Assets in 529 college savings plans totaled $40.0 billion at the end of the first quarter, up 87.5% from a year earlier, according to the College Savings Foundation (CSF).

The total was also up 13.9% from the $35.1 billion assets in 529 plans at the end of 2003, according to the CSF report.

Estimated net sales (net new contributions) of 529 savings plans for 2004's first quarter were nearly $4.1 billion, up 6.7% from $3.8 billion in estimated net sales in 2003's fourth quarter.

"Ongoing strong asset growth in the 529 savings plan market offers evidence that investors and families increasingly view the 529 as an essential element of an effective, long term strategy for managing the burgeoning costs of higher education," says CSF Chairman Chuck Toth.