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Special Report

Morningstar's 529 College Savings Report

Our two-day report includes loads of tips to help you save, invest, and plan for college better.

A college education has long been a pricey endeavor, to be sure. But over the past decade, tuition rates have rapidly escalated, rising further and further out of the typical family's reach. Meanwhile, a college degree continues to be a prerequisite to getting a good-paying job, so the question remains not whether to send your child to college, but howto come up with the money to do it. 

Perhaps you're already familiar with the numbers: Published prices for in-state tuition, fees, and room and board at 4-year public colleges average nearly $20,000 per year and more than double that at private colleges, according to the College Board. And that doesn't include the cost of books, transportation, and other expenses. Fortunately, many students and families don't pay the published tuition prices once grants and scholarships are factored in. That doesn't mean college is cheap, however. In a recent Sallie Mae survey, families reported paying nearly $15,000 per year on average out of savings, income, and loans to send a child to college. Families are increasingly having to dig deeper and cast a wider net to find ways to pay for college.

The good news is that you have more control over college costs than you might think. By saving in a tax-advantaged vehicle such as a 529 college-savings plan, by paying attention to college pricing and financial aid trends, and by thinking creatively about how to provide your son or daughter with a college education in a cost-effective way, you can get more bang for your college-savings buck. Over the next couple of days, we're going to show you how.

We'll take a deep dive into our recently updated analyst ratings for 529 plans and also take a broader look at the college funding landscape. 

Making the Most of 529 Plans
Morningstar Names Best 529 College-Savings Plans for 2016
Thirty-three plans are Morningstar Medalists, and three receive Negative ratings.

Notable 529 Plan Upgrades and Downgrades
Morningstar's Leo Acheson discusses what's behind our decisions to boost some state plans and to lower our rating on others.

2 Approaches to Adjusting the Asset Mix in 529 Plans  
Hands-off college-savers should know whether their age-based investments slide or step down the glide path over time.

6 529 Plans Suffer Downgrades in 2016
2 former Gold-rated plans slip, the list of Negative-rated plans grows.

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.

Do 529 Plans' Age-Based Funds Draw the Short End of the Diversification Stick?
Morningstar's annual college-savings plan study compares diversification between target-date retirement funds and 529 plans' age-based options.

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.

Today's 529 Plan Landscape
Morningstar's Leo Acheson discusses how to evaluate 529 plans and identifies some industry best practices. (video)

More College Savings Advice
3 Pointers for Parents When Saving for College
Don't panic, consider your options, and be careful with asset allocation when it comes to saving for college.

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

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

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

How Much Should You Save for College?
Let's put a number on how much it could cost, and how much you might need to save.

Tips for Making College More Affordable
Morningstar readers share their best advice for taming college costs.