Your 529 account can pay for more than a 4-year college

If your child is in junior high or high school, you might be starting to consider the path he or she will follow after graduation. While many students will enroll in a 4-year college or university right away, a growing number are choosing alternative educational opportunities.

Although it is called a college savings account, your 529 account can be used to pay for qualified higher-education expenses at any eligible institution in the United States or abroad.

What is an eligible educational institution?

According to the Internal Revenue Service, an eligible educational institution is a postsecondary educational institution eligible to participate in a student aid program run by the U.S. Department of Education. This includes most accredited public, nonprofit and privately owned for-profit postsecondary institutions.

To find out if a particular school is eligible, you can search for it on the Federal Student Aid site:

Search for a school

Types of Schools


Beyond traditional 4-year colleges and universities, these schools/programs are also considered eligible:

Community colleges

Two-year schools are a popular choice for many students and their parents. These schools are typically less expensive and can reduce housing costs if a student lives at home. Community colleges are also a good option for students whose sights are set on a career that does not require a 4-year degree. They can also be a less costly way for students to start out their college and then transfer to another institution for their later years.

Trade and vocational schools

Vocational and tech schools teach job-specific skills designed to enable students to advance in any number of highly skilled professions. These types of schools can work well for students who want to fast-track into their careers and are also useful for adult students looking to advance their current career or change to a different profession.

Graduate school

If your student has graduated from college and is going on to pursue an advanced degree, you can use the savings left in your 529 account to pay for those expenses. You can also open an account to use for your own graduate education or transfer an existing account to yourself and use the money to help pay for a graduate program.

Online degree program

More and more students are taking some or all of their higher-education courses online. If an online course or degree program is offered through an eligible educational institution, you can use the savings from your 529 account to pay for it.