The 25 most popular 529 plans
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By Kathryn Flynn

March 13, 2018

529 plans are one of the most popular ways to save for college. You deposit after-tax money into the account, and your earnings grow tax-free and won’t be taxed when you withdraw to pay for qualified expenses. This includes tuition and fees, books, supplies, computers and related equipment, and some room and board at any eligible college or university. And, starting in 2018, you can also withdraw up to $10,000 per year tax-free for elementary and high school tuition. Your state may also offer an additional tax credit or deduction for your 529 plan contributions. 

But with close to 100 different plans to choose from, finding the best 529 plan for your child can be challenging. To help you with your decision, we’ve put together this list of 25 of the most popular direct-sold plans on Savingforcollege.com. Our ranking methodology considered views of the plan’s detail page on our site, and traffic from our site to the plan’s website in 2017. 

Most popular 529 plans

529 savings plans from New York and California were the most popular among our readers. New York’s 529 College Savings Program, managed by Ascensus and the Scholarshare 529 College Savings Plan, managed by TIAA-CREF Tuition Financing, Inc., are top-rated plans that boast strong historical performance and offer a variety of age-based and static investment portfolios. New York’s 529 plan offers options from Vanguard, and the Scholarshare plan features options from TIAA-CREF, T. Rowe Price, DFA and PIMCO. New York residents can also claim a state tax deduction for contributions to the New York College Savings Program – up to $5,000 per year for individuals and up to $10,000 per year for married couples filing jointly.
Plans from smaller states also made the list, including those from Utah, Nevada, Maine and Alaska. These plans have all been featured in our top ten performance lists for the one-, three-, five- and / or 10-year periods, and offer investment options from nationally recognized asset managers, including Vanguard, T. Rowe Price and BlackRock. Utah residents are also eligible for a state tax deduction for contributions to a my529 plan. 
Remember, even if your state offers a tax benefit for residents, you may want to shop around for better investment performance or lower fees. Fees and expenses can eat away at your savings, leaving you with less money when it’s time to pay for college. Most 529 plans are available to residents of any state, but a few, like South Carolina’s Future Scholar, have residency requirements. Start by checking out what your plan has to offer, then compare features with a few other similar plans to make sure you select the best option for family’s needs. 
Plan name State Expense Ratio 5-Cap Rating* Performance Ranking How to Enroll
1. New York’s 529 College Savings Program — Direct Plan New York 0.15%

5-caps

Top 10

2. The ScholarShare College Savings Plan California 0.00% – 0.57%

5-caps

top 10

3. my529 Utah 0.00%-0.60%

most popular 529

top 10

4. Bright Start College Savings Program — Direct-sold Plan Illinois 0.10% – 0.83%

New Plan

top 10

5. Ohio CollegeAdvantage 529 Savings Plan Ohio 0.00% – 0.55

5-caps

top 10

6. The Vanguard 529 College Savings Pan Nevada 0.16% – 0.44%

4 1/2 caps

top 10

7. Maryland 529 College Investment Plan Maryland 0.40% – 0.74%

4 caps

8. TNStars Tennessee

0.00% – 0.35%

4 1/2 caps

9.inVEST 529 Virginia 0.10% – 0.76%

4 1/2 caps

10. Texas College Savings Plan Texas 0.59% – 0.98%

3 1/2 caps

11.Path2College 529 Plan Georgia 0.00% – 0.33%

4 caps

12. U.Fund College Investing Plan Massachusetts 0.11% – 1.20%

4 caps

13. Michigan Education Savings Program Michigan 0.12% – 0.24%. None for the Principal Plus Interest Option.

caps

14. NextGen College Investing Plan — Client Direct Series Maine 0.00% – 0.63%

caps

top 10

15. Pennsylvania 529 Investment Plan Pennsylvania 0.33% – 0.46%

caps

top 10

16. Florida 529 Savings Plan Florida 0.39% – 0.75% management fee (None for Money Market option)

caps

top 10

17. T. Rowe Price College Savings Plan Alaska 0.35% – 0.74%

caps

top 10

18. Future Scholar 529 College Savings Plan (Direct-sold) South Carolina 0.00% – 0.25%

Only available to SC residents

top 10

19. USAA 529 College Savings Plan Nevada 0.51% to 1.14%

caps

top 10

20. CollegeChoice 529 Direct Savings Plan Indiana 0.18% – 0.82%

caps

21. MOST – Missouri’s 529 College Savings Plan (Direct-sold) Missouri 0.23% – 0.57%

caps

22. College Savings Iowa Iowa 0.20%

caps

top 10

23. Connecticut Higher Education Trust (CHET) Connecticut 0.00%-1.07%

caps

top 10

24. Edvest Wisconsin 0.08% – 0.41%

caps

top 10

25. Oregon College Savings Plan Oregon 0.00% – 0.70%

caps

*5-Cap Ratings displayed represent the Non-Resident rating for each plan. Resident ratings for these plans may be higher. 

Most recent performance and 5-Cap Rating data as of 12/31/17. 

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