California 529 plan fees and expense ratios

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Mark Kantrowitz

By Mark Kantrowitz

September 24, 2018

California 529 plans offer some of the lowest fees of any direct-sold 529 college savings plans.

The total asset-based expense ratio for the ScholarShare 529 plan portfolios run from 0.08% to 0.57%, except for the Principal Plus Interest Portfolio, which has a 0.00% expense ratio.

Program management fees are higher in the actively managed age-based and static portfolios, which run from 0.31% to 0.57%, than in the passive portfolios, which run from 0.11% to 0.20%. Passively managed index funds, which charge fees that are generally under 0.15%, are especially popular in direct-sold 529 plans.

Among the single-fund portfolios, the Index U.S. Equity Investment Portfolio is at 0.08%, the Index U.S. Large Cap Equity Investment Portfolio is at 0.09%, the Index International Equity Investment Portfolio is at 0.12%, the Index Bond Investment Portfolio is at 0.15% and the Social Choice Investment Portfolio is at 0.26%.

There are no enrollment fees, application fees or annual account maintenance fees.

Based on the’s 529 Fee Study, the 10-year costs on a $10,000 investment in the direct-sold California ScholarShare 529 plan range from a minimum of $103 to a maximum of $715. California’s 529 plan ranks 7th for lowest costs, behind Florida, Louisiana, Utah, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia.

Minimizing costs is the key to maximizing net returns. Investors should aim to keep total asset-based fees under 1%. TIAA, the manager of the California ScholarShare 529 plan, has been competing with Fidelity and Vanguard to see who can charge the lowest fees. California investors have benefited from this competition, with all ScholarShare 529 plan portfolios charging total asset-based fees well under 1%.

A good place to start:

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