For Ben Franklin, nothing was certain but death and taxes. While those certainties remain, parents of college-bound teenagers now face another sure thing: the staggering and ever-increasing cost of paying for higher education.

Scholarships and loans can help defray expenses, of course, as can some government-sponsored plans that incentivize college savings. But no method has generated as much buzz in recent years as state-sponsored 529 college savings plans that offer tax-deferred growth and tax-free distribution for accredited educational costs.

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