DEAR SUN SPOTS: With all your resources available, could you find out if other states have a college fund such as our Alfond NextGen 529 Program here in Maine?  I have a 4-month-old grandchild in Tennessee and would like to get her signed up for this fund.

Thank you for providing so much more information than we individuals could ever find.  Kudos! — No name, no town

ANSWER: This writer is referring to Maine’s NextGen 529 Program where every baby born a Maine resident has a $500 Alfond Grant automatically invested for his or her future higher education expenses.

For those who need more information, Maine babies who have been awarded the Alfond Grant may use the grant to open a NextGen 529 account without the required initial contribution. If you open this account and make a contribution of $25 by Dec. 31, 2021, you’ll receive a $100 Initial Matching Grant. You can find more information at nextgenforme.com

Alfond Grants can be used at eligible higher education institutions, including all accredited post-secondary institutions that are eligible to participate in Ffderal student aid programs – public universities, private college, graduate schools and vocational schools — even some schools that are outside the United States. The funds do not need to be used for schools in just Maine.

Besides tuition, you can also use these funds to pay for qualified higher education expenses such as room and board (if enrolled at least half-time), books, supplies and computers.

Grandparents, be sure you know all the ins and outs before you open the plan yourself. It may be better to contribute to a parent-owned 529 plan, which reduces eligibility for need-based financial aid only up to 5.64 % of the net worth of the assets.

However, as a grandparent you can open an account and reap any state tax deductions for yourself. When it comes time to withdraw the money, you can transfer ownership to a parent. Be sure to check first with the financial company managing the 529 plan to confirm you can switch ownership and/or that there are no tax consequences in doing so.

So the great state of Tennessee does indeed have a College Savings 529 program. The Tennessee Department of Treasury offers the Tennessee Investments Preparing Scholars (TIPS) matching grant program.

When a qualifying family opens a TNStars account and enrolls a beneficiary in the TIPS program, the state will provide a 4-to-1 matching contribution to the beneficiary’s TNStars account; $100 for every $25 contributed by the account holder. Beneficiaries can receive a match of up to $500 per year, with a lifetime maximum match of $1,500.

There are two types of 529 plans and all states in the country offer their own plan. A great resource is the website policygenius.com. You will find a listing and description of each state’s plan.

Enjoy your grandchildren! They grow up so fast.

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