Ugift: College Money is Just an Email Away

Last Updated Nov 23, 2010 11:48 PM EST

Last week I wrote about how I plan to ask my family to give my kids money toward college instead of expensive toys for the holidays. The folks at Upromise then reminded me that they have a program that makes such requests easy and convenient for everyone.

Ugift is a gift giving platform that's linked to 529 college savings accounts administered by Upromise. Here's how it works: first the parent opens a Ugift account. Then, mom or dad sets up an electronic invitation -- this feels like an Evite -- asking loved ones to give the gift of education this holiday season. Grandma can then click on the link, print a special coded coupon and mail it with a check directly to Ugift. The money then gets deposited into the child's 529 account.

Who can sign up? Ugift is available to anyone with a 529 college savings plan administered by Upromise. Right now the list includes plans in 15 states (including Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nevada, North Dakota, New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wyoming) and the national Upromise College Fund.

What I like about this program is that the gift giving remains a private matter between the giver and the receiver (or, in this case, the receiver's parents). Without Ugift, Grandma could bring a check to Christmas dinner. Then there's always the risk that another adult child could get jealous that his kid didn't get any money for college even though Granny bought that grandchild an Xbox LIVE instead.

Unfortunately, I still think there is some danger that certain family members could be offended if they receive a Ugift invitation. It may come across as too pushy. Our culture seems more comfortable with baby and wedding registries than formal requests for college money. But that may soon change.

Indeed, 16% of surveyed families have received an average of $9,243 in gifts that will help pay for college, according to a Sallie Mae study "How America Saves for College". And 13% of parents rely on gifts in college savings accounts as their primary way to save for college.

As for me, I'm intrigued by Ugift and will probably give it a try. I'll just make sure to keep my invite list short and only send it to people who can appreciate that my husband and I value a college education far more than a roomful of the latest plastic toys and video games.

Would you consider sending a Ugift invitation?

Stacey Bradford is the author of The Wall Street Journal Financial Guidebook for New Parents.
University of Southern California image courtesy of Flickr, CC 2.0.
More on CBS MoneyWatch:
The Best Holiday Gift? A Contribution to a College Savings Account
The Holidays: Is the Boss Monitoring Your Online Shopping?
A Holiday Scam Targeting Kids
The Holidays: Time to Check on Mom
  • Stacey Bradford

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