Virginia – Saving For College Report in 2021

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

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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.

Virginia has it's own state-operated 529 plan called Virginia529 inVEST. It is important to note that your child does not have to go to a VA 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!

Virginia 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 Virginia as well. Virginia's higher education costs rose by 55.7% in just the last 10 years, ranking as the 10th highest state.

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

OwnershipDegreeSchoolsPublic Out-of-State TuitionPublic In-State TuitionMedian DebtTotal Annual In-State Cost
Private 2 year 53 $0 $0 $0 $0
Private 4 year 59 $0 $0 $0 $0
Public 2 year 29 $0 $0 $0 $0
Public 4 year 16 $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 VA rose 14% (ranked 35th worst in the US), while a 2-year or trade school increased their tuition by 20 percent.

529 Tax Benefits for Virginia Residents

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

For single filers:$4,000/yr per beneficiary
For joint filers:$4,000/yr per beneficiary

Best 529 Plans in Virginia

Virginia operates a multi-manager, direct-sold 529 college savings program (Invest529) and an advisor-sold 529 plan (CollegeAmerica) utilizing American Funds. Both Virginia 529 plans are available to residents of any state. Virginia's prepaid tuition program (Prepaid529) closed to new enrollment as of April 30, 2019. The CollegeWealth program offered through Union Bank & Trust was closed during the first quarter of 2017.

State Plan Name:Virginia529 inVEST
Minimum Contribution:$25
Maximum Contribution:The value across Virginia529 accounts can’t exceed $500,000 per beneficiary.
Fees:0% to 0.67% asset management fee, depending on the type of account; 0.10% administrative fee; Virginia 529 may impose a $50 for paper applications, a $25 fee for account cancellation and a $25 fee for rollover or change of account owner.

Virginia 529 Plan Statistics

There are 2,736,444 registered schools in Virginia with a total value of $74,372,377,955. That is an average of $27,178 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!