Quarterly 529 plan performance review: Q1 2018

Facebook icon Twitter icon Print icon Email icon
Matthew Toner

By Matthew Toner

May 14, 2018

Financial Professional Content

Each quarter Savingforcollege.com analyzes the investment performance figures for thousands of 529 portfolios and ranks the 529 savings plans from best to worst for one-, three-, five-, and 10-year investment performance. We rank plans that consumers can enroll in directly, as well as those sold through brokers and fee-based financial planners).

In producing our rankings, we compared the reported investment performance of a subset of portfolios from each 529 savings plan. We use a subset because plans vary greatly in their underlying investment options. We use a representative subset of options to compare plans on an apples-to-apples basis. The “performance score” determines the ranking. For more details, please view our methodology.

It is important to remember that this data represents historical performance. Past performance over any period is not a guarantee of future results. Log in to see the full list of direct- and advisor-sold plan rankings. 

Top performing direct-sold 529 plans

For the most part those plans that have performed well continued to perform well, especially across the 10-year rankings. A usually mainstay atop of the performance rankings, Pennsylvania’s 529 Investment Plan dropped off the three-, five- and 10-year rankings as it changed out all of its age-based portfolios. Nevada’s USAA College Savings Plan and New York’s 529 College Savings Program  continued to be strong performers over the 10-year period, and Maryland’s 529 — College Investment Plan was a newcomer to the top five. However, that is not to say these plans performed well across all four time periods. The top performers averaged across all ranked time periods can be found below, with only T. Rowe Price’s Alaska plans ranking in the top 10 for each time period.

Plan 1Y 3Y 5Y 10Y Details
California: ScholarShare 529 3 2 3  


Alaska: T. Rowe Price College Savings Plan 4 3 4 3


Alaska: University of Alaska College Savings Plan 4 3 4 3


New York: New York’s 529 College Savings Program — Direct Plan 11 6 2 2


Ohio: Ohio CollegeAdvantage Direct 529 Savings Plan 16 5 1


Nevada: The Vanguard 529 Savings Plan 2 8 9 12


Maine: NextGen College Investing Plan — Client Direct Series 17 7 6 10


West Virginia: SMART529 WV Direct College Savings Plan 10 1 10 19


North Carolina: National College Savings Program 12 12 7  


Wisconsin: Edvest 15 14 8  


Top performing advisor-sold 529 plans

Similar to the direct-sold plans, there wasn’t much volatility in the 10-year advisor-sold plan rankings. A new #1 has emerged in the 10-year period, as the Virginia College America plan has overtaken Oregon’s MFS 529 plan which dropped to second. Both remain solid performers across all time periods. The top performers average across all ranked periods can be found below.

There were a few standout plans that made leaps in nearly every time period. The Fidelity Advisor 529 plan continued to make its way up the rankings and cracking the top 10 overall. The same can be said for the Maine NextGen Client Select Series, which moved up a couple of spots thanks to strong long-term performance. Arizona’s Ivy InvestEd continues it’s impressive one-year run moving up to second overall. We should see this strong performance help its three- and five-year time periods as time goes on. 

Plan 1Y 3Y 5Y 10Y Details
Indiana: CollegeChoice Advisor 529 Savings Plan 1 1 2  
Oregon: MFS 529 Savings Plan 3 5 15 2

Virginia: CollegeAmerica 21 2 3 1
Nebraska: Nebraska Education Savings Trust — Advisor College Savings Plan 15 3 5
Illinois: Bright Directions Advisor-Guided 529 College Savings Program 9 4 12 6
Arizona: Ivy InvestEd 529 Plan 2 20 8 5
Maine: NextGen College Investing Plan — Client Select Series 19 8 4 4
New Hampshire: Fidelity Advisor 529 Plan 8 13 7 12
Ohio: BlackRock CollegeAdvantage Advisor 529 Savings Plan 6 14 11  
Nevada: Putnam 529 for America 12 18 1  

A good place to start:

See the best 529 plans, personalized for you