The Saver Scholarships match is based on tuition payments made the prior academic year, meaning the students could receive the grant starting their sophomore year. To qualify, students must be enrolled at the college full time and be drawing funds from a 529 or ESA account that was established at least three years before their enrollment.
"Unfortunately, participation in 529 plans is low," said Washington College President Sheila Bair, former chairwoman of the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. "We hope to inspire families to save."
Bair said it's not yet clear how many of the private liberal arts college's 1,450 undergraduates will qualify for the new scholarship, or with how much of a match. During the 2014-15 academic year, the average Washington College undergraduate received $22,245 in grant or scholarship aid, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Saver Scholarships isn't the college's only unique program to cut costs. Last year, Bair announced a tuition freeze, with the rate held at $42,844. This spring, she launched Dam the Debt, using donations to provide an average $2,630 grant in graduating seniors' last semester as an intended replacement for federally subsidized student loans.
Nearly three-quarters of Americans don't even know what a 529 college savings plan is, according to a May survey from investing firm Edward Jones. About half of families are stashing their college savings in general savings and checking accounts, a 2015 Sallie Mae survey found.