College Happens Sooner Than You Think

Start saving and prepare for your student's future now with one of the nation's highest-rated 529 college savings plans.

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Saving Doesn't Have to Be Scary

For most parents, the idea of saving for their child’s future is daunting, confusing and distant. College costs have risen by more than 134%1 over the last 20 years, with tuition soaring as high as $44,000/year. But even though you can’t slow their childhood or rising college costs, you can plan ahead.

By having savings for college, kids are more likely to pursue post-secondary education, graduate and leave with less debt. So start by doing the math, whether you’re saving for all of their education or helping minimize their future debt. See what you should be saving based on your student’s age with our college savings calculator — then put that money to work for you.

Do the Math

Take the First Step with Bright Start

A 529 college savings plan is a state-sponsored, tax-advantaged investment account. They’re proven to be the most effective way to save for higher education, and Illinois has a plan that is among the very best.

Since 2017, Morningstar has rated Bright Start as one of the best college savings plans in the nation because of its investing options, mutual fund lineup and low costs.* On top of high-rated performance and investment variety, families choose Bright Start because it makes saving for college easier — and offers extra help along the way.

Investing Made Simple

Learn how a 529 college savings plan account is easy to set up, contribute to, and manage — regardless of your investment style.

Learn the Basics

Highly Rated for a Reason

Tax benefits, high-quality investment options, and lots of versatility set Bright Start apart from the rest.

See What Makes Us Better

Savings for Every Tax Season

Planning for the future comes with perks, like generous state income tax deductions2, tax-deferred growth and tax-free withdrawals for qualified educational expenses.3

See the Advantages

The Smart Way to Save

There’s no better way to save for college or prepare for the future. See all the advantages and how Bright Start makes it easy.

Make Today the Day

Start saving for their future now — no minimum or ongoing contributions required. Open a Bright Start account in just a few steps.

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Words from the Savings Wise

Families just like yours made the decision to save for the future. See how they’re reaching their college savings goals with Bright Start.

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We kept coming back to Bright Start given how well it's performed and its reputation. It's professionally managed, so we can trust that we don't need to watch it every day. The cost savings are great, and it's less expensive than other funds we researched.
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Got Questions? We've Got Answers

Enroll online. It’s fast, easy, and secure. Or, if you prefer, call 877.432.7444, and we will be happy to send you an enrollment packet. You may also download an enrollment kit that can be sent via regular mail once completed.

If you do not use all the funds in your account, you have a number of options.

  1. You can leave the funds in the account in the event your beneficiary (or another member of the beneficiary’s family) can use the funds for college expenses at a later date.
  2. You can change the beneficiary to another member of the beneficiary’s family and use funds for their college expenses.
  3. You can withdraw the funds as a nonqualified withdrawal. The earnings portion (not the amount you contributed) is subject to federal and state income taxes and a 10% federal penalty tax.

Illinois tax filers: The amount of any deduction previously taken for Illinois income tax purposes is subject to recapture 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. Please consult with your tax professional.

Yes, an account owner in another 529 qualified tuition program may roll over or transfer funds from another 529 qualified tuition program to Bright Start. Before requesting a rollover, please consult your tax professional.

Such a rollover transaction will be treated as an income tax-free Federal Qualified Rollover Distribution provided it has been more than twelve (12) months since any previous rollover for that Beneficiary or if the Beneficiary of the Account is changed to a Member of the Family of the current Beneficiary. The program from which you are transferring funds may impose fees or other restrictions on such a transfer, so you should investigate this option thoroughly before requesting a transfer.

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 constituted investment in the prior qualified tuition program for federal income tax purposes (but not the earnings portion of the rollover) is eligible for the deduction for Illinois individual income tax purposes, subject to the deduction limits of $10,000 per tax return ($20,000 if married filing jointly). You should consult your tax or legal advisor about the availability of such deduction.

With Bright Start GiftED, our online gift-giving site, you, your family, and your friends can give the perfect gift to a child or grandchild—a college education. It’s quick, easy, and great for any special occasion.

As an existing account owner, you’ll find everything you need when you log into your account and select “Bright Start GiftED” for simple, step-by-step instructions.

Here are instructions for family and friends:

  1. Request a Bright Start GiftED evite from the account owner.
  2. Receive the GiftED evite and:
    1. Contribute online directly from your bank account; or
    2. Print a personalized deposit slip to mail with your check to Bright Start.

Gift contributions will be invested according to your current account allocation at the time the contribution is invested. Only the named Account Owner can authorize transaction instructions or obtain information about an account. A contributor has no control over contributions made to an account they do not own.

Money from a Bright Start account can be paid directly to the account owner, directly to the beneficiary, to the account owner’s bank account, or to an eligible educational institution.

Payments to account owners, beneficiaries, and bank accounts

An account owner or custodian (under a state UGMA/UTMA) may request a withdrawal online or by downloading and submitting the Withdrawal Request Form. Be sure to plan ahead when requesting a withdrawal. Generally, if a request is received in good order on a business day prior to the close of the markets (typically 3 p.m. Central time), the investments will be sold at that day’s closing prices, and a check will be mailed the following business day. Please plan ahead and allow sufficient mail time. For withdrawals payable to the account owner’s bank account, please allow several business days for your bank to process the payment and credit your account.

Payments to eligible institutions

Bright Start can also make payments directly to a college or university. Please allow the institution three to seven business days to post the payment. Please allow sufficient time for mail time and processing by the school.

For more information about withdrawals from an account, please visit the Use of Funds page.