Local News

Troubled times for some college savers

Posted September 17, 2008 11:16 p.m. EDT
Updated September 18, 2008 9:52 a.m. EDT

— Instability on Wall Street is causing worry for some parents. Participants in North Carolina's 529 saving plan invest in the stock market in hopes of financial returns to help pay for school.

The plan, which rises and falls with the market, was appealing to Frank Laney.

"College educations are going up considerably,” he said.

When Laney's children were young, he set up a 529 plan to help with their higher education costs. However, his contributed money is not getting much of a return these days as the stock market takes a tumble.

"It is disheartening, I will admit,” Laney said.

"As all investments these days, it is a little rocky,” Shera Hube, vice president of marketing and savings at College Foundation, said.

College Foundation administers the state's 529 plan. Most state's have plans, and residents of any state can invest in any plan.

“Obviously, this past year would not be as rosy as past years might have been,” Hube said.

For the more conservative funds, there has been some year-to-date growth of around 3 percent. More aggressive funds have fallen nearly 21 percent.

That could be bad news for families about to send children to college.

"They need to think of it as a long-term investment,” Hube said. “They should be in good shape."

Fortunately, Laney's son has a few more years before college.

Laney said he expects the bad economic times to pass and remains a fan of the 529 plan.

"I believe in the long run, it will all work out and it will wind up being a real good investment,” he said.

Advantages to the 529 plan are state tax deductions if you invest in North Carolina's plan and being able to choose safer, diversified funds.

The number of accounts in North Carolina's 529 plan is up 50 percent over last year. Total assets are more than $417 million.