While most people think of a 529 plan when applying to a college or university, the truth is that you can use a 529 plan at a variety of postsecondary institutions. Any institution where a student can use federal financial aid (search schools in the FAFSA school search database) is also a place where a student can use their 529 savings plan. This list includes vocational, trade, and technical schools, certificate programs at community colleges, and even some professional development programs.
If you decide that you don’t want to use your 529 plan for a traditional four-year university or college, consider one of the options below.
Types of Institutions Where You Can Use a 529 Plan
Earning a certificate or associate’s degree is an excellent way to gain entry-level training to begin your career. Popular programs you can start at a community college include early childhood education, information technology, and accounting.
A vocational school is an institution that offers targeted training for a specific career. Unlike a community college, which provides college preparatory classes, at vocational school you’ll focus only on the skills you need in your field. You may consider attending a vocational school if you want to become a veterinarian assistant, pharmacy technician, or auto repair technician.
There are hundreds of schools abroad where US federal financial aid is accepted, from elite schools such as Oxford and Cambridge to smaller schools like one in the rural countryside of Scandinavia. If you’ve taken a gap year and would like to extend your travels, earning a degree abroad may be an excellent way to pursue a course of study.
Always Ask a School if They Are Eligible
In some cases, a school may not yet be on the federal student aid eligible institutions list, but may still be an eligible school. If you would like to attend a school but are unsure of their status, contact the school and ask for their school code. You can then verify with the US Department of Education or FAFSA office that the school is an eligible institution.
Surprising Places Where You Can Use Your 529 Plan
While most people would consider golf a hobby, there is at least one academy in the federal student aid database that specializes in golf training. If you enjoy learning about and playing golf, you may consider pursuing it as a course of study.
Dance or Ballet School
If you have dance training and would like to take your career further, you may consider studying in New York or London, where there are eligible institutions providing training in ballet and other dance forms.
Some of the highest ranked culinary schools in America, including Le Cordon Bleu, are eligible institutions where you can use a 529 plan. In addition to studying cooking techniques, you can pursue other specialties such as baking, wine, or cheeses.
Individuals that want to pursue a creative career doing hair, makeup, skincare, or other beauty treatments may consider cosmetology. You can also use your 529 plan to purchase supplies that you need for hands-on training during your program.
Remember You Can Use Your 529 for All Eligible Expenses
Even if you don’t attend a four-year college or university, there are a still of variety of ways you can use your 529 plan. Also, you can use the plan to cover required equipment and supplies for schools, as well as room and board if you are enrolled at least halftime. Be sure to check with your institution for estimates on room and board to ensure that you don’t exceed qualified higher education expenses.