Our two-day report includes loads of tips to help you save, invest, and plan for college better.
By Morningstar.com | 10-23-17 | 05:00 AM | Email Article

A college education has long been a pricey endeavor, to be sure. But over the past decade, tuition rates have rapidly escalated, rising further and further out of the typical family's reach. Meanwhile, a college degree continues to be a prerequisite to getting a good-paying job, so the question remains not whether to send your child to college, but how to come up with the money to do it. 

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Perhaps you're already familiar with the numbers: Published prices for in-state tuition, fees, and room and board at 4-year public colleges average nearly $20,000 per year and more than double that at private colleges, according to the College Board. And that doesn't include the cost of books, transportation, and other expenses. Fortunately, many students and families don't pay the published tuition prices once grants and scholarships are factored in. That doesn't mean college is cheap, however. In a Sallie Mae survey, families reported paying nearly $15,000 per year on average out of savings, income, and loans to send a child to college. Families are increasingly having to dig deeper and cast a wider net to find ways to pay for college.

The good news is that you have more control over college costs than you might think. By saving in a tax-advantaged vehicle such as a 529 college-savings plan, by paying attention to college pricing and financial aid trends, and by thinking creatively about how to provide your son or daughter with a college education in a cost-effective way, you can get more bang for your college-savings buck. Over the next couple of days, we're going to show you how.

We'll take a deep dive into our analyst ratings for 529 plans and also take a broader look at the college funding landscape. 

Making the Most of 529 Plans
Morningstar Names Best 529 College Savings Plans for 2017
Thirty-four plans are Morningstar Medalists, and two receive Negative ratings.

Our View Brightens on This Illinois 529 Plan  
Bright Start Direct-Sold College Savings Program is now rated Gold thanks to smoother equity adjustments and lower fees.

6 Upgrades, 3 Downgrades in Our New 529 Plan Ratings
Our annual ratings of college savings plans show the industry continues to build upon improvements.

How Much Should You Save for College?  
Uncertainty surrounding cost inflation and investment performance make it difficult--but not impossible--to estimate how much you should save.

How to Allocate Assets for College Savings
Families must contend with competing challenges: steep glide paths and high inflation.

Proposed Tax Changes Could Make 529s More Flexible
The Boost Saving for College Act could entice more people to contribute to 529 plans.

Choose Wisely With College-Savings Vehicles
Options ranging from 529 plans, Coverdells, and Roth IRAs can differ in tax treatment, investment flexibility, and effect on financial aid eligibility.

Recent Trends in the 529 Industry
During 2016, fees reached record lows, assets made a new all-time high, and asset-allocation techniques improved.

Getting Started with a 529 College-Savings Plan 
If setting up a college savings account is on your to-do list for 2017, here are some tips for getting going.

What Should Drive Your 529 Plan Decision 
Morningstar's annual college savings plan study highlights some of the industry's most pressing matters and how investors can pick the right plan.

For Most College Savers, Prepaid 529 Plans Don't Make the Grade
Investment in prepaid 529 plans continues to decline, and in many cases it's not hard to see why.

Ways to Pay for College If Your 529 Isn't Enough 
The best sequence to tap your other assets will depend on your family's individual circumstances.

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