The Finance Authority of Maine’s college savings plan is ranked high by a national research firm.

A national research firm has ranked one of the Finance Authority of Maine’s college investment plans as the second-largest adviser-sold Section 529 college savings plan in the country, the authority said Tuesday.

The ranking by Strategic Insight, a mutual fund industry research firm based in New York, applies to the authority’s NextGen College Investing Plan, administered by FAME in conjunction with investment advisory firm Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc.

The NextGen plan has more than $8 billion in assets under management between the adviser-sold plan and the direct-sold plan as of June 30, FAME said in a news release.

Section 529 plans are designed to help families save for the future college expenses of a designated beneficiary. They can be opened directly by the investor or through a financial adviser.

The plans offer several benefits, including tax advantages, matching grant and scholarship opportunities, protection from creditors and exemption from state financial aid calculations.

“We are very pleased by NextGen’s growth and success,” FAME Board Chairman Ray Nowak said in the release. “The investment choices have made NextGen a good fit for many families around the nation saving for college, and the matching grants and other benefits created specifically for Maine residents are among the most generous available.”

NextGen was established by the state of Maine in 1999 as a qualified tuition program under Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code.

Anyone age 18 years or older can open an account, regardless of income or state residency, and assets can be used at any accredited U.S. post-secondary institution. Matching grants are available to accounts that meet certain eligibility requirements.

The Harold Alfond College Challenge, a privately funded grant program that awards $500 to every child born in Maine, is administered through the NextGen program.

J. Craig Anderson can be contacted at 791-6390 or at:

canderson@pressherald.com

Twitter: @jcraiganderson