Find Your Bright Start

529 Plans are tax-advantaged savings plans that help put money toward your future student’s education. When it’s time to pay for school, withdraw funds for qualified college expenses tax-free*.

Explore the Benefits of a 529 Plan

  • Save for tuition at two-year and four-year institutions, including vocational, trade, community, state, or technical schools.
  • Cover additional expenses like room and board*, books, a computer, and more.
  • Choose from a variety of investment options.
  • Enjoy flexible contributions – that means no minimum or ongoing requirements and a high maximum.
  • Set up automatic investments from your bank account so you don’t even have to think about your contributions.
  • If you’re an Illinois taxpayer, you’ll also receive an Illinois tax deduction for contributions you make to Bright Start.1
Anyone can open a Bright Start account. The account owner and future student (the beneficiary) just need a valid social security or taxpayer identification number.

How You Can Use the Funds

  • Funds can be used to cover a variety of educational expenses Tuition, fees, books, supplies, and equipment; room and board expenses (if enrolled at least half-time); computer or peripheral equipment, computer software, or internet access; and certain expenses for special needs services needed by a special needs beneficiary.
  • Use 529 funds at any accredited institution This includes any college, university, vocational school, or other postsecondary educational institution eligible to participate in a student aid program administered by the U.S. Department of Education. The educational institution should be able to tell you if it is an eligible educational institution.
  • Students are not limited to schools within the U.S. Certain educational institutions located outside the United States also participate in the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid (FSA) programs. Check out the listing of eligible schools from the Department of Education.

Ready to Withdraw Funds?

When it comes time to use your 529 plan for qualified expenses, withdrawing funds is simple. Withdrawals are tax-free at most in-state, out-of-state, and international schools (please note: funds withdrawn for nonqualified expenses are subject to income taxes and an additional 10% federal penalty tax). An account owner may request a withdrawal online or by downloading and submitting the Withdrawal Request Form.
*Withdrawals used to pay for qualified higher education expenses are free from federal and Illinois state income tax. Qualified higher education expenses include tuition, fees, books, supplies, and equipment required for enrollment or attendance; certain room and board expenses incurred by students who are enrolled at least half-time; the purchase of computer or peripheral equipment, computer software, or Internet access and related services if used primarily by the beneficiary during any of the years the beneficiary is enrolled at an eligible educational institution; and certain expenses for special needs services needed by a special needs beneficiary.

1 The State of Illinois offers an income tax deduction of up to $10,000 ($20,000 if filing jointly) for contributions to Bright Start. The Illinois Administrative Code provides that in the case of a rollover from a non-Illinois qualified tuition program, the amount of the rollover that is treated as a return of the original contribu­tion to the prior qualified tuition program (but not the earnings portion of the rollover) is eligible for the deduction for Illinois individual income tax purposes.back