Hawaii - Saving For College Report

We discuss the tax benefits, trends, do's and don'ts and various plan options of setting up a 529 college savings plan in Hawaii

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As parents, grandparents and students we know college is coming and that we're somehow going to have to pay for it someday. Fortunately we have many options available to us including savings bonds, the stock market and 529 plans. Starting a 529 account now is always the best option, no matter how old you (or your child) is. While playing the stock market may yield higher returns on your investment, placing your money into a 529 plan allows it to grow in a tax free environment. One study even found that when the federal tax benefits were taken into consideration, 529 plans outperformed their benchmarks in every category.

Hawaii has it's own state-operated 529 plan called Hawaii's College Savings Program. It is important to note that your child does not have to go to a HI college or university in order to use this savings account. 529 plan funds can be used at any accredited college or university across the nation, including some K-12 private schools!

Hawaii College Costs & Trends

Colleges and universities across the United States experienced increased operating costs of 2.5% in 2019. This most recent inflation figure was down slightly from the 2.9 percent increase in 2018 and 3.4 percent increase in 2017. These costs are forwarded directly to students in the form of higher tuition and living expenses. As these costs steadily rise every year, parents are looking for ways to help offset these future higher education costs.

These rising costs are hitting closer to home in Hawaii as well. Hawaii's' higher education costs rose by 80% in just the last 10 years, ranking as the 3rd highest state.

The table below shows the average one-year costs in 2020 for different types of HI colleges and universities.

OwnershipDegreeSchoolsPublic Out-of-State TuitionPublic In-State TuitionMedian DebtTotal Annual In-State Cost
Public 4 year 4 $20,772 $7,500 $17,499 $12,186
Public 2 year 6 $8,220 $3,084 $9,629 $7,692
Private 4 year 9 $24,532 $24,532 $23,807 $24,751
Private 2 year 6 $0 $0 $7,167 $20,680

These costs rise every year. Rising tuition is a major driver in these increased higher education costs. Tuition at a 4-year university in HI rose 13% (ranked 37th worst in the US), while a 2-year or trade school increased their tuition by 15 percent.

529 Tax Benefits for Hawaii Residents

Unfortunately Hawaii does not offer any tax benefits for socking away funds in a 529 account for your child. Thankfully, HI residents can open an account in any other state that lets them.

Best 529 Plans in Hawaii

Hawaii offers a 529 college savings plan managed by Ascensus College Savings, featuring Vanguard funds in its age-based and static investment options.

State Plan Name:Hawaii's College Savings Program
Minimum Contribution:$15
Maximum Contribution:up to $305,000 across accounts per beneficiary
Fees:There’s a 0.75% asset management fee, a $10 account maintenance fee for $10 for Hawaii residents and a $20 annual account maintenance fee for non-residents.

Hawaii 529 Plan Statistics

There are 4,637 registered in Hawaii with a total value of $86,021,047. That is an average of $18,551 per account. Unfortunately 529 plans are not widely used... a 2018 study by Edward Jones found that only 29 percent of Americans were even aware that 529 savings plans exist!

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