Our foundation’s mission is to empower youth in Salem City, NJ, and we do that by improving access to better education. That’s why we’ve launched the Acorn Fund, which invests in college savings accounts for every child in Salem. 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 450 local children have already enrolled.
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. We made an initial donation of $275,000 in March 2016, which is being used to fund initial deposits in the accounts of more than 1,000 children currently in the Salem school system. We plan to make further investments to continue supporting Salem’s youth for years to come.
Why did the Acton 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 City students to pursue higher education.
Who is eligible for an Acorn Fund account?
Any child who lives in Salem City, NJ, and all students living in a sending district attending a public school in Salem City, NJ.
Who can open an Acorn Fund account?
The parent or guardian of any child living in Salem City, NJ, or of any student attending public school in Salem City. Current high school students who are 18 or older may open the account on their own.
How do I make sure my child has an account?
If you need any assistance enrolling, Acorn Fund Coordinator Joyce Elwell is available to assist you in person at United Way of Salem County’s John B. Campbell Center, 118 Walnut Street, Salem, NJ. She will be there most Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. (Learn more about Joyce here.) You can also call 844-4FORMAN (844-436-7626) to get assistance with the application or to make an appointment to meet with Joyce.
How do I make a change to the information on my child's account?
If information you have provided for the account changes, please let us know, so we can be sure our information is accurate. 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?
We plan to invest continuously in Acorn Fund accounts for years to come. The initial deposit will be from $50 - $1000 based on the child's age or grade. This is detailed in the table below.
Pre-K / 0-2 years old: $50
Pre-K / 3-5 years old: $75
1st grade: $100
2nd grade: $100
3rd grade: $150
4th grade: $150
5th grade: $150
6th grade: $150
7th grade: $200
9th grade: $250
10th grade: $250
11th grade: $500
12th grade: $1000
Note: High school seniors have until June 30th to enroll, after which they are no longer eligible.
How can I earn additional investments into my child’s account?
We will be letting all account owners know how you can obtain additional funding in your child's account as it becomes available.
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 Acton 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 funds will no longer be deemed to be the funds of your 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.
Where is the money in the Acorn Fund account invested?
The funds are invested through the NJ Best 529 Program. 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.
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, every three months from Franklin Templeton, the NJ Best 529 Plan Program Manager.
Why is there more or less money in the account than when I started?
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?
As long as your child is living in Salem or attending Salem City High School through their junior year in 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 college education?
To use the fund to pay for college, you must complete a distribution request, including your social security number. The distribution request will be submitted to Franklin Templeton - New Jersey’s 529 program administrator - which will provide the funds directly to the college you identify for the account of your child at the 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. College students can request a disbursement from March 1, 2017 - May 31, 2017. 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 the two foundations administer the Acorn Fund.
Are there any other terms and conditions for the Acorn Fund?
These FAQs were last updated on February 1, 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.