Illinois First Steps:
$50 to Help You Start Saving for College

As education costs continue to rise, it’s critical to begin saving early for your child’s future. Spark their college savings with a $50 seed deposit from Illinois First Steps. Children born or adopted on or after January 1, 2023, with parents who are residents of Illinois can receive the seed deposit through Bright Start or Bright Directions for their future college, technical, or apprenticeship education.

New Account Owners: Open Your Account & Claim

  • Work with your financial advisor to set up a Bright Directions account for your eligible child
  • Claim your $50 First Steps seed deposit
  • Start contributing to build additional funds in your Bright Directions account

Existing Account Owners: Claim Here

  • If you have an existing Bright Directions account for your eligible child, click below to claim the $50 seed deposit
  • Keep contributing to your Bright Directions account to build additional funds

Submit Claim

Who Is Eligible?

To qualify for a $50 seed deposit from Illinois First Steps, you must:

Open a Bright Directions 529 Plan

To claim the funds, the parent or legal guardian of the child must have an Illinois 529 college savings plan. Your financial advisor can assist with setting up a Bright Directions 529 college savings plan account.

Have a New Child in 2023

The child listed as the beneficiary of the Bright Directions account must be born or adopted on or after January 1, 2023.

Live in Illinois

The parent or legal guardian must be a resident of Illinois at the time of birth or adoption.

Claim Today

Parents or legal guardians must claim the $50 seed deposit from Illinois First Steps before the child’s 10th birthday.

Learn More About Illinois First Steps

  • The cost of college keeps climbing: Over the last 20 years, college costs have risen over 134%.1 Saving early gives you more time to set aside money and help set up your child for success. Studies have shown that the act of saving can motivate a student. Having any amount saved in a dedicated college savings account increases the likelihood of a child pursuing education after high school.2

    Finally, higher education still matters and impacts your child’s future earning ability. The more advanced degree a student earns after high school, the more money they’re likely to earn based on median weekly earnings data.3

  • You must have an Illinois 529 college savings plan account with the eligible child designated as the beneficiary. Visit with your financial advisor to set up a Bright Directions account.

  • The State of Illinois will provide a seed deposit of $50 for every eligible child, born or adopted on or after January 1, 2023. The seed deposits can be claimed for all eligible children of parents residing in Illinois at the time of the child’s birth or adoption. Children born to Illinois resident parents who give birth to a child outside Illinois (such as a family residing in Metro East who elects to give birth at a hospital in Saint Louis, Missouri) will be eligible for the program. Only one Illinois First Steps $50 seed deposit may be claimed per eligible child.

  • Parents or legal guardians can claim their child’s seed deposit by opening a Bright Directions 529 college savings account. If you opened a Bright Directions account for an eligible child but did not claim the seed deposit, you can submit a claim form here.

    A Bright Directions 529 college savings account allows families to save for a child’s future education expenses with the guidance of their financial advisor. Bright Directions is a tax-advantaged, high-quality savings vehicle that requires no minimum contribution amount or minimum balance.

  • Once a parent or legal guardian submits a claim for the seed deposit, the information will be verified against birth records and information from the Illinois Department of Public Health and Illinois Department of Revenue records. If the claim is verified, the seed deposit will be made within 60-90 days following the current quarter end. The funds will be held in an omnibus account owned and administered by the Illinois State Treasurer.

  • Absolutely. Illinois First Steps is designed as a pledge to help you get started. After the $50 seed deposit, the rest of your college savings contributions to your Bright Directions account are up to you. You can make contributions at any time or set up an automatic investing plan for recurring deposits.

  • Children will be able to spend their seed funds — including any potential net earnings and interest — on qualified higher education expenses4 as identified by Illinois (does not include K-12 expenses) once they complete high school or turn 18 years of age. To use the funds, they must be a resident of Illinois but may use the funds at qualified colleges, trade schools, and apprenticeship programs anywhere in the United States and at some institutions abroad.

  • Bright Directions account owners who meet the Illinois First Steps eligibility requirements can claim the $50 seed deposit for their new child by submitting the online claim form.

  • Any adult age 18+ with a U.S. address and a Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) can work with a financial advisor to open a Bright Directions 529 College Savings account. Bright Directions offer tax advantages for Illinois taxpayers looking to save for college. Bright Directions has consistently earned high ratings based on solid investment funds and plan design flexibility. The plans has attracted investors from across the nation.

Understanding 529 Plans

529 Plan Basics

Learn the ins and outs of a 529 college savings account, proven over time to be an effective way of saving for future education.

Benefits of a 529 Plan

Explore how flexible contributions and quality investment options make saving with Bright Directions an easy choice.

How Much Do I Need to Save?

See how planning ahead and saving over the long haul can help you set your student up for success.

Open an Account with Your Financial Advisor

Get Started