Highly Rated 529 College Savings Plan

With Bright Start, you and your loved ones can benefit from all of the attractive benefits that have earned the Bright Start 529 Gold medals from Morningstar since 2017.1

Gain Access to One of the Highest Rated Direct Sold Plans

Bright Start has once again earned a gold medal from Morningstar – the highest consumer rating given to college savings programs. Bright Start was awarded this honor because of its age-based tracks, strong mutual fund line-up, and its low costs.

Use Your Savings Nationwide

Bright Start is flexible. The money in your account can be used to pay qualified higher-education expenses at any eligible school—college, university, vocational, trade, or graduate—anywhere in the United States and even some abroad.

Check out a listing of eligible schools from the Department of Education.

Top Rated 529 Plan

Great Tax Benefits

Bright Start provides excellent tax benefits, including:

  • Tax deferred growth of any earnings while in the plan
  • Tax-free withdrawals for qualified college expenses

With these tax benefits your account has additional growth potential since you will not be paying taxes on any earnings or growth each year while your money is in the plan.

Learn more about Bright Start tax benefits.

Low Costs

Bright Start has some of the lowest costs of any 529 plan. Accounts can be opened by almost anyone, including individuals, UGMA/UTMA custodians, certain legal entities, or a trust. Learn more and review Bright Start’s attractive cost structure at the Investment Center and find the strategy that best meets your needs.

Read more about other Bright Start 529 Plan benefits.

Bright Start Investment Options

Bright Start is proud to present a wide variety of investment options. Investors can select from six age-based options, six target portfolios, and 16 individual fund portfolios. These flexible and diverse investment options are from a number of well-respected mutual fund families.

Open a Bright Start Account

Tax advantages, account flexibility, low costs, and quality investment options are some of the benefits offered by a Bright Start 529 Account.

Open an Account Online

You can also

Download enrollment form | Request enrollment kit by mail

Important Considerations

Before you invest, consider whether your or the beneficiary’s home state offers any state tax or other benefits such as financial aid, scholarship funds, and protection from creditors that are only available for investments in that state’s 529 plan.

1The Morningstar Analyst Rating™ is not a credit or risk rating. It is a subjective evaluation performed by Morningstar’s manager research group, which consists of various Morningstar, Inc. subsidiaries (“Manager Research Group”). In the United States, that subsidiary of Morningstar Research Services LLC, which is registered with and governed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The Manager Research Group evaluates each plan’s investment options within the context of their objectives and peer groups, with emphasis placed on the options with the most assets. Plans are evaluated based on four key pillars, including process, people, parent, and price. The Manager Research Group uses this four pillar evaluation to determine which plans they believe are likely to adhere to industry best practices and feature investment options that are likely to collectively outperform relevant peers on a risk-adjusted basis over the long term. They consider quantitative and qualitative factors in their research, and the weight of each pillar is as follows: 30% for Process, People, and Parent, and 10% for Price. The Morningstar Analyst Rating scale is Gold, Silver, Bronze, Neutral, and Negative. Plans that receive Morningstar Analyst Ratings of Gold, Silver, or Bronze for the most part follow industry best practices, offering some combination of the following attractive features: a strong set of underlying investments, a solid manager selection process, a well-researched asset-allocation approach, an appropriate set of investment options to meet investor needs, low fees, and strong oversight from the state and program manager. State income tax benefits vary widely from state to state, and some states have no state tax benefit for investing in a 529 plan. Given the variability of state tax benefits for investors based on personal considerations such as residency, income level, size and frequency of contributions, and other factors, we do not treat tax benefits as a predictor of performance, and therefore it is not included in our ratings assessment. Morningstar Analyst Ratings are continuously monitored and reevaluated annually. For more detailed information about Morningstar’s Analyst Rating for 529 College-Savings Plans, including its methodology, please go to https://www.morningstar.com/content/dam/marketing/shared/pdfs/Research/Morningstar_Analyst_Rating_Methodology_071020.pdf.

The Morningstar Analyst Rating (i) should not be used as the sole basis in evaluating a plan, (ii) involve unknown risks and uncertainties which may cause analyst expectations not to occur or to differ significantly from what they expected, and (iii) should not be considered an offer or solicitation to buy or sell a 529 college-savings plan or its underlying investment options.

©2021 Morningstar, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein: (1) is proprietary to Morningstar and/or its content providers; (2) may not be copied or distributed; and (3) is not warranted to be accurate, complete, or timely. Neither Morningstar nor its content providers are responsible for any damages or losses arising from any use of this information. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.


2 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. back