Our foundation’s mission is to empower youth in Salem City, NJ, and we do that by improving access to educational opportunities. That’s why we’ve launched the Acorn Fund, which invests in college savings accounts for every child living or attending public school in Salem City. Like the acorn that became Salem’s famous 600-year-old oak tree, we expect these investments to be the start families need to grow something great. More than 600 local children have already enrolled.

If you have a child living in Salem City or attending a Salem City public school, click here to sign up now!

If you’d like to learn more, below is a list of answers to frequently asked questions.

What is the Acorn Fund?

The Acorn Fund is an initiative to create and invest in college savings accounts for Salem City’s youth. In March 2016, we donated $275,000 to fund deposits in the accounts of more than 1,000 children currently living or attending public school in Salem City. We plan to make further investments to continue supporting Salem’s youth for years to come.

Why did the Foundation create the Acorn Fund?

Research shows that college savings accounts not only help families save money for school, but they also encourage families and children to view college as achievable. We hope this initiative encourages more Salem students to pursue higher education.

Who is eligible for an Acorn Fund account?

Any child, from birth through 12th grade, who lives in or attends public school in Salem City, NJ is eligible.  Children living outside of Salem City and attending public school in Salem City may enroll after school begins in September. High school graduates have until June 30th of the year they graduate to enroll, after which they are no longer eligible for enrollment.

Who can open an Acorn Fund account?

The parent or guardian of any child living in or attending public school in Salem City. Current high school students who are 18 or older may open the account on their own.

Where can I get assistance to open my child's Acorn Fund account?

Click here to sign up.

If you need assistance with the application or have any questions, Joyce Elwell, the Acorn Fund Coordinator, is located at the United Way of Salem County’s John B. Campbell Center, 118 Walnut Street, Salem, NJ.  Call or email her with questions or to make an appointment:  856-935-1030 or 844-4FORMAN (844-436-7626),   (Learn more about Joyce here.

How do I make a change to the information on my child's account?

If you move, or change your telephone number or the email address in the application - or any other information needs to be updated, use this change of information form to let us know.

How much money will be invested for my child?

In 2017, the Acorn Fund savings account opening deposit will be from $50 - $1000, based on the child's age or grade, based on the child's age or grade. The table below details the amount of the opening deposit.
Pre-K / 0 - 2 years old: $50 Pre-K / 3 - 5 years old: $75 Kindergarten: $100
1st grade: $100 2nd grade: $100 3rd grade: $150
4th grade: $150 5th grade: $150 6th grade: $150
7th grade: $200 8th grade: $200 9th grade: $250
10th grade: $250 11th grade: $500 12th grade: $1000

Note: High school graduates have until June 30th of the year they graduate to enroll, after which they are no longer eligible for enrollment.

Will there be additional investments into my child’s account?

The Foundation plans to make additional contributions into the Acorn Fund accounts during the years prior to the account holder graduating from high school. In March 2017, the Foundation made additional contributions into all eligible accounts that were opened before September 1, 2016.

What happens to the account if I move away from Salem City before my child goes to college?

If you move away from Salem your child's account will not be eligible to receive additional contributions. The account will remain open and when your child attends college they will be able to access the funds in the spring of their first year at college.

Who controls the account?

The Community Foundation of South Jersey is the account owner. Your child is technically a “provisional beneficiary” of the account, who is eligible to receive the funds from the account only for use at an eligible institution of higher education within the time determined by the foundation. If you or your child does not request funds for payment of qualified higher education expenses by the time the child turns 25, the account will be closed and the funds used to fund an Acorn Fund account for another child.

How can my child use the money in the Acorn Fund account?

The funds in the account may be used to pay for qualified higher education expenses, which includes tuition and fees, as well as room and board if you are attending college more than half time. The funds can be used at any college that is eligible to participate in the federal student financial assistance programs. That includes most colleges, universities, community colleges and post-secondary vocational schools in the United States, as well as many colleges located outside of the United States. Most programs at those colleges are eligible. The funds will become available for use during the child’s spring semester of the year after your child commences college.

Where is the money in the Acorn Fund account invested?

The funds are invested in the NJ Best 529 Plan. The funds are invested in the moderate-age-based portfolio. The portfolio is composed of several different mutual funds. The investments in the portfolio will take less risk of losses as your child gets closer to when the funds will be used to pay for college. The funds may have investment gains or losses over time.

How will I know how much money is in the account?

You will receive a detailed account statement in the mail four times a year: January, April, July and October from Franklin Templeton, the NJBest529 College savings Plan Program Manager.

Why is there more or less money in the account than when it was opened?

The funds in the account are invested primarily in mutual funds. As the value of the investments change, so will the value of your account.

What happens if my child does not pursue education beyond high school?

The Acorn Fund account will remain available until your child turns 25. If they have used some of the funds in the Acorn Fund account for college by the age of 25, the funds will continue to be available to pay for college. If your child does not start using the funds before turning 25, the Acorn Fund account in their name will be closed and the funds returned to the Community Foundation of South Jersey to be used to open an account for another student.

How do I access the money to pay for my child's college education?

To use the fund to pay for college, you must return to the enrollment site and complete a distribution request, which will require the student's social security number. The distribution request will be submitted to Franklin Templeton, the NJBEST College Savings Plan Program Manager, which will provide the funds directly to the student's college. Funds will not be sent to any individual.

When can I access the money to pay for college?

Account holders can withdraw funds in the spring semester of their first year of attendance at a qualified higher education institution.  The next opportunity to request a distribution will be from December 13, 2017 to January 4, 2018.  Learn more here.

How should I report this on my taxes?

After funds are distributed to a college, the student will receive a Form 1099-Q, which reports on the distribution of funds from a 529 college savings account.

Will using these funds affect my Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) eligibility?

No. The funds will technically belong to the Community Foundation of South Jersey, and they then will be distributed directly to the college in the name of the student. So, they will never be an asset of the parent or the child during the years the account is open.

Will using these funds affect my child’s eligibility for financial aid?

The funds distributed may be treated as income to the student and thus may cause a reduction in financial aid. If the distribution is taken later in the child’s college career, the impact will be less.

What is the role of the United Way of Salem County?

The United Way of Salem County is working with the Forman S. Acton Educational Foundation and the Community Foundation of South Jersey to make sure that families are aware of the Acorn Fund accounts, to help families sign up for accounts for their children, to answer questions about the Acorn Fund, and to help with the administration of the Acorn Fund.

Are there any other terms and conditions for the Acorn Fund


These FAQs were last updated on October 13, 2017.  The Acorn Fund rules may be modified at any time at the discretion of the Forman S. Acton Educational Foundation or the Community Foundation of South Jersey.