January 7, 2019
Finance & Investments

Nappier: CT college savings program has helped 56,000 students

Denise Nappier, State Treasurer
Matt Pilon

As she prepares to leave office after nearly two decades as state treasurer, Denise Nappier says the state's 529 college savings program is in "strong shape."

The Connecticut Higher Education Trust (CHET), created in 1997 and administered by Nappier since she took office in 1999, reached $3.6 billion in assets and 152,000 account owners this year.

Nappier, who announced a year ago she would not seek reelection, will soon be succeeded by Shawn Wooden.

CHET offers state and federal tax advantages to spur families to sock away savings for tuition, certain room and board costs, computers, books, fees and certain other education expenditures.

Nappier said she has negotiated five reductions in plan management fees with CHET's plan managers, including TIAA-CREF, and that today, administrative and management fees are ranked in the bottom 25 percent among 529 providers in the industry.

In 1990, fees totaled nearly 1.6 percent of assets for CHET participants, while today, fees for CHET's most common investment options range from 0.35 percent to 0.48 percent of assets, according to Nappier's office.

It's a far cry from 1999, when Nappier, after ousting former Treasurer Paul Silvester in an election, found the plan in "serious financial distress."

It had 4,000 account owners at the time, and less than $19 million in assets.

Nappier replaced the original plan manager, and not long after, Silvester and several others went to prison for arranging political kickbacks through the then fledgling program.

"My goal from day one was to offer Connecticut families a premier investment program for higher education," Nappier said.

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