Spanberger, Wittman bill would allow students to use 529 savings accounts to pay for training, credentialing program

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Photo Credit: W. Scott McGill

Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07) and Rob Wittman (R-VA-01) introduced a bipartisan bill to help more Virginia students and workers afford high-quality workforce training and credentialing programs.

The Spanberger-Wittman bill would give individuals in Virginia and across the country the freedom to use their “529” savings accounts to cover the costs of certain workforce training and credentialing programs. Additionally, the bill would allow students to use their 529 funds to pay for associated costs related to certification exams and maintaining certification credentials. Right now, only colleges, vocational schools, universities, or other post-secondary institutions are considered an eligible 529 education savings account expense.

“To keep our region’s economy strong, we need to make sure Central Virginia students and workers receive the training required to remain competitive and successful. Here in Virginia, 529 savings accounts have long ensured that the next generation of workers can afford a higher education—but students are currently constrained from using these accounts to pay for necessary credentialing programs and exams,” said Spanberger. “Our bipartisan legislation would give Virginia students and workers the ability to use their 529 accounts to cover tuition, books, and testing costs related to these training programs. I’m proud to stand alongside Congressman Wittman in introducing this bill—and I’ll keep working to find new pathways to make these programs more affordable and accessible, especially as we continue to see incredibly-specialized trades emerging across our area.”

“Currently, businesses across America are facing a severe talent shortage due to a lack of vocational education and technical training. One of my top priorities is ensuring our students cultivate the skill sets needed to thrive in today’s workforce,” said Wittman. “The 529 program is an excellent tool for parents and students looking to save for the future – however, not all students are headed to a 2-year or 4-year college. This bipartisan legislation would allow students to use their 529 savings towards the costs of exams, tuition, and supplies for post-secondary credential programs. It is our job as legislators to give students every opportunity to succeed and I look forward to working with Rep. Spanberger to advance this important legislation for our Commonwealth.”

Spanberger and Wittman’s Freedom to Invest in Tomorrow’s Workforce Act is supported by Virginia529 and the Professional Certification Coalition—which represents more than 100 organizations.

“Education changes lives, and the needs of our country’s workforce are changing, as well. While millions of families trust 529 plans with their hopes, dreams, and savings for college, currently these tax-advantaged savings accounts exclude a significant group of Americans whose post-high school plans did not, or do not, include college.  Although many types of education—K-12, two- and four-year colleges and universities and many other certificate programs are supported by 529 plans, many other high-quality, stackable certificate programs and other postsecondary credentialing programs are not covered, creating a critical gap in coverage,” said Mary Morris, CEO of Virginia529. “Lifelong learning is a reality today, so making 529 plans more flexible and effective as a financial planning tool is a win for everyone. We are grateful to Congresswoman Spanberger and Congressman Wittman for sponsoring the Freedom to Invest in Tomorrow’s Workforce Act, which will provide greater flexibility for individuals pursuing their educational and career goals and will help more people enter and thrive in the workforce.  We look forward to working with them on passage and implementation of this important bill.”

“The Professional Certification Coalition applauds Congresswoman Spanberger and Congressman Wittman for expanding opportunities for people living and working in Virginia and across the country by authoring legislation to permit 529 savings plans funds to cover expenses associated with obtaining or maintaining a professional certification,” said Denise Roosendaal, Executive Director, Institute for Credentialing Excellence.

“The Freedom to Invest in Tomorrow’s Workforce Act will greatly expand the reach of 529 benefits to support additional opportunities for training and credentialing for individuals seeking to enter the workforce or advance in their occupations.  The legislation will reach a broader and more diverse group than just the 50% of Americans who attend college,” said Mary Kate Cunningham, Vice President for Public Policy, American Society for Association Executives. “Certifications and other postsecondary credentials are pathways to employment and to career growth across fields, from entry level service jobs to mid-career job changes to leadership positions in professions that require highly specialized knowledge. The Freedom to Invest in Tomorrow’s Workforce Act will permit families to save not only for college, but also to save for alternatives to college or for recognized credentials beyond college, whether those are stepping stones to advancement in their professions or required for licensure in their chosen occupations. We look forward to working with Congresswoman Spanberger and Congressman Wittman to advance this important legislation for America’s workers and families.”

According to the National Skills Coalition, middle-skill jobs—which require more than a high school education but not a bachelor’s degree—comprise the largest component of America’s labor market. However, key industries cannot find adequately-trained workers to fill these jobs.

This Freedom to Invest in Tomorrow’s Workforce Act would amend current law to allow workers and students to use their 529 accounts to pay for training or credentialing programs recognized by a state government or the federal government—or widely recognized as providing reputable credentials in the occupation. Simultaneously, the bipartisan bill would maintain the current allowable uses for 529 expense accounts—such as colleges and vocational schools.

The Spanberger-Wittman bill is similar to legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate earlier this year by U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Joe Manchin (D-WV).

Click here to read the full legislation.

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