“Upon taking office, I made it a high priority to restore faith in these programs; Bright Start and Bright Directions can be very useful savings programs for Illinois families,” said Rutherford. “I am extremely proud of the 47 percent growth in these programs. I hope they will continue to help families build substantial savings so the burden of student loans is not placed on parents, grandparents or students.”
„When I took office, I took a serious look at the college savings programs and instituted some changes,” said Rutherford. “I hired a new director, visited with top Oppenheimer executives in New York and stressed that there was a new boss in town. In addition, new checks and balances were enacted internally and externally. The program was restructured to minimize expenses to account owners. The treasurer’s office also launched an award-winning marketing campaign, which helped us reach this milestone.”
Rutherford praises and thanks the families and individuals who are reaping the benefits of the tax-advantaged funds to save and pay for college expenses. “In the past two years, with increased contributions from parents, grandparents, families and friends, along with positive investment growth and solid marketing, we are helping more people achieve the dream of a college education by making the Illinois 529 college savings plans easily accessible,” said Rutherford. “The growth in Bright Start and Bright Directions is remarkable, especially considering the tough economic climate of the recent past.”
Investments in Illinois’ 529 college savings plans can be used at most vocational, community, state or post-secondary institutions in Illinois and outside the state. Plus, contributions are state tax deductible up to $20,000 per couple and $10,000 per individual each year, and all growth is federal and state tax exempt when used for qualified expenses.
“Studies have consistently shown that a college degree, whether it’s from a community or technical college or a four year school or graduate study, results in greater lifetime earnings and more upward mobility,” Rutherford said. “Growing our economy and creating more jobs requires that we have the best and brightest workforce in America; helping more families and students attend college is a big part of that. I am pleased that so many are taking advantage of our 529 plans, and topping $5 billion in assets is a significant milestone that helps shine a bright light on our future.”
For more information on opening a Bright Start or Bright Directions account, visit www.treasurer.il.gov.