Bright Start 529 accounts are designed to enable parents to save for college.

You can start by opening an account with any amount and contribute what you can, when you can. With a Bright Start 529 college savings account, you can be better prepared to help them pay for college when the time comes.

You can save for college expenses at universities, technical schools and other higher education institutions. Start your college fund by setting a little aside each week, month or for whenever you can contribute while saving on taxes. Also, your friends and other family members can contribute too!

With Bright Start, saving for college is possible.

Watch your savings grow

A Bright Start 529 college savings plan is an investment account that can be used for higher education expenses like tuition and fees, books, supplies, computers, and even room and board expenses incurred by students who are enrolled in school at least half-time. A Bright Start 529 plan can also be used for the cost of services for students in need of special needs services. The name “529” comes from Section 529 of the IRS tax code, which gives these plans special tax breaks to encourage saving for education. Your earnings grow tax-free!1

How does Bright Start make saving possible?


Bright Start makes it easy for the entire family to save together. Everyone can contribute, friends, family, and grandparents. Anyone over the age of 18 with a Social Security or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) and a valid U.S. address can open an account. The account owner selects a beneficiary, the future student, that will use the funds to pay for qualified higher education expenses.

Little by little

Bright Start is a low-cost investment plan with no enrollment fee, annual service fee, or minimum contributions required. It even gives the option of contributing automatically directly from a checking account or a paycheck each pay period. Everything counts towards making your Bright Start 529 account grow!

With tax benefits

The earnings from a Bright Start 529 account grow tax-free and qualified withdrawals are free from federal and state income tax. Also, Illinois taxpayers are eligible for a state income tax deduction for contributions to the account up to $10,000 per tax year (up to $20,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly). A college savings account means a brighter future2

With Bright Start, saving for college is possible.
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Bright Start earned elite ratings!

Each year, Morningstar evaluates 529 college savings plans. Bright Start is one of the highest rated plans in the country. For five consecutive years, Bright Start has earned a Gold Medal from Morningstar – this is the highest rating given to college savings programs.3

Morning Gold Since 2017

Everyone can contribute

What better gift for a son, daughter, nephew, niece, or grandchild than one that will last a lifetime? Grandparents, aunts, uncles, in-laws, and friends can contribute to the future career of a loved one through the Bright Start GiftEd program.

Diverse college choices

What if my child wants to go to a technical school? That is one of the advantages of a Bright Start 529 plan: savings can be used for one, two, or four-year careers at colleges and universities, vocational, trade, technical and professional institutions, and even some foreign schools! All public and private postsecondary educational institutions that participate in the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid programs are eligible.

Investment and contribution options

Not everyone has the same risk tolerance, college expenses, or savings objectives. That is why Bright Start provides a wide variety of investment options. Additionally, a Bright Start 529 account offers the flexibility to set up your account with a one-time lump sum, make contributions over time at your convenience, or set up an automatic investment plan to make saving easier. You decide when and how much to contribute.

What if?

What if my child doesn’t want to keep studying?

Answer: You can change the beneficiary to another member of the family, you can leave the funds in the account or withdraw them (if funds are not used for college expenses, it is considered a non-qualified withdrawal).

Class is in session

Learn so that you can help your future student. Sign up for our free webinars on saving for college, increasing your savings, understanding the tax benefits of a 529 Plan, and more. The experts of the Bright Start 529 plan are here to assist you.

Start saving today!

  1. Learn the details

    Explore the various ways that you can save.

  2. What you’ll need to get started

    Below you will find a list of all the information you will need to open your account.

  3. Open an account

    Take the first step to help your child have a career. Start here.

Please have the following items ready to open an account:

From you:

  • Name, address, and date of birth
  • Social Security Number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)
  • Phone number and email address

From the Beneficiary:

  • Name, address, and date of birth
  • Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)

From your bank:

  • Bank account information
  • Bank routing number for the initial contribution and to set up automatic contributions, if desired

Start to save today

More Resources

Would you like to learn the details of how a Bright Start 529 works? Did you see the information you need to open an account, but you would like to learn more details? Here are links to additional resources:

If you prefer the option of saving for college with the assistance of an investment expert, please visit

1Withdrawals used to pay for Qualified Higher Education Costs 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

2An individual who files an individual Illinois state income tax return will be able to deduct up to $10,000 per tax year (up to $20,000 for married taxpayers filing a joint Illinois state income tax return) for their total, combined contributions to the Bright Start College Savings Program, the Bright Directions Advisor-Guided 529 College Savings Program, and CollegeIllinois! during that tax year. The $10,000 (individual) and $20,000 (joint) limit on deductions will apply to total contributions made without regard to whether the contributions are made to a single account or more than one account. The amount of any deduction previously taken for Illinois income tax purposes is added back to Illinois taxable income in the event an Account Owner takes a Nonqualified Withdrawal from an Account or if such assets are rolled over to a non-Illinois 529 plan. If Illinois tax rates have increased since the original contribution, the additional tax liability may exceed the tax savings from the deduction.back

3Morningstar analyzed and rated 61 plans nationwide. Bright Start was one of only three plans to earn a Gold rating. Analyst ratings for 529 college savings plans consider: Process, People, Parent, and Price. Based on their conclusions, analysts will assign pillar scores. Morningstar analysts retain discretion to override scores if they believe a unique characteristic justifies a different rating than the score suggests. The Morningstar Analyst Rating™ is a subjective evaluation and is not a credit or risk rating. The Analyst Rating scale is Gold, Silver, Bronze, Neutral, and Negative. ©2020 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. The information contained herein: (1) is proprietary to Morningstar; (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.back