Based on what it describes as its first methodology enhancement to its 529 plan ratings since they debuted eight years ago, Morningstar has assigned ratings to 61 college savings plans.
Those plans captured 97% of the more than $363 billion invested in 529 plans as of Aug. 30, Morningstar said in a release.
The direct-sold plans of Illinois, Michigan and Utah received the top, or gold, rating under the new system, which recognized 35 plans as best-in-class offerings. Morningstar recognized these programs with analyst ratings of gold, silver and bronze.
Eighteen plans earned neutral ratings, which Morningstar analysts said they do not recommend but which “might be worth a second look for residents who qualify for additional benefits such as state income tax breaks,” which don’t factor into the firm’s ratings.
Eight plans received negative ratings as a result of at least one significant flaw, such as a subpar allocation approach or exorbitantly high fees.
To arrive at their ratings, Morningstar analysts considered four factors surrounding process (which involves the choice of asset allocator and the design of a thoughtful glide path), people (whether the investment manager is a good steward of investor capital), parent (do the state trustee and its partners put education savers first?), and price, which looks at how the plan’s fees compare to others.
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