By Sandra Houston
Director of College Illinois! Prepaid Tuition Program
December 1, 2014

My family and I have created special holiday traditions and memories that will last a lifetime. One of my favorite traditions is working on crafts with the children in the family. I still treasure the lopsided snowflakes, tissue paper wreaths and handmade gifts. Amidst the glitter, glue, crayons and giggles, wonderful memories were made. Although my nephew is now in graduate school, the Christmas ornament he made when he was seven years old is still proudly displayed on our Christmas tree each year –much to my nephew’s embarrassment.

Whatever your holiday traditions may be, the holiday season is often referred to as “the most wonderful time of the year,” but it can also be a stressful time for many people. All of the shopping, decorating, and entertaining can seem overwhelming and trying to find the perfect gift for a child or grandchild can be especially taxing. It’s hard to know whether to buy the latest video game, purchase educational toys or simply give a gift card. If you are looking for a holiday gift idea that will last a lifetime, why not consider a 529 college savings or prepaid tuition plan?

There are two types of 529 Plans:

529 Savings Plan

Savings plans (also known as investment plans) enable participants to save money in a college savings account for a designated beneficiary. Amounts contributed and any earnings on the account may then be used to pay the beneficiary’s qualified higher education expenses. Contributions can vary, depending on individual savings goals. The plans offer various investment options that provide a variable rate of return usually based on stock or bond funds, although some plans offer investment options that guarantee a minimum rate of return.

529 Prepaid Tuition Plan

Prepaid tuition plans allow parents, grandparents and other individuals to purchase future tuition at today’s rate. The program will then pay the future college tuition of the beneficiary at any of the state’s eligible colleges or universities or provide comparable payment to private or out-of-state institutions. Depending upon the specific plan, tuition semesters, years or units may be purchased through a one-time lump sum purchase or monthly installment payments.

Both plans offer an affordable and convenient way to help pay the escalating cost of college. While the tax advantages are one of the primary benefits, states also offer a variety of features and benefits to help families reach their college savings goals.

Whether you choose a 529 savings plan or prepaid tuition plan, you can help prepare for your student’s college education today, so their tuition is in place when they are ready for college.  Some savings and prepaid tuition plans offer gift cards that can be used to make a gift to an individual’s 529 plan.  A 529 plan is a gift that will keep on giving.  Visit to learn more about 529 plans, and perhaps you can check one more gift off of your holiday list.

Take the stress out of this holiday season and make it “the most wonderful time of the year” by giving the gift of education.

About the Author:
Sandra Houston, Director of College Illinois! Prepaid Tuition Program