College is here (or right around the corner). Now what?
So, you’re entering college (or getting ready to) and you’ve got your Florida 529 Savings Plan and/or Florida College Prepaid Plan in hand. That’s a very good thing, but you may be wondering how to take advantage of your college savings, particularly how to use it and what your plan(s) covers. No problem, we’re here to help.
Florida 529 Savings Plan
It is easy to use your Florida 529 Savings Plan at colleges nationwide. The Account Owner just submits a Withdrawal Request for the desired amount. You can do this online at Account Holder Resources or using our Withdrawal Request Form. You’re then free to use the withdrawals tax-free as long as they are spent on qualified educational expenses wherever you choose to go to school. Whether it’s a lease on a new apartment, a stack of textbooks or countless other items—as long as it’s a qualified educational expense you’re in good shape.
Florida Prepaid College Plan
If you have a Florida Prepaid College Plan, you may not know much about it. Chances are it was started before you could even write your own name. We’ll help get you up to speed below on what the plan covers, its key features and how the school you go to gets paid.
What does my Prepaid Plan cover?
Tuition is just one expense for a college education. All 28 Florida Colleges and 12 State Universities charge mandatory fees, known as Local Fees. The 12 State Universities also charge a mandatory Tuition Differential Fee, which was approved by the 2007 Florida Legislature. Florida Prepaid College Plans with a contract year of 2011 or later include the cost of these mandatory fees.
Prior to the 2010-2011 Open Enrollment Period, the Florida Prepaid College Board sold separate Prepaid Plans to cover Tuition, Local Fees and the Tuition Differential Fee individually. All 2 + 2 Tuition Plans and 4-Year University Tuition Plans purchased during the 2006-2007 Open Enrollment Period or earlier are exempt from the Tuition Differential Fee, but unless you have a Local Fee Plan, you will still be responsible for those fees. The only way to know the specifics of your plan is to login to your account. You can create an account for yourself, or check with the Account Owner for information on your specific plan(s).
Prepaid Plan Key Features
Here are several key features of the plans to familiarize yourself with:
While plans are designed to be used at a Florida College or State University, the amount covered by the plan you have can also be applied to other schools nationwide.
If you’ve earned a scholarship, like Bright Futures, the amount covered by the plan can be refunded to the Account Owner or used to pay for tuition and fees not covered by the scholarship.
If you moved out of Florida at some point over the years, it’s okay – you’re still eligible for in-state tuition and fees at a Florida College or State University while using a plan.
You have 10 years from the projected enrollment year selected on the original application to use your Prepaid Plan.
MOST IMPORTANT FAQs — Using Benefits
What if I get a scholarship like Bright Futures?
Don’t worry, having a Prepaid Plan will not prevent you from receiving Bright Futures. In most cases, Bright Futures is applied to your college tuition costs first, then funds from your Prepaid Plan are applied. As always, you can use any remaining funds for other school costs, like books. An Account Owner may also receive a refund equal to what would have been paid to the school for the plan by completing a Scholarship Refund Form, available via Forms. You can create an account for yourself, or check with the Account Owner for information on your specific plan(s). For details about the Bright Futures Scholarship Program, please call 1-888-827-2004.
Can Prepaid Plan benefits be used during summer terms?
Yes. Prepaid Plan benefits may be used during any semester.
Can I use my plan for an out-of-state or private in-state school?
Absolutely! The value of your plan can be applied at an accredited, postsecondary educational institution offering credit toward a bachelor’s degree, an associate’s degree, a graduate -level or professional degree or another recognized postsecondary degree, including certain proprietary institutions and postsecondary vocational schools. The institution must be eligible to participate in U.S. Department of Education student aid programs and must qualify under Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code.
Can I use my plan to pay for the cost of graduate or professional school?
Plan benefits may be applied toward the cost of graduate-level courses. The plan will pay the average in-state undergraduate rate per credit hour for these courses. Any remaining cost will be the responsibility of the student.
How will I know when I can start using my Prepaid benefits?
We’ll make sure you stay in the know. Florida Prepaid College Plan Beneficiaries who are scheduled to start college for the first time will receive a First Time In College notification in the spring of their matriculation year. This notification will provide you some basic information about how to use Prepaid Plan benefits and explain what to expect during the college enrollment process.
How does the school I choose get paid?
Florida Colleges and State Universities
Payment is automatic as long as you let the school know that you have a Prepaid Plan. The school will bill Florida Prepaid directly each semester for the tuition and fees covered by your plan(s). Payment is issued by Florida Prepaid directly to the school.
Private and Out-Of-State Schools
Students planning to attend an eligible private or out-of-state institution must complete a Transfer Authorization request before benefits will be paid. The Transfer Authorization includes additional details about how these schools are paid.
Transfer Authorizations may be submitted directly online by the Account Owner or Student. Please log in to Account Holder Resources, choose the Plan Details tab, and click on See Usage. Or you may download the Transfer Authorization request at Forms.
What if my school requires a student identification card?
Some institutions may require a Student Identification Card when you register and pay for classes. Student ID Cards are only available online, so to view or print an ID Card — log in to Account Holder Resources, choose the Plan Details tab, and click on See Usage.
What if the school I attend does not match the plan type purchased?
One of the best things about Prepaid Plans is that they may be used at any eligible educational institution. The value of the plan purchased may be applied toward the costs at the school the student chooses to attend. For example, benefits available under a 2-Year Florida College Plan or a 4-Year Florida College Plan can be paid to a State University. Similarly, benefits available for a 4-Year Florida University Plan or a 1-Year Florida University Plan can be paid to a Florida College.
Please keep in mind, in the first example above, that Florida College Plan benefits paid to a State University will deplete at a faster rate because the cost per credit hour at a State University is generally higher that the cost of a credit hour at a Florida College. The student will be responsible for any difference not covered by their plan.
What does my Dormitory Plan cover?
Your Dormitory Plan covers the cost of a standard, double occupancy, air-conditioned dormitory room at any of Florida’s 12 State Universities. Please know, options and availability can vary from school to school, and the plan does not guarantee placement in a dorm room. Fortunately, the amount covered by this plan can be applied to other university-held housing, including some fraternity and sorority housing, or dormitory housing costs at institutions nationwide. This plan does not cover other expenses that may be associated with a dormitory, such as meal plans. For more information on Dormitory Plan coverage, please visit University Dormitory Plan.
Can Dormitory Plan benefits be used during summer terms?
We’re always here to help you. So although Dormitory Plans are not designed to be used during summer semesters, because rates are significantly lower than during the fall and spring semesters, they can be used during the summer semesters upon request – please contact 1.800.552.GRAD (4723) for more information.
Can the Dormitory Plan be used to pay for other types of housing?
The plan will pay the amount otherwise paid for an approved dormitory to any eligible university-held residence, including a fraternity or sorority that is university-held. The amount paid may not exceed the cost of dormitory fees covered by the plan at the institution. The student will be responsible for any amount not covered by their plan.
The plan will also transfer funds to either a state college that directly operates one or more dormitory residences or to a state college direct-support organization (DSO) that operates dormitory residences. The plan will pay either the fees charged by the state college or DSO, or the maximum fees charged for state university dormitory residence, whichever is less. The student will be responsible for any amount not covered by their plan.
A Dormitory Plan may not be used for privately owned housing or apartments. However, the Account Owner may request a refund for the basis of unused Dormitory Plan benefits.
What happens if there is insufficient dormitory space to accommodate all students with Dormitory Plans?
No need to worry. If the student applies for housing by the deadline set forth at their school, but does not receive a room assignment, the Account Owner may request a refund. This refund will be equal to the amount otherwise paid for an approved dormitory at the institution. If a student elects to attend a college or university that does not offer dormitory or university-held housing, the Account Owner may request a refund for the basis of unused Dormitory Plan benefits.
What’s the best way to keep track of Prepaid benefits usage?
Students and Account Owners alike can create their own login to keep track of important benefits information throughout the year, including where benefits are being used and how many credit hours are still available. To create your account, please visit Account Holder Resources today.
Will I receive any tax documents when I use my benefits?
Yes. A 1099Q tax form will be provided in January of each year to Beneficiaries who have used their Prepaid Plan benefits during the previous calendar year, as well as to Account Owners who have received a scholarship refund or reimbursement during the previous calendar year.
If you have elected for electronic delivery, 1099Q forms will be available online at Account Holder Resources, under the Your Documents tab. Otherwise, a 1099Q will be mailed.
For specific information regarding the 1099Q, please consult a professional tax consultant or certified public accountant.
What if I have more questions and want to talk to someone?
To learn more about using Florida Prepaid College Plan benefits, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us at 1-800-552-GRAD (4723), Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. ET.
So now you know the basics. What’s next?
Your parents, grandparents or the benevolent stranger made an outstanding choice that will help you avoid some or all of the student loan debt that so many graduates have to deal with. It’s a great idea to thank them and then get started using your college savings!
The Florida Prepaid College Board does not provide tax or investment advice regarding its Florida Prepaid College Plans or Florida 529 Savings Plan. Florida Prepaid College Plans are financially guaranteed by the State of Florida, Section 1009.98(7), Florida Statutes. Florida Prepaid College Plans may not cover certain fees imposed by state universities or colleges. Please read the Master Contract carefully. The Florida 529 Savings Plan is not guaranteed and is subject to market conditions. Carefully consider the investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses before investing in the Florida 529 Savings Plan. As with any investment, it is possible to lose money by investing in this plan. Please read the Program Description and Participation Agreement carefully.