Colorado - 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 Colorado

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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.

Colorado has it's own state-operated 529 plan called CollegeInvest Direct Portfolio College Savings Plan. It is important to note that your child does not have to go to a CO 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!

Colorado 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 Colorado as well. Colorado's' higher education costs rose by 69.3% in just the last 10 years, ranking as the 6th highest state.

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

OwnershipDegreeSchoolsPublic Out-of-State TuitionPublic In-State TuitionMedian DebtTotal Annual In-State Cost
Public 4 year 16 $22,891 $9,161 $19,852 $16,403
Public 2 year 16 $11,052 $3,983 $9,519 $9,600
Private 4 year 31 $27,330 $27,330 $26,974 $24,763
Private 2 year 47 $13,840 $13,840 $13,066 $18,306

These costs rise every year. Rising tuition is a major driver in these increased higher education costs. Tuition at a 4-year university in CO rose 23% (ranked 11th worst in the US), while a 2-year or trade school increased their tuition by 16 percent.

529 Tax Benefits for Colorado Residents

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

For single filers:No Limit
For joint filers:No Limit

Best 529 Plans in Colorado

Colorado offers three direct-sold 529 college savings plans and one advisor-sold 529 program. The largest direct-sold Colorado 529 plan is the Direct Portfolio College Savings Plan, managed by Ascensus College Savings, which utilizes Vanguard mutual funds. The Stable Value Plus College Savings Program offers a stable-value investment through Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, and the Smart Choice College Savings Plan offers two FDIC-insured options through FirstBank. The Scholars Choice College Savings Program is managed by Legg Mason and is sold through financial advisors. Colorado’s prepaid 529 program, the Prepaid Tuition Fund, closed and liquidated all assets in November 2013.

State Plan Name:CollegeInvest Direct Portfolio College Savings Plan
Minimum Contribution:$25
Maximum Contribution:up to $400,000 across all accounts for the same beneficiary
Fees:0% to 4% in annual account maintenance fees, depending on your plan

Colorado 529 Plan Statistics

There are 358,284 registered in Colorado with a total value of $8,808,494,351. That is an average of $24,585 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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