Alaska: University of Alaska College Savings Plan and T. Rowe Price College Savings Plan.
Available to residents of any state | Both are managed and distributed by T. Rowe Price and include only T. Rowe Price funds | University of Alaska plan includes the ACT Portfolio, which guarantees a minimum return equal to tuition increases at the University of Alaska for beneficiaries enrolled there | T. Rowe Price plan provides resident tuition for nonresidents enrolled at University of Alaska who have an active account for two years immediately before enrollment | Total asset-based expense ratio: 0.29% - 0.74%, University of Alaska plan; 0.35% - 0.74% for T. Rowe Price plan.
Wisconsin: Edvest | Available to residents of any state | Plan Manager: TIAA-CREF Tuition Financing | Plan Distributor: TIAA-CREF | Mutual funds managed by TIAA-CREF, DFA, MetWest, T. Rowe Price and Franklin Templeton | Total asset-based expense ratio: 0-0.41%. Contributions are deductible from state taxable income up to $3,200 per beneficiary per year; $1,600 for a parent who is married and filing separately or who is divorced, unless the divorce judgment specifies a different division of the $3,200 maximum | Many employers can claim a state tax credit for 25% of the amount paid into each of their employee’s Wisconsin Trust account up to a maximum of $800.
Maine: NextGen College Investing Plan — Client Direct Sales | Available to residents of any state | Plan Manager and Distributor: Merrill Lynch | Investment options from BlackRock, including but not limited to iShares ETFs plus a savings option and New York Life GIA. | Total asset-based expense ratio: 0-0.63%.
Nevada: The Vanguard 529 Savings Plan.
Available to residents of any state. Multiple investment options from Vanguard. Program Manager: Ascensus Broker Dealer Services | Accounts can be linked to the Upromise rewards service | Total asset-based expense ratio: 0.16%-0.44%
Ohio: Ohio’s 529 Plan, College Advantage.
Available to residents of any state. Multiple investment options including funds from Vanguard and DFA and FDIC-insured deposit accounts through Fifth Third Bank | Accounts can be linked to the Upromise rewards service | Program manager and distributor: Ohio Tuition Trust Authority | Total asset-based expense ratio: 0.18% - 0.54%; none for Fifth Third options.
West Virginia: SMART529 WV Direct College Savings Plan.
Must meet certain West Virginia residency requirements | Contributions are deductible from taxable state income | Multiple portfolio options including index funds from Vanguard. Accounts can be linked to the Upromise rewards service | Program manager and distributor: Hartford Funds Management Co. LLC | Total asset-based expense ratio: 0.12%-0.22%.
New York: New York’s 529 College Savings Program – Direct Plan.
Available to residents of any state | NY residents can claim a tax deduction for contributions | Program manager: Ascensus College Savings | Diverse investment options featuring Vanguard mutual funds | Total asset-based expense ratio: 0.15%.
California: ScholarShare 529.
Available to residents of any state | Variety of investment options from TIAA-CREF, T. Rowe Price, and others | Program manager: TIAA-CREF Tuition Financing Inc. | Total asset-based expense ratio: 0.08%-0.57%; none for the Principal Plus Interest Portfolio.
(Related: 8 Best RIA-Sold 529 Plans: Savingforcollege.com)
Savingforcollege.com has just released its rankings of 529 Savings Plans based on average investment returns over one, three, five and 10-year periods ended June 30. Rankings are available for plans sold directly to consumers and through brokers and RIAs.
The rankings are composites based on the average performance score in seven allocation categories: 100%, 80%, 60%, 40% and 20% equities with the remaining allocation in bonds; 100% bonds and 100% short-term.
The scores of direct-sold plans are generally better than those sold through brokers and RIAs, due to lower fees, but some advisor and RIA-sold plans may have more investment choices, according to Mark Kantrowitz, publisher and vice president of research at Savingforcollege.com.
(Related: 15 Lowest Cost 529 College Savings Plans)
Investment performance is just one of several factors families should consider when choosing among 529 plans. Other considerations include plan fees, investment options and tax benefits.
Three dozen states offer a state income tax deduction or state income tax credit on contributions to a 529 plan, but most require residents to use their home state plan. Arkansas, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana and Pennsylvania are exceptions, allowing residents to claim a state tax deduction or credit for contributions to any 529 plan.
(Related: 529 Plans vs. Roth IRAs: Which Is Better for College Savings?)
There is no federal tax deduction for 529 plan contributions, but plan savings grow tax-free and distributions are tax free so long as they’re used for qualified educational expenses. Starting this year, 529 distributions, which traditionally have been used to pay for college, can also be used to finance private school education from kindergarten through Grade 12. Some state income tax deductions available for college savings, however, may not be available for K-12 contributions.
Following are the leading 529 plans sold directly to investors, each ranked among the top 10 for three and five-year performance — time periods that Kantrowitz recommends for choosing among funds. “One-year rankings are much more volatile from one quarter to the next, and not every plan has been around for 10 years.”
Since we included only plans that ranked in the top 10 during two different time periods, some plans that earned a high rating in only one of those periods are not included in our list. The plans are presented in order of their three-year rankings, starting with the lower rankings first.
— Check out Top 10 Colleges With Best Financial Aid Packages: Princeton Review on ThinkAdvisor.