NU Online News Service, Dec. 4, 12:41 p.m. – Morningstar Inc., Chicago, has confirmed growing interest in state-sponsored college savings plans by putting a 529 program guide on its investment advisor Web site, at http://www.morningstaradvisor.com

Forty states have set up new college savings programs based on Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code.

Consumers can defer state and federal income taxes on earnings contributed to 529 plans. Students may also be able to avoid paying state and federal income taxes on the distributions.

In some states, the rules governing beneficiaries and use of funds are so loose that consumers who are willing to take college classes when they retire might be able to use 529 plans as retirement savings plans.

The Morningstar 529 program guide has general articles on the 529 program, and a detailed descriptions of existing 529 programs.

The entry for each state program includes information about eligibility for non-residents; the investment managers; any mandatory fees; minimum and maximum contribution limits; and state tax treatment of contributions and withdrawals.