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home : news : state news free February 24, 2020

1/10/2020 9:36:00 AM
Treasurer Frerichs to serve as Chair of National College Savings Organization 
Frerichs Elected New 2020 CSPN Chair to Promote Benefits of 529 Plans and Minimize National Student Debt

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs today will preside over his first meeting as Chair of the College Savings Plans Network (CSPN), a leading objective source of information about Section 529 college savings plans and prepaid tuition plans.

Frerichs oversees Illinois’ two 529 College Savings Programs, Bright Start and Bright Directions, both have earned top rankings and considered among the best in the nation by Morningstar.

“It is an honor to serve in this role to help shape policy and promote the benefits of higher education on a national level,” Frerichs said. “We are proud of the work in Illinois to cut college savings fees, grow the number of 529 accounts, and offer a pathway to reduce the burden of long-term student debt.”

Since 2015, Frerichs has worked with Union Bank & Trust, the program manager, to reduce fees and ensure more investment dollars go directly to college savings. These changes have helped the Illinois plans grow from approximately 385,000 accounts with $7 billion in assets to more than 670,000 with more than $12 billion in assets. Nationally, there are 14 million 529 saving accounts.

In October 2019, Morningstar, which independently evaluates and rates college savings plans, selected the Bright Start 529 College Savings Plan as a “Gold-Rated 529.” Bright Start is one of only four “Gold Rated” plans in the country.

Since Frerichs revamped the plans in July 2017, Bright Start, a direct-sold plan, has won the Gold medal three years in a row. According to Morningstar, Bright Start is considered a “Valedictorian” among its peers and continues to be one of the highest-rated plans in the country because of its investment diversity and choice, low costs, and overall structure.

The Bright Directions Advisor-Guided 529 College Savings Plan also earned its fifth consecutive Silver medal. Bright Directions is one of only two “Silver-Rated” advisor sold plans in the country – receiving the highest honor bestowed on advisor-sold plans. Morningstar recognized Bright Directions for its low-cost, well-constructed age-based portfolios and exceptional selection of individual options. 

Frerichs began his two-year term as CSPN Chair on January 1, 2020. In Frerichs’ new role, he will work alongside other State Treasurers and 529 administrators across the country to promote 529 college savings plans and ensure the Network meets its target goals and objectives. Frerichs succeeds Director of Wisconsin’s College Savings Program, Jim DiUlio, as CSPN Chair.

For more information about the Treasurer’s Office 529 College Savings programs, visit

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