Solid investments

Portland State University students financing their college education through the Oregon College Savings Program can be assured their money support program rests on solid financial ground.

State Treasurer Randall Edwards reported to the state Legislature this week that the Oregon 529 College Savings Program has achieved such a high level of success and participation that it no longer needs financial support from state funds.

At the same time, Edwards said he plans to give back to the state about $90,000 of operating expenses and will not ask for future taxpayer dollars to run the program.

“The program has grown rapidly since its launch in January 2001,” he said. “Not only in terms of assets and accounts but also in the number of private-sector partners and the variety of investment options that are now available.” He listed two college savings plans and more than 30 different investment options to meet college savings needs.

In less than two years, Edwards said, the program has grown to $71 million and 20,000 accounts. Originally the accounts were serviced by one investment manager, now it requires three.

Although present-day students may already be reaping benefits under investments made by their parents or other donors, the operators of the program suggest it’s never too early to think about the future. Present-day students may have younger brothers or sisters who could benefit. Students who are parents may want to start thinking about starting a college program for their growing children.

Accounts in the program may be opened for as little as $25 a month.

Sam Collie, executive director of the Office of Admissions/Records/Financial Aid, said, “To my knowledge, there is no representative at PSU for the Oregon College Savings Plan.”

Operators of the plan suggest starting with a toll-free phone call to 1-866-772-8464. The Web site is

Oregon College Savings is administered by the state treasurer. Oregon 529 provides tax advantages, which include a state tax deduction on contributions up to $2,000 each year, plus state and federal tax-free growth and tax-free withdrawals.

Money saved may be used for a variety of educational needs, including tuition, fees, books, and room and board at any eligible institution. That can include a college, a university, or a professional or vocational institution.

The program is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. There are two main sets of options to choose from: the lifestyle options and the years-to-college option. In the lifestyle options, the investor can choose from six portfolios: aggressive, moderate, conservative, balanced, in college, and broad equity market.

The years-to-college option places contributions in the appropriate portfolio for the beneficiary’s time horizon. There is an automatic adjustment as the time for enrollment approaches.

Investments are made through Strong and First American Funds. The portfolios all operate on open book. A person may view daily prices and quarterly performance for all the portfolios through the Web site.

The site contains handy worksheets for figuring the investment desired. There are a variety of articles on financial preparation for a college education.

There is also information on which states have the best buys in college education. A nonpartisan study released last December gave the nod to California, Illinois, Minnesota, North Carolina and Utah as the five most affordable states. Mississippi has the cheapest community colleges. Vermont has the most expensive public four-year colleges.