Bright Directions College Savings Program


The Illinois Bright Directions College Savings Program, sold through brokers and fee-based financial advisors, features an extensive multi-manager platform offering a large number of age-based, static multi-fund, and individual-fund options. To find a financial advisor in your area, use the Directory of Financial Professionals.

5-Cap Rating


Savingforcollege.com's 5-Cap Ratings provides an evaluation and comparison of 529 plans, utilizing a formula that examines dozens of factors grouped into the following categories. (Scale 0 to 5; 5 is highest)

Performance Costs Features Reliability Resident Upgrade
2.86 3.91 4.53 4.40 0.40

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Enroll in Bright Directions College Savings Program through a financial advisor. Search our directory of qualified financial professionals to find one near you.


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Program type:


How to enroll:

Enroll through a financial advisor. Find a Professional

Initial year of operation:


State agency(ies):

Illinois State Treasurer

Program manager:

Union Bank and Trust Company of Lincoln, Nebraska

Program distributor:

Northern Trust Securities, Inc.

Manager contract term:

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State residency requirements:


Who can be a participant/owner in the program?

Individuals, UGMA/UTMA custodians, and certain legal entities.

Significant time or age restrictions imposed by the program:



Maximum contributions:

Accepts contributions until all account balances in Illinois' 529 plans for the same beneficiary reach $350,000.

Minimum contributions:

No minimum.

Investment Options

Age-based investment options:

The Age-Based option is offered in 3 different risk levels (Aggressive, Growth, and Balanced) each containing 5 portfolios of underlying mutual funds. Contributions are placed into the portfolio corresponding to the risk level selected and the number of years to expected enrollment, and later reassigned to more conservative portfolios as the beneficiary approaches college age.

Static investment options:

Select among 7 multi-fund Target portfolios with varying risk tolerances and 32 individual-fund portfolios. Certain portfolios consist of underlying investments managed by women- and minority-owned investment managers. Fifteen additional individual portoflios invest in Vanguard ETF funds and are available only to account owners who establish an account through a registered investment advisor or advisor who is not compensated through commissions.

Underlying investments:

T. Rowe Price, DFA, Dodge & Cox, Harbor Funds, PIMCO, BlackRock, American Century, Baird Funds, MainStay Investments, Delaware Funds, Northern Funds, William Blair, Voya, Calvert, Templeton, Causeway, Ariel Investments,MFS, Oppenheimer Funds, Sit Mutual Funds, and Vanguard (Class F only).

Underlying fund allocations:

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Portfolio Fees & Performance Lookup

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See Investment Options

Fees & Expenses

Enrollment or application fee:


Account maintenance fee:


Program management fees:

0.23% manager fee (including 0.05% state fee), plus distribution/servicing fees of 0.25% (Classes A and E, except 0% for Money Market), plus distribution/servicing fees of 0.50% (Class C, except 0% for Money Market), or 0% distribution/servicing fee (Class F). 0.21% manager fee (including 0.03% state fee) for Class F Vanguard ETF portfolios.

Expenses of the underlying investments:

Ranges from 0.26% to 0.49% (portfolio weighted average) in the age-based and static multi-fund portfolios, 0.06% to 1.34% in the individual-fund portfolios, and 0.72% to 1.34% in the female- and minority-owned portfolios.

Total asset-based expense ratio:

Class A: 0.16% - 1.82%
Class C: 0.16% - 2.07%
Class E: 0.16% - 1.82%
Class F: 0.16% - 1.57%

Broker loads and commissions:

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Breakpoint pricing:

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Taxes and other Benefits

Program match on contributions:


State tax deduction or credit for contributions:

Contributions to an Illinois 529 plan of up to $10,000 per year by an individual, and up to $20,000 per year by a married couple filing jointly, are deductible in computing Illinois taxable income. For a rollover contribution, only the principal portion is eligible for the deduction. Contribution deadline is December 31 postmark. For tax years ending on or between 12/31/09 and 12/31/20, employers may claim a credit against Illinois tax for 25% of matching contributions made to an employee's account in an Illinois 529 plan, with a maximum annual credit of $500 per employee. Unused credits may be carried forward for five years.

State tax recapture provisions:

Effective January 1, 2007, rollovers from this plan to an out-of-state program are included in Illinois taxable income to the extent of prior Illinois deductions. Effective January 1, 2009, nonqualified distributions from this plan are included in Illinois taxable income to the extent of prior Illinois deductions.

State tax treatment of qualified distributions:

Qualified distributions from an Illinois 529 plan are exempt. Qualified distributions from a non-Illinois plan are exempt provided the plan meets certain disclosure requirements.

State tax treatment of rollovers:

Illinois follows federal tax-free treatment except that, beginning in 2007, outbound rollovers are subject to the recapture of prior state tax deductions.

Does the sponsoring state exclude the value of an account for state financial aid purposes?


Does participation in the program provide beneficiaries with any advantages in qualifying for resident tuition status at state institutions?


Does the program have a formal agreement with a rewards program or outside scholarship program?

Yes, Bright Directions 529 College Savings Visa with a 1.529% reward on qualifying purchases.

Statutory protection of an account from creditors:

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Distributions & Terminations

To whom are distributions made payable:

Eligible educational institution, beneficiary, or account owner, as directed by the account owner

Account Changes

Policy regarding participant/owner changes:

Accepts requests to transfer account ownership.

Documents, Access & Reporting

Does participant have online password-protected access to account?


Can the complete enrollment process including funding be done online?


Documents and other services accessible or downloadable on the program's public Web site:

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Web site:

Click here to visit



Telephone for broker use:

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