If you won't get a significant tax benefit -- or any benefit at all -- from investing in your own state's 529, it pays to shop nationally for a low-cost, high-performance 529.
Here are five plans, in alphabetical order, that get high marks from both Morningstar and Savingforcollege.com.
Alaska | T. Rowe Price College Savings Plan. T. Rowe Price manages this comparatively low-cost fund that gets five stars and a nod for its solid investments from Morningstar. Plus, thanks to one unusual perk, you're eligible for in-state tuition prices at the University of Alaska up to the amount you have in the 529.
Nevada | 529 College Savings Plan. Savingforcollege.com gives this Vanguard-managed plan its top 5-cap rating.
Several of its investment options get a 5-star rating from Morningstar, like the Total Stock Market Index fund, the biggest and cheapest passive investment option around.
New York | New York's 529 College Savings Program. This 529 gets top ratings from both Morningstar and Savingforcollege.com.
The program is jointly run by Vanguard and Upromise, which makes it easy for parents (and other relatives) to have shopping rebates credited to a college savings account.
Utah | Utah Educational Savings Plan. Savingforcollege.com gives Utah its highest 5-cap rating, and Morningstar gives top 5-star ratings to Utah's age-based options.
Utah's Vanguard-run funds have some of the lowest costs in the business. Utah also offers an FDIC-insured option for absolute safety.
Virginia | CollegeAmerica. It's cheaper to invest directly in low-cost plans like Alaska's, Nevada's and Utah's, which don't charge commissions and have much lower expense ratios. But if you want to use a broker or adviser, this is one of the better choices.
Savingforcollege.com gives this program, which is run by American Funds, 4.5 caps for out-of-staters. And Morningstar gives several of its investment options its top 5-star rating.