Higher Learning

Higher Learning

| January 04, 2021

For many people, a 529 savings plan offers an opportunity to achieve an important life goal and improve overall financial health. As college and university administrators determine how higher education will look in the future (classes on campus, remote learning or a mix of both), the benefits of a 529 plan have never been more meaningful. Here are three benefits that are particularly important during these times, especially as the cost of higher learning continues to rise.

  1. Not only can 529 plan assets be used to pay for tuition and books, they can also pay for computers, internet access and other equipment. This will be especially important if remote learning continues indefinitely.
  2. The recently passed Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act expanded qualified expenses to include registered apprenticeship programs1 and repayment of college debt.
  3. Account owners have full control over 529 plan assets and can even be the beneficiary of their own account. This is a huge benefit for anyone looking to go back to school right now to advance their skills for the evolving work environment and new opportunities that may come with it.

Study guide

A 529 plan is a tax-advantaged savings plan designed to help pay for education. Originally limited to postsecondary education costs, it was expanded to cover K-12 education in 2017. The two major types of 529 plans are savings plans and prepaid tuition plans. Savings plans grow tax-deferred and withdrawals are federally tax-free if they’re used for qualified education expenses. Prepaid tuition plans allow the account owner to pay in advance for tuition at designated colleges and universities, locking in the cost at today’s rates.

Follow the money

Distributions from a 529 plan can be used to cover a long list of qualified education expenses at qualified institutions. Here’s a summary:

Qualified expenses


  • Tuition up to $10,000 per year per student


  • Tuition and fees
  • Books, supplies and equipment required for enrollment or attendance
  • Room and board (on- or off-campus for students who are at least half time)
  • Computer peripheral equipment, software and internet access if used primarily by the beneficiary
  • Special needs services as required by beneficiaries in connection with enrollment or attendance
  • Fees, books, supplies and equipment required for participation in a registered apprenticeship program1

Types of eligible institutions

  • In-state or out-of-state colleges
  • Public and private schools
  • Vocational schools
  • Technical and trade schools
  • International higher education institutions
  • Any public, private or religious elementary or secondary school
  • Registered apprenticeship programs1
  • Repayment of principal/interest on any qualified education loan up to a $10,000 lifetime limit for the designated beneficiary

 1 Registered and certified with the U.S. Department of Labor.

We are happy to help, if you have any questions or would like additional insight, please feel free to reach out to me at  joe@printers401k.com or 800.307.0376.

Disclosure: This material was created for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as ERISA, tax, legal or investment advice. Investment Advice and 3(38) Investment Fiduciary services offered through Diversified Financial Advisors, LLC, a Registered Investment Advisor. 3(16) Administrative Fiduciary Services provided by PISTL Service Corporation. Discretionary Trustee services provided by Printing Industries 401k Trustees. If you are seeking investment advice specific to your needs, such advice services must be obtained on your own separate from this educational material.