Bright Start 529 College Savings Plan Benefits

Tomorrow’s opportunities come from saving today. That’s why you’re setting money aside for higher education in the years to come. With an investment in Bright Start, you can enjoy several additional benefits.

Tax Benefits

The Bright Start College Savings Plan offers attractive tax advantages including tax deferral on any growth in the account and tax-free withdrawals for qualified college expenses.1 In addition, Illinois taxpayers are eligible for a state income tax deduction of up to $10,000 per individual ($20,000 for married couples).2

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Bright Start 529 College Savings Plan: Highlights and Benefits


Bright Start Highly Rated!

Morningstar annually rates 529 college savings programs. Bright Start has been rated as one of the top 529 plans in the nation. For two consecutive years, Bright Start has earned a Gold medal from Morningstar – the highest consumer rating given to college savings programs. See what else Morningstar had to say about Bright Start.

Investment Options

Bright Start is proud to present a wide variety of investment options. Investors can select from six age-based portfolios, six target portfolios, and 16 Individual Fund Portfolios. These investment options are from a number of well-respected mutual fund families including: Vanguard, T. Rowe Price, Dodge & Cox, DFA, and more. Learn more about Bright Start investment options.

Flexible Contributions

Put the flexibility of a Bright Start account to work for you and start saving for college today. With no required minimum or ongoing contributions and high maximums, the Bright Start 529 College Savings Program is a great way for you to reach your college savings goals. You can 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. Check out more ways to contribute to your Bright Start account.

College Choices

When it’s time to pursue higher education, the money you’ve saved with Bright Start can be used nationwide at most accredited colleges and universities as well as trade schools and graduate schools. All public and private postsecondary educational institutions that participate in the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid programs are eligible. Find out whether the schools you have in mind are on the searchable list of eligible institutions.

Give the Gift of Education

The Bright Start College Savings Program makes it easy for friends and family to help give the gift of a college education. Parents, grandparents, and others can make a gift to the beneficiary to celebrate birthdays and special occasions. See how to get started with GiftED.

Nationwide Appeal

Bright Start has investors across the nation. Families in any state can benefit from all Bright Start has to offer, you’re not required to live in Illinois and your loved one isn’t required to attend school in Illinois. Learn why savers everywhere are using Bright Start.

Account Control

When you invest with Bright Start as an account owner, you control the account. You have the ability to name or change the beneficiary, select and change investments, direct withdrawals, and manage your account online. See how you can manage your account.

Roll Over an Out-of-State 529

Roll funds from an out-of-state 529 plan into your Bright Start 529 account to take advantage of all Bright Start has to offer. And, Illinois taxpayers can earn an Illinois state income tax deduction. Learn how to rollover an out-of-state 529 account into Bright Start 3.

Minimal Impact on Federal or State Financial Aid

Funds invested in a Bright Start 529 account are considered an asset of the account owner – if that’s a parent, only a maximum of 5.64% of the value of the account is considered to determine the student’s Expected Family Contribution. That is a minimal impact. Find out what a 529 Plan can mean for financial aid.

Opening an Account with Bright Start Is Easy

Take a few minutes to open an account from your computer, it only takes 10 minutes. Or download, print and complete the Enrollment Form. You can also download or request the complete enrollment kit that includes a Bright Start Color Booklet, Program Disclosure Statement, Enrollment Form, and Rollover Form.

Get Started Today


If you prefer to reach your college savings goals with the expertise and assistance of an investment professional, visit BrightDirections.com to learn more.

1 Withdrawals 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

2 An 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

3 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