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 the run up to College Savings Month in September, Nebraska’s NEST 529 College Savings Plan today released the results of its ‘2020 College Savings Survey’. The national survey identifies Americans’ habits and priorities as they navigate the college savings journey, with data to help better understand 529 plan usage, student loan debt and stimulus check decisions.

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, down from 57% in 2019. When asked about the upcoming school year, 42% said high school graduates should wait until college classes resume in person before enrolling in college.

“This data shows the college savings community how much work remains to be done in educating and spreading the news about 529 plans as an effective and affordable savings strategy,” said the Nebraska State Treasurer, Trustee of NEST 529. “This College Savings Month, as students embark on the next step of their educational journey, we are reminded that their bright futures in higher education are right around the corner. I am proud to work alongside NEST 529 to continually raise awareness and ensure that our Account Owners have continuous support in their preparations for college.”

Among the survey’s additional findings:

  • 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 using to pay for higher education include scholarships (30%), personal savings (30%), financial aid (27%), student or parent loans (23%), 529 college savings plans (17%).
  • Student Debt: 30% of Americans report their student loan debt is higher than their current credit card debt.
  • 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.

“After an unprecedented summer, which created new financial challenges for many American families, College Savings Month is an opportunity to look ahead with anticipation and determination,” said Deborah Goodkin Managing Director, Savings Plans, First National Bank of Omaha. “At NEST 529, we work year-round to ensure that families have the tools and support that they need to save for higher education, helping to inspire big dreams and peace of mind for parents and young learners alike.”

This survey is a follow-up to NEST 529’s 2019 College Savings Survey.

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 Bloomwell 529 Education 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 297,000 accounts, including over 97,000 Nebraskans. 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.

Investments Are Not FDIC Insured* · No Bank, State or Federal Guarantee · May Lose Value
*Except the Bank Savings Static Investment Option Underlying Investment
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