By Denise Appleby

There are two types of 529 plans:

  • Prepaid tuition programs, which may be offered by the state of an eligible educational institution. Prepaid tuition programs allow for the advance purchase of credits for the designated beneficiary. These are usually established during enrollment periods established by the state of the eligible educational institution.
  • College savings plans allow contributions to be made to the account on behalf of the designated beneficiary. These can usually be established at any time, including immediately after the designated beneficiary is born.
Individuals would review the feature and benefits of both types of 529 plans to determine which is more suitable for the designated beneficiary.

The designated beneficiaryunder a 529 plan is the student the plan is established for. The designated beneficiary can be changed to an eligible person. Typically, the designated beneficiary is changed if the current designated beneficiary will not need the funds in the 529 plan for eligible education expenses. If a state or local government or certain tax-exempt organizations purchase an interest in a 529 plan as part of a scholarship program, the designated beneficiary is the person who receives the interest as a scholarship.

For purposes of a 529 plan, an eligible educational institution is any college, university, vocational school, or other post-secondary educational institution eligible to participate in a student aid program administered by the Department of Education. This includes virtually all accredited public, nonprofit and proprietary (privately owned profit-making) post-secondary institutions.

Certain educational institutions located outside the United States also participate in the U.S. Department of Education's Federal Student Aid (FSA) programs.

Individuals should check with the educational institution to determine if it is an eligible education institution for 529 plan purposes.

Next: 529 Plans: Eligibility »


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