Special Report

Morningstar's Guide to College Savings


College savers are investing with a critical goal and a fixed time frame. Given the high financial and emotional stakes involved in choosing and paying for college, investors should feel confident about their choice of savings vehicle, whether it's a 529 plan, a Coverdell, or a Roth IRA.

In the articles in this guide, we examine what you need to know about college-savings options in terms of their tax treatment and their effect on financial aid eligibility. We'll also help you figure out how much to sock away to reach your goal, and how to take that first step to set up a plan and start saving.

Much of our content is devoted to 529 savings plans, which have become popular vehicles for college savings because they allow a significant amount of money to be saved, and they have money-saving tax advantages. We answer frequently asked 529 questions and tick off main considerations that should drive your 529 plan selection. We've also included our complete list of 529 plan ratings to help you home in on the best option for your situation.

Choose Wisely With College-Savings Vehicles
Options ranging from 529 plans, Coverdells, and Roth IRAs can differ in tax treatment, investment flexibility, and effect on financial aid eligibility.

Recent Trends in the 529 Industry
During 2016, fees reached record lows, assets made a new all-time high, and asset-allocation techniques improved.

A Guide to Your College-Savings Options
We compare and contrast a few of the most common college savings vehicles.

529 Plans Can Be a Smart Choice for College Savings
Tax-advantaged accounts are worth considering, but not all plans are created equal.

Getting Started with a 529 College-Savings Plan
If setting up a college savings account is on your to-do list for 2017, here are some tips for getting going.

Morningstar Names Best 529 College Savings Plans for 2017
Thirty-four plans are Morningstar Medalists, and two receive Negative ratings.

What Should Drive Your 529 Plan Decision
Morningstar's annual college savings plan study highlights some of the industry's most pressing matters and how investors can pick the right plan.

For Most College Savers, Prepaid 529 Plans Don't Make the Grade
Investment in prepaid 529 plans continues to decline, and in many cases it's not hard to see why.

5 Misconceptions About College Aid
Don't disregard the FAFSA when planning how to pay for college.

Be Strategic in Saving for Grandkids' College
In this reader mailbag, we explore how grandparents can ensure they are doing more good than harm when putting money in 529 plans.

Ways to Pay for College If Your 529 Isn't Enough
The best sequence to tap your other assets will depend on your family's individual circumstances.

Creative Alternatives to Taking Student Loans
A look at some newer ways to address the problem of student-loan debt.