529 Guide 2007
See which plans are available in your state as well as Money Magazine's picks for your best options.
Tax-free withdrawals from 529s are now permanent, they don't hurt chances for financial aid and the offerings are better than ever. In other words, you'd be a fool to save for college any other way but in a 529 plan.
The real question is which plan to pick. There are some 85 plans available nationwide – the 70 largest are listed below - with almost every state offering at least one program and some, like West Virginia, offering as many as five.
All 529 savings plans provide the same federal tax benefits: Your investment earnings grow free of income tax. Your withdrawals, as long as you use them to pay higher education bills, are untaxed as well. What you don't get is an up-front federal tax deduction.
But 32 states and the District of Columbia have stepped in where the feds have not, offering residents a write-off on state income taxes for at least a portion of their 529 contributions.
And three states - Kansas, Maine and Pennsylvania - even allow residents to deduct their contributions to out-of-state plans as well.
If you live in a high-tax state that offers a big deduction for 529 contributions, your best 529 plan is one in your own backyard - that is, as long as the plan also has reasonable expenses and offers solid investment choices. We selected 22 plans as top choices on this basis, in addition to another 5 whose strong management and low fees make them top choices not only for their own state's citizens, but for anyone whose in-state plan doesn't merit a star.