The Utah Educational Savings Plan, Utah’s official 529 college savings program, received the highest industry stamp of approval from Morningstar, Inc., a leading provider of independent investment research, for the fourth consecutive year.
Of 64 plans Morningstar analyzed, UESP was one of only four to receive a Morningstar Analyst Rating™ of Gold in 2014. Plans with Gold ratings are Morningstar’s highest-conviction recommendations and stand out as best of breed for their ability to help college savers meet their goals.
“In addition to featuring high-quality underlying investment managers, this plan also is a leader in providing low-cost investments,” Morningstar senior analyst Kathryn Spica, CFA, says about UESP in her report. “Both residents and nonresidents will be well-served by its low-cost and appealing set of investment options.”
In Utah and nationwide, more people are choosing UESP to save for college. UESP is one of the nation’s fastest-growing 529 plans, with more than 265,000 accounts and $7.3 billion in assets under management.
“Morningstar’s Gold rating shines a light on our tradition of plan simplicity, low fees, and high-quality investment offerings,” says Lynne Ward, UESP executive director. “That’s good news for current and future UESP account owners.”
Morningstar evaluates 529 plans based on five key pillars—Process, Performance, People, Parent, and Price—that its analysts believe lead to plans that are more likely to outperform over the long term on a risk-adjusted basis. The criteria enable the investment research firm to assess 529 plans’ governance and management, investment offerings, fees, and returns over time. UESP ranked highly for its customizable investment options, capable oversight, and low fees.
UESP “provides college savers with a large suite of investments that can be combined into an age-based track of the account-holder’s choosing, offering flexibility at an affordable price,” according to the Morningstar report.
“UESP prides itself in offering opportunities for families of every income level to save for college,” Ward says.
UESP charges no fees to open an account, and requires no minimum or ongoing contributions. Earnings on UESP accounts grow tax deferred, and withdrawals are free from federal and Utah state income taxes when used for qualified higher education expenses, including tuition and fees; book, supplies and required equipment; and certain room and board expenses.
For the 2014 tax year, Utah taxpayers may claim a 5 percent tax credit on UESP contributions up to $1,860 per qualified beneficiary for single filers and trusts ($3,720 per qualified beneficiary for joint filers). Utah-based corporations that own UESP accounts may claim a tax deduction up to $1,860 per qualified beneficiary. Account funds may be used at any technical school, college, or university that participates in federal financial aid programs for students, not just at institutions in Utah.