Arizona - Saving For College Report

We discuss the tax benefits, trends, do's and don'ts and various plan options of setting up a 529 college savings plan in Arizona

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As parents, grandparents and students we know college is coming and that we're somehow going to have to pay for it someday. Fortunately we have many options available to us including savings bonds, the stock market and 529 plans. Starting a 529 account now is always the best option, no matter how old you (or your child) is. While playing the stock market may yield higher returns on your investment, placing your money into a 529 plan allows it to grow in a tax free environment. One study even found that when the federal tax benefits were taken into consideration, 529 plans outperformed their benchmarks in every category.

Arizona has it's own state-operated 529 plan called Arizona Family College Savings Program. It is important to note that your child does not have to go to a AZ college or university in order to use this savings account. 529 plan funds can be used at any accredited college or university across the nation, including some K-12 private schools!

Arizona College Costs & Trends

Colleges and universities across the United States experienced increased operating costs of 2.5% in 2019. This most recent inflation figure was down slightly from the 2.9 percent increase in 2018 and 3.4 percent increase in 2017. These costs are forwarded directly to students in the form of higher tuition and living expenses. As these costs steadily rise every year, parents are looking for ways to help offset these future higher education costs.

These rising costs are hitting closer to home in Arizona as well. Arizona's' higher education costs rose by 92.4% in just the last 10 years, ranking as the 2nd highest state.

The table below shows the average one-year costs in 2020 for different types of AZ colleges and universities.

OwnershipDegreeSchoolsPublic Out-of-State TuitionPublic In-State TuitionMedian DebtTotal Annual In-State Cost
Public 4 year 10 $22,233 $8,785 $20,086 $12,255
Public 2 year 23 $8,342 $2,182 $8,874 $7,163
Private 4 year 31 $20,895 $20,895 $23,341 $22,958
Private 2 year 56 $0 $0 $10,373 $16,890

These costs rise every year. Rising tuition is a major driver in these increased higher education costs. Tuition at a 4-year university in AZ rose 15% (ranked 30th worst in the US), while a 2-year or trade school increased their tuition by 7 percent.

529 Tax Benefits for Arizona Residents

Arizona offers tax benefits and deductions when savings are put into your child's 529 savings plan.

For single filers:$2,000/yr
For joint filers:$4,000/yr

Best 529 Plans in Arizona

Arizona offers two direct-sold 529 college savings plans, one managed by College Savings Bank offering FDIC-insured options, and another managed by Fidelity Investments featuring its mutual funds along with a bank savings option. A third Arizona 529 plan, managed by Ivy Investment Management Company, is advisor-sold.

State Plan Name:Arizona Family College Savings Program
Minimum Contribution:$50
Maximum Contribution:up to $453,000 in total account balances per beneficiary; earnings continue to accrue on the balance.
Fees:Investment fees run between 0.05% to 1.16%, depending on your strategy.

Arizona 529 Plan Statistics

There are 84,301 registered in Arizona with a total value of $1,440,684,816. That is an average of $17,090 per account. Unfortunately 529 plans are not widely used... a 2018 study by Edward Jones found that only 29 percent of Americans were even aware that 529 savings plans exist!

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