New York -- The stakes are definitely higher today for all of those involved in sponsoring, managing and distributing tax-favored 529 college savings plans. That was the consensus among a panel of experts and members of the recently formed not-for-profit College Savings Foundation (CSF) here in New York at a media conference earlier this month.

The College Savings Foundation, which was formally organized in May 2003 but began efforts in earnest just a few months ago, is a Washington-based central repository for 529 plan information and works to help families understand the benefits of college savings plans. The organization also serves as a discussion forum for college savings industry participants, and as a lobbying group that works with both policy makers and the media, said Chuck Toth, education savings manager with Merrill Lynch, and chairman of the College Savings Foundation. "We formed this organization in recognition of the growth potential of this sector," he added. A total of 14 investment management companies now count themselves as members of the CSF, including Fidelity Investments, T. Rowe Price and Franklin Templeton.

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