Parents faced with the daunting task of paying for their children's college education continued to put cash in 529 college savings plans, as assets rose to $45.1 billion in the third quarter, according to data released last Tuesday by the College Savings Foundation.

That represents a 55% spike from the year-ago quarter, when assets stood at $29.1 billion, and a 5% increase from an estimated $43 billion at the end of the previous quarter. The state-sponsored investment vehicles offer tax exemptions to earnings and distributions made from plan accounts when used for qualified expenditures covering college costs. CSF Chairman Chuck Toth said he is hopeful that Congress will support the 529 movement by extending the tax-free treatment of qualified distributions from 529 plans beyond 2010.

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