States plan to finalize disclosure guidelines on 529 college-savings plans by year's end in hopes of keeping federal regulators at bay.

The voluntary guidelines-which could make it easier for investors to compare 529 plans-touch upon how fees, tax considerations, and information about states' partnerships with fund firms should be presented in plan materials.

"The purpose of these guidelines is to provide a disclosure framework that is consistent and clear-in a format that families find easy to understand," says Diana Cantor, chairwoman of the College Savings Plans Network, a Lexington, Ky., organization affiliated with the National Association of State Treasurers.

The move comes as a Securities and Exchange Commission task force is reviewing whether investors are receiving sufficient information about these plans. Already, the regulatory body has proposed additional disclosure of certain fees within these vehicles.

A draft of the guidelines has been circulated to state treasurers, the SEC and the House Committee on Financial Services, which had expressed concerns to federal regulators about 529 plans. The states are soliciting input before releasing a final version later this year. Voluntary adoption of the guidelines could begin as early as next year.

Assets in 529 plans have exploded in the past few years amid skyrocketing tuition costs and a 2001 tax law that made qualified withdrawals tax free. As of the end of March, 529 plans held about $40 billion in assets, more than four times the $9.1 billion at the end of 2001, according to the Financial Research Corp. in Boston.