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What Can a 529 Plan Be Used For?

A list of qualified education expenses and tax benefits.


Let’s not beat around the bush: College is expensive. That’s why some people choose to invest their aftertax dollars in a 529 college savings plan, where funds can grow and be withdrawn tax-free.

Tuition is the most obvious use of 529 assets, but you can also use a 529 plan to pay for many other education expenses.

What Higher Education Expenses Can I Use a 529 Plan For?

You can use a 529 plan to pay for these qualified higher education expenses:

When Can I Use a 529 to Pay for This?
Tuition and feesThis expense must be required for enrollment or attendance.
Books, supplies, and other school-related equipmentThis expense must be required for enrollment or attendance.
Special services for students with special needsThe services must be provided by the school.
Room and boardThe student must be enrolled at least half-time.
Computer, software, internet, and other computer-related expensesThis expense must be used primarily for education. (529 assets can’t be used to cover recreational activities, such as computer games that aren’t educational.)
Books, fees, and equipment for an apprenticeship programThe program must be registered and certified with the Secretary of Labor.
Student loansThis amount is limited to $10,000 for principal or interest payments on qualified student loans.

Source: Internal Revenue Service.

And here are a few expenses you can’t use a 529 plan for:

  • Transportation: Instead, save money by leaning into carpooling, using public transit or campus transportation, and relying on your own two feet.
  • College application fees: Depending on where you apply, this can range anywhere from $30 to $90.
  • Test and prep fees: The ACT and SAT official websites break down the current costs for testing, fees, and services.
  • Semester dues or fees for campus clubs: This includes fraternities, sororities, sports, and other nonacademic clubs.
  • Personal entertainment expenses: This includes everything from an off-campus gym membership to going to the movies or the bar. These costs go on your personal tab, not your 529.

Can I Use a 529 Plan to Pay for K-12 Education?

Short answer: It depends on where you live. In some states, you can use your 529 plan for K-12 education and get a corresponding income tax deduction.

Most states require an in-state 529 plan for you to be eligible for these tax deductions, but a few offer them regardless of the state in which your 529 plan is based.

Type of 529 Plan
Deductible Contributions
ArizonaAny state’s 529 planIndividual: $2,000; Married: $4,000
ArkansasAny state’s 529 planArkansas 529 plan: up to $5,000 if Individual, $10,000 if Married; Non-Arkansas plans: up to $3,000 if Individual, $6,000 if Married; Rollover contributions: $7,500 if Individual, $15,000 if Married
ConnecticutConnecticut 529 planIndividual: $5,000; Married: $10,000
District of ColumbiaDC 529 planIndividual: $4,000; Married: $8,000
GeorgiaGeorgia 529 planIndividual: $2,000; Married: $4,000
IdahoIdaho 529 planIndividual: $6,000; Married: $12,000
IndianaIndiana 529 planA 20% tax credit on up to $5,000 per year can be claimed.
IowaIowa 529 planIndividual: $3,319; Married: $6,638
KansasAny state’s 529 planIndividual: $3,000; Married: $6,000
MarylandMaryland 529 planIndividual: $2,500; Married $5,000 with 10-year carryforward
MassachusettsMassachusetts 529 planIndividual: $1,000; Married: $2,000
MississippiMississippi 529 planIndividual: $10,000; Married: $20,000
MissouriAny state’s 529 planIndividual: $8,000; Married: $16,000
North DakotaNorth Dakota 529 planIndividual: $5,000; Married: $10,000
OhioOhio 529 planIndividual or Married: $4,000
OklahomaOklahoma 529 planIndividual: $10,000; Married: $20,000 with five-year carryforward
PennsylvaniaAny state’s 529 planIndividual or Married: the gift-tax exclusion amount
Rhode IslandRhode Island 529 planIndividual: $500; Married: $1,000
South CarolinaSouth Carolina 529 planAny contributions are fully deductible.
UtahUtah 529 planIndividual: $1,960; Married: $3,920 per year can be claimed with a 5% tax credit
VirginiaVirginia 529 planIndividual or Married: $4,000 with an unlimited carryforward
West VirginiaWest Virginia 529 planAny contributions are fully deductible.
WisconsinWisconsin 529 planIndividual or Married: $3,200 with an unlimited carryforward

Source: Saving For College.

A previous version of this article appeared Jan. 4, 2024.

The author or authors do not own shares in any securities mentioned in this article. Find out about Morningstar’s editorial policies.

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Carole Hodorowicz

Audience Engagement Editor
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Carole Hodorowicz is a former audience engagement editor for Focusing on the individual investor audience, she managed content, created explainer videos, and wrote articles about different topics in finance for beginners.

Hodorowicz joined Morningstar in 2015 as a customer support representative for Morningstar Office before moving into an editorial role.

Hodorowicz holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Eastern Illinois University.

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