The college savings market has hundreds of billions of dollars invested in it and is growing as the cost off a college education increases. Tax beneficial 529 plans have the potential to become the vehicle for college savings that 401(k) plans have become for retirement, says Tiburon Research.

A new report by Tiburon outlines the extent of college savings plans and the role advisors play in the market. Tiburon conducts research on a wide range of subjects related to financial markets.

The college savings market now has $414 billion assets under management, Tiburon says. About $119 billion of it is in 529 tax deferred plans operated by states, with the rest in vehicles that include custodial accounts and Coverdell educational savings accounts. Each state's 529 plan operates a little differently, but most provide tax deferral for savings later used to fund college education.

Currently, 75% of 529 plan sales are handled by financial advisors and there are now 9.9 million 529 plans, a 100% increase since 2002, according to Tiburon. But, like other financial investments, participation in college savings decreased during the 2008-2009 market tumble.

More financial advisors are recommending parents use 529 plans for college savings, with that percentage doubling from 35% in 2008 to 70% today, the study says.

Tiburon predicts the number of college savings marketing firms will increase from today's 546 to 760 by 2014, while the overall number of college savings accounts will increase from 18 million to 23 million in that time frame.

The current $414 billion in assets under management for college savings will go up to $650 million as college costs increase, and 529 plans will have a growing position in the college savings field. The number of 529 accounts is expected to grow from 9.9 million to 10.9 million by 2014 and assets under management will grow from $119 billion to $350 billion by 2014.

-Karen DeMasters