Illinois Bright Start and Bright Directions college savings plans have risen to more than $5 billion. Since 2011, the programs have grown from $3.7 billion to more than $5 billion. Rutherford credits some internal changes as well as new participants and the rebounding market. “I am extremely proud of the 47 percent growth in these programs,” Rutherford said. “I hope they will continue to help families build substantial savings so the burden of student loans is not placed on parents, grandparents and students.”
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Investments in Illinois’ 529 college savings plans can be used at most vocational, community and state colleges and universities in Illinois and outside the state. Contributions are tax deductible up to $10,000 per individual each year, and growth is federal and state tax exempt when used for higher education.
The program was struggling before Rutherford took office with then-Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias facing criticism for his oversight of the program and questionable investments made by the program’s investment firm. Some lost earning were later recovered through a settlement with the state and Oppenheimer Funds. Rutherford calls hitting the $5 billion mark a “milestone” that shines “a bright light on our future.”