SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Educational Savings Plan announced the number of accounts under its management has passed 300,000, as a growing number of families invest in Utah’s official 529 College Savings Plan for their children.

The number of accounts has almost doubled since the financial crisis ended in 2009, when the plan managed 152,400 accounts. Nationally, the number of 529 plans increased by about 21.8 percent in that time, rising to 12.3 million accounts from 10.1 million accounts, according to the College Savings Plans Network.

The demand for Utah Educational Savings Plan accounts is driven by a diverse array of investment choices, low fees, tax advantages and strong management that has gained attention from consumer experts and investment professionals. In October, investment research firm Morningstar Inc. awarded its Gold rating to the plan, praising it for its “compelling investment options at some of the lowest prices in the country.” Utah Educational Savings Plan has earned Morningstar’s top accolade each year since 2011 and in 10 of the last 12 years.

“UESP works hard to be a creative and flexible college savings plan that helps account owners in Utah and across the country meet their savings goals,” said Lynne Ward, the plan's executive director.

“We encourage families to begin putting aside money for college as soon as they can. Even small sums saved regularly in a UESP account can ease access to higher education,” Ward said.