Now that 529 College Saving Plans are here to stay, the NASD has developed an online course to help advisers and others better understand them.

The course, which is available by license to individuals or groups, promises to give an overview of how the plans work, what kind of fees they entail, and what tax advantages they offer clients.

Although they have been available for years, the plans, named for the section of the federal tax code that provides for them, have been slow to catch on with advisers and the public, mainly because the tax benefits were set to expire after 2010. In fact, although in 2001, projections for growth predicted 529s would take in $350 billion by the end of the decade, to date, they have collected only about $80 billion.

But now that the sunset provision has been eliminated with the 2006 Pension Protection Act, signed into law Aug. 17, industry watchers expect robust growth.

The NASD program promises to help securities dealers understand the differences between each state plan, and choose the one best for their clients.  It also aims to help advisers weed out high-risk clients and readily identify suspicious activity.

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