Direct College Savings Plan, the NEST Advisor College Savings Plan, the TD Ameritrade 529 College Savings Plan, and the State Farm 529 Savings Plan. The Nebraska State Treasurer serves as Program Trustee. Union Bank & Trust Company serves as Program Manager, and all investments are approved by the Nebraska Investment Council. Families nationwide are saving for college using Nebraska’s 529 College Savings Plans, which have more than 285,000 accounts, including over 94,000 in Nebraska. Visit and for more information.

About First National Bank of Omaha

First National Bank of Omaha is a subsidiary of First National of Nebraska. First National of Nebraska and its affiliates have more than $23 billion in assets and 5,000 employee associates. Primary banking offices are located in Nebraska, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota and Texas.

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  • Charles Isom
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