New bill, which moves to Senate for approval, would allow for purchase of computers, internet access

college-expensesComputers and technology equipment would become qualified expenses in 529 college savings plans under a bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on Feb. 25.

H.R. 529 also designates computer software and internet access as qualified expenses while students are enrolled in school.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.) and Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.), highlights the importance of technology for today’s students and recognizes that computers, internet access, and technology tools are essential parts of learning, supporters said.

“This is a good, sensible bill to improve a critical college savings tool…I encourage my colleagues in the Senate to quickly approve this legislation,” Jenkins said in a statement.

(Next page: More details from the bill)

“The provisions in H.R. 529 are crucial elements to help middle class families save for future higher education expenses and allow current students to realize their career aspirations,” said Betty Lochner, chair of the College Savings Plans Network, upon the bill’s passage in the House.

The bill also allows for the re-deposit of refunds from colleges without taxes or penalties as long as the re-deposit occurs within a certain time frame.

“Saving for our children’s education is one of the most important, and at times, most difficult aspects of being a parent,” Jenkins said when the bill was introduced.“This bill …would also modernize the program by allowing students to purchase a computer using their 529 funds. These are particularly important goals as college costs continue to rise and students are struggling with extreme amounts of student loan debt.

“Helping students attend college ultimately makes America more competitive in the global marketplace, but with rising tuition costs and the growing crisis of student loan debt, we need to use every tool we can to help families afford higher education,” Kind said.

President Obama recently proposed a provision to tax 529 college savings accounts, but withdrew it due to widespread opposition.

The legislation passed in the House by a 401-20 vote and will move to the Senate for approval.

A similar bill was introduced in the Senate on Feb. 2, 2015, but no action has been taken. That bill–S. 335, sponsored by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa)–would make “computer technology and equipment allowed as a qualified higher education expense for section 529 accounts.”

Laura Ascione