ScholarShare 529 College Savings Plan

Plan Details & Information

If you’re looking to take a deeper dive into the ScholarShare College Savings Plan, this section includes just about everything from how the plan works to what you can do with it.

Thank you for considering the ScholarShare College Savings Plan.

It’s never too early to prepare your child or grandchild for a successful future. No matter what their age — with the rising cost of tuition — the time to start is now.

ScholarShare is a state-sponsored, tax-advantaged 529 college savings plan that’s helping families and individuals plan for the cost of higher education. It’s available to any citizen or tax payer. And just about anyone can help contribute including Grandparents, other family members and friends.

It only takes about 15 minutes to open an account online and it is easy to manage. There are a variety of low-cost investment portfolios to choose from including age-based, multi-fund, single-fund and guaranteed options.

A 529 college savings plan helps you save more over time. Any earnings grow free from federal tax, and many states offer a state income tax deduction or tax credit for contributions. Limitations apply. See the Disclosure Booklet for details. As a 529 Plan, ScholarShare also offers certain gift and estate tax planning benefits; consult your tax advisor. And withdrawals are tax-free at both the federal and state level when used for qualified higher education expenses.

You can use the funds for a lot more than just tuition — including required fees, certain room and board costs, books, supplies, as well as computers and related technology costs such as Internet access fees and printers. Additional equipment required for attendance may also qualify. Funds can be used at most accredited colleges and universities in the United States — even certain colleges abroad.

If you’re worried about having the account in one state and attending school in another, don’t be. With most plans, your school choice is not affected by the state of your savings plan. You can be a resident of California, and send your student to college in North Carolina.

This section provides a summary of information about ScholarShare, but it’s important you read the full Disclosure Booklet for more detailed information.

About the Plan

To contact the plan:


Monday - Friday
8:00AM to 7:00PM PT
ScholarShare College Savings Plan
PO Box 55205
Boston, MA 02205-5205
ScholarShare College Savings Plan
30 Dan Road
Canton, MA 02021

Plan Management

ScholarShare was created by the State of California as a tax-advantaged way to help families save for the cost of higher education. ScholarShare is administered by the ScholarShare Investment Board, a Board of the State Treasurer’s Office.

SIB has engaged as ScholarShare Plan Manager, TIAA-CREF Tuition Financing Incorporated (“TFI”). TFI is a wholly owned subsidiary of TIAA, a leading financial services organization, with nearly 100 years of experience, and one of the world’s largest pension systems, based on assets under management.

Account Ownership & Beneficiary Eligibility

If you’re a U.S. citizen or resident with a valid Social Security number or taxpayer ID number, and you’re least 18 years of age, you’re eligible to open an account. Individuals opening an account may also designate a person to be the successor Account Owner in the event of their death.

Additionally, certain types of entities with a valid taxpayer ID number such as a trust, an estate, or a corporation may also open an account*.

*Additional restrictions may apply, please refer to the Disclosure Booklet for details

The beneficiary is the future student. The beneficiary can be anyone with a valid Social Security or taxpayer identification number. Typically this would be your child, your grandchild, or yourself. You do not need to be related to the beneficiary, but there may only be one beneficiary per account. The only exceptions to this are entities establishing this as a general scholarship account.


Minimum Contributions & Maximum Account Balance

You can open an account with as little as $25 dollars per investment portfolio, or $15 dollars per pay period through payroll deduction.

Your maximum account balance per beneficiary for ScholarShare is $475,000. Any contribution beyond this amount would be returned to you. In the event your account reaches this amount, it may continue to accrue earnings/interest, though further contributions would be returned and not applied.

How to Make Contributions*

One of the best aspects of ScholarShare is that it’s easy to make contributions. There are many ways to add to the fund including:

  • A one-time electronic funds transfer
  • Recurring automatic fund transfer from a checking or savings account
  • Automatic payroll deduction
  • Contribute directly from your California Franchise Tax Board Refund
  • Rollover from another state’s 529 plan**
  • Proceeds from a Coverdell Education Savings Account**
  • Personal check, bank draft, cashier or teller’s check mailed to:
Standard Delivery Overnight Delivery Only
ScholarShare College Savings Plan
PO Box 55205
Boston, MA 02205-5205
ScholarShare College Savings Plan
30 Dan Road
Canton, MA 02021
The ScholarShare College Savings Plan cannot accept cash contributions, starter checks, traveler’s checks, credit cards, convenience checks and some other forms of payment.

ScholarShare College Savings Plan
PO Box 55205
Boston, MA 02205-5205


ScholarShare College Savings Plan
30 Dan Road
Canton, MA 02021

The ScholarShare College Savings Plan cannot accept cash contributions, starter checks, traveler’s checks, credit cards, convenience checks and some other forms of payment.

*Please note, per the Plan Disclosure Booklet, you will be restricted on the withdrawal of a new contribution for 10 days after receipt of that contribution by the Plan. Also, if you make a change to your mailing address or to your banking information on file, or if you transfer the Account to a new Participant, Account withdrawals will be restricted for 30 days after the Plan has received the request form, unless a medallion signature guarantee is provided on the appropriate Plan form.

**Be sure to consult with a qualified advisor regarding the possible legal and tax consequences associated with such changes.


Only the account owner may make a withdrawal. You can request a withdrawal by mail, by phone, or from the plan’s website. Withdrawals may be made individually or systematically. You can pay the institution, send it directly to the beneficiary, or reimburse yourself. Be sure to keep all receipts to substantiate qualification.

Type of Withdrawals:

  • Qualified Withdrawals
    These are untaxed and include any withdrawals that will be used to cover Qualified Higher Education Expenses for the student at an Eligible Educational Institution. The student must be enrolled for at least half-time for room and board expenses.
  • Taxable Withdrawals
    The earnings portion of this type of withdrawal is subject to federal and state tax but does not include the additional federal 10% tax. Say your child receives a full or partial scholarship or attends a military academy, you can withdraw certain amounts from your 529 account that will not be used for qualified higher education expenses and those amounts will be subject to tax on the earnings portion of the withdrawal, but will not be subject to the additional federal 10% tax.
  • Non-Qualified Withdrawals
    The earnings portion of this type of withdrawal will be subject to tax, including the additional 10% federal tax. Examples might include using the money for a car, vacation or home improvement. But even if you urgently need to pay a medical bill and withdraw money from your 529 plan as a last resort — that withdrawal would still be subject to tax, including the additional 10% federal tax.

In the event of a refund of amounts paid for qualified higher education expenses from an eligible educational institution, the refund may be redeposited to the 529 plan within 60 days without the amount being subject to tax. The recontributed amount cannot exceed the amount of the refund.

Qualifying Expenses & Institutions

Qualified Higher Education Expenses may include tuition, certain room and board expenses in addition to any fees, books, supplies and equipment required for enrollment and attendance at an eligible educational institution. Computers and related technology such as internet access fees, software or printers used primarily by the designated beneficiary when enrolled at an eligible educational institution are also qualified education expenses.

If the beneficiary is a special needs student, any additional costs required for enrollment or attendance to meet those needs will also be treated as a qualified higher education expense.

About Room and Board Expenses

Room & board costs are considered qualified only during the academic period in which the student is enrolled or accepted for enrollment in a program that leads to a recognized educational credential from an eligible educational institution. This amount cannot exceed the institution’s ‘cost of attendance’ allowance.

Funds can be used at most accredited colleges and universities in the United States — even certain colleges abroad.

See the Disclosure Booklet for more information.

Visit to find out if your school is accredited.

Investment Portfolios

ScholarShare provides a variety of professionally managed investments to choose from including age-based options that automatically change as the beneficiary ages. Alternatively you can tailor your portfolio with multi-fund, single-fund and guaranteed options to match your risk tolerance, timeline, and investment preferences.

Tax Advantages

When you pay fewer taxes, you can earn more and grow your account faster — giving your child or grandchild an even bigger head start.

See the difference these tax advantages can make over time in the table below.

Benefits of Tax-Free Growth: Taxable = $46,788, Tax-Free = $54,958 over 18 years

This example assumes an initial investment of $5,000, monthly contributions of $100, and a 6% annual rate of return over 18 years. The taxable account assumes a 28% federal and 5% state tax rate. The illustration is for illustrative purposes only and does not represent the performance of any specific portfolio.

Federal Income Tax Benefits

As a 529 Plan, ScholarShare offers unsurpassed income tax benefits. Although contributions are not deductible on your federal tax return, any investment earnings can grow tax-deferred, and distributions to pay for the beneficiary’s college costs come out federally tax-free.

State Income Tax Information

In addition to federal tax benefits, there are state tax benefits as well. For ScholarShare, tax treatment is as follows:

While contributions are not deductible for California income tax purposes, earnings accrue free of state income tax. Qualified Withdrawals and any outgoing rollovers free from federal income tax are also free from California income tax. California tax benefits related to ScholarShare are available only to California tax payers. You should talk to a qualified advisor about how California tax provisions affect your circumstances.

Estate Tax Planning Benefits

There’s another tax advantage unique to the 529 plan. There’s no federal gift tax on contributions up to $15,000 per year for single filers and $30,000 for married filers. There’s even an option to gift amounts up to $75,000 for single filers and up to $150,000 for married filers if pro-rated over 5 years. This means you could make a one-time gift equivalent to the 5 year amount and it could all qualify for the federal gift tax exclusion. Consult your tax advisor.

Reviewing & Changing Your Investments

It’s a good idea to periodically re-evaluate your investment strategy as your goals, investment horizon, and personal situation change — for example annually at tax time, on a yearly basis if your income changes, or upon the birth of another child.

Fees & Expenses

There are no application fees, no cancellation fees, no change in beneficiary fees — only program management and underlying mutual fund fees.

Risks of Investing in the Plan

As with any investment, there are risks. To help you manage these risks there are flexible investment portfolios ranging from conservative to aggressive. Assets in an account are not guaranteed or insured. The value of your account may decrease and you could lose money, including amounts contributed.

For more information about the risks involved in investing in a particular investment option, and whether or not an option is appropriate for you, read the Disclosure Booklet (PDF).

Making Changes to Your Account

It’s possible you might want or need to make changes to your account. Here's a quick summary of the types of changes you can make and what happens when you do:

Changing the Beneficiary

After you open an account you can change the beneficiary of the account to an eligible family member of the former beneficiary without adverse federal tax consequence. “Family member” includes not just immediate family but grandparents, aunts and uncles, step children, in laws...even first cousins. Otherwise, changes may be subject to federal income tax as well as other state and federal tax consequences. See the Disclosure Booklet (PDF) for more information.

Changing Investment Strategy

Anytime you make a new contribution, you may select a different investment for that amount. However, you may only change the previously contributed amount twice per year or when you change a beneficiary, and only then if it’s a member of the previous beneficiary’s family. If you have more than one account for the same beneficiary, this restriction applies to all accounts, so you’ll need to make all changes on the same calendar day. You make these changes by submitting the proper asset allocation instructions.

Adding or Changing a Successor Account Owner

You can add or change a successor account owner at any time by completing the appropriate form.*

Transferring Account Ownership

You may also transfer the ownership of your account to another individual or entity that is eligible to be an account owner. This is not the same as changing account successor. This would be when you want to irrevocably sign away all rights, title and interest in the account.*

*Be sure to consult with a qualified advisor regarding the possible legal and tax consequences associated with such changes.