Utah - 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 Utah

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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.

Utah has it's own state-operated 529 plan called Utah Educational Savings Plan (UESP). It is important to note that your child does not have to go to a UT 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!

Utah 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 Utah as well. Utah's' higher education costs rose by 42.2% in just the last 10 years, ranking as the 19th highest state.

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

OwnershipDegreeSchoolsPublic Out-of-State TuitionPublic In-State TuitionMedian DebtTotal Annual In-State Cost
Public 4 year 7 $0 $0 $0 $0
Public 2 year 9 $0 $0 $0 $0
Private 4 year 21 $0 $0 $0 $0
Private 2 year 34 $0 $0 $0 $0

These costs rise every year. Rising tuition is a major driver in these increased higher education costs. Tuition at a 4-year university in UT rose 16% (ranked 28th worst in the US), while a 2-year or trade school increased their tuition by 13 percent.

529 Tax Benefits for Utah Residents

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

For single filers:5% on up to $2,000/yr per beneficiary
For joint filers:5% on up to $4,000/yr per beneficiary

Best 529 Plans in Utah

Utah’s 529 college savings plan utilizes the Utah State Treasurer’s fixed-income fund, Vanguard and Dimensional mutual funds in 4 different age-based options and 8 static portfolio options. The plan also offers the option of creating a customized age-based and/or static portfolio.

State Plan Name:Utah Educational Savings Plan (UESP)
Minimum Contribution:$0
Maximum Contribution:Account balances for the same beneficiary cannot exceed $446,000, which is the estimated maximum cost of four years of college and two years of graduate school. Note: This amount is reviewed yearly and may change to reflect higher tuitions.
Fees:Asset fees on age-based investment options is 0.14% (0.16% until that date) and fees for customized age-based and static investment options is 0.19%

Utah 529 Plan Statistics

There are 385,739 registered in Utah with a total value of $14,144,615,763. That is an average of $36,669 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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