Cathie Anderson

Cathie Anderson: Davis couple launches website to help parents fund kids’ college plans

If you feel as though your child’s trove of toys is growing faster than contributions to her college savings plan, Davis resident Aimee Hasson will soon offer an option to reverse that trend.

Hasson’s website,, functions like an online gift registry for educational savings accounts, known as 529 plans. It works in one of two ways: Investment companies can sign a contract with The Gift of Education to offer the service as a benefit to any customer with a qualified account. Or, individuals can create their own account profiles.

In either case, the account holder sends a link where friends and family can make contributions.

Hasson came up with the idea for The Gift of Education after her late friend, Ashley Stevens, made a dying request: “Make sure my kids go to college.” It prompted Stevens’ friends to open a bank account for her four children, but confusion ensued when it came time to write checks: Where should they send the money? To whom should they make their checks payable? Could they write one check for all the kids, or did they need to write one for each?

Hasson created a web page to give everyone some direction - and thought: “I could use a site like this for my two sons.” In 2010, she and her husband Paul Hasson invested a portion of their retirement savings to make the idea a reality. For the past two years, they have been putting the website through beta tests, helping individuals raise more than $30,000. Hasson expects to unveil the site to a wider audience within weeks. If you’re interested, you can sign up for an alert at her website.

The company makes its money by charging a $2-$3 licensing fee for each contribution. A payment processor typically also would charge 2-3 percent to process the transaction, but Hasson has negotiated a deal that allows each parent to receive up to $50,000 in contributions without incurring this fee. She also created a system where fees may be paid by the 529 fund manager, the parent or the giver.

Hasson said it’s entirely possible that some 529 plans will pay the licensing fee: “They spend a lot of time and a lot of money trying to get new money under management. If they had a tool that will make it a lot easier for money to show up in their accounts magically, with really no effort on their parts, then that would be great.”