The Top College Savings Plans

Use our state-by-state guide to 529 plans to choose the right one for your student.

The college hunt is a parade of choices. Private or public. In-state or out-of-state. On-campus or off-campus housing. But when it comes to saving for school expenses, one choice is a clear winner -- a 529 savings plan.

Taking advantage of one of these state-sponsored plans is a no-brainer. A 529 plan shields your investments from federal income taxes, gives grandparents an easy way to boost their grandkids' college fund, and barely dents your chances for financial aid. And more than half the states sweeten the deal with a state income-tax deduction or credit. Investors have flocked to 529 savings plans. Assets grew from $11 billion in 2002 to $119 billion in 2009, and the average account balance is $12,000 -- about one year's tuition at a public university.

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Contributing Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance