New Ohio CollegeAdvantage leader sets goals for awareness, maps changes ahead

New Ohio CollegeAdvantage leader sets goals for awareness, maps changes ahead

Ohio CollegeAdvantage Executive Director Trisha Good

For an organization that manages nearly $16 billion in assets – serving about 673,000 accounts – you’d think leaders of Ohio’s 529 plan, College Advantage, might be satisfied with their efforts to educate and empower families with an eye on a college education.

Not so.

The organization’s new executive director, Trisha Good – named to that post in late June – and her team have been pounding the proverbial pavement since her appointment, even spending 12 days at the Ohio State Fair in late July through early August.

“We’re not satisfied. We want to fill our leaky bucket,” says Good, a longtime chief financial officer and chief investment officer now leading an organization nearing its 35th birthday. “We are a generational organization, and we want to continue growing our accounts and contributions to help people avoid student loan debt. As beneficiaries reach college age, we seek to identify the next group.”

Good, who has been with the Ohio Tuition Trust Authority — the state agency that administers Ohio’s 529 plan — for 25 years, detailed several goals for the organization in the coming weeks and months. They include continuing to provide quality investment options that are diverse, the latter being especially important during volatile economic conditions; increasing awareness by visiting fairs, libraries, college Homecoming events and sweepstakes with professional sports teams such as the Bengals and Guardians; and planning for the impending change caused by Secure Act 2.0, legislation that allows 529 account holders to transfer up to a lifetime limit of $35,000 to a Roth IRA for a beneficiary.

Starting in 2024, that legislation allows distributions from 529 accounts to give the same beneficiaries a retirement boost, by converting tax- and penalty-free to a Roth IRA owned by the 529 beneficiary for at least 15 years. The change, advocates say, eases concerns over what happens to 529 contributions if the beneficiary decides not to go to college, or financial aid renders the savings unnecessary.

“We’re spending a lot of time figuring operational procedures for that change, which is a welcome – and significant — one,” Good says.

She says she and her team, through all the touchpoints they’re making in communities statewide – over an elephant ear at the fair, perhaps – are touting the plan’s many benefits to those familiar and less so. Contributions are tax free, of course, but many are unaware that the tax deduction for Ohio residents isn’t just for account owners – but for all contributors, like a grandparent, uncle or aunt. The organization has tools that illustrate the benefits of saving now versus later, and inform those interested that only a small portion of contributions are factored into financial aid considerations.

“Borrowers have $1.7 trillion in student loan debt this year,” Good says. “Our goal is to make more people aware of tools they can use to limit that impact in the future.”

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