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Paying for College

2009 Best List: College

Smart choices for your tuition dollars.

Best State 529 Plans

Best for: Low fees
State plan to choose: The Vanguard index-fund portfolios in the ILLINIOS BRIGHT START COLLEGE SAVINGS PROGRAM.

Best for: Fund selection
State plan to choose: The COLLEGE SAVINGS PLAN OF NEBRASKA, which offers 20 funds.

Best for: Broker-Sold Plans
State plan to choose: Virginia’s COLLEGE AMERICA, which includes 22 top funds from American Funds.

Best for: Biggest bang for your buck
State plan to choose: The plan in your own state, if you get a tax break for contributions.

Best Schools for Standing by Grads

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MISERICORDIA UNIVERSITY, in Dallas, Pa., guarantees placement in a paid internship for graduates who aren’t employed within six months of graduation. Manchester College, in North Manchester, Ind., offers a year’s worth of free classes to qualifying grads who remain jobless six months after graduating.

Best College Systems.

States that help you get your degree.For help getting an inexpensive four-year degree, you can’t beat the com­munity-college systems in Florida, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Washington State and Wyoming. These systems let students transfer community-college credits to a four-year in-state institution and score the same degree as everybody else, at a price that’s one-third to two-thirds less.

Also, don’t give up on attending universities in other states because you think tuition will be too high. Many states have networks that offer breaks to students who want to major in a program not available in their own state. To find them, go to (New England); (South and Mid Atlantic); (Midwest); and (West).