Managers of 529 college-savings plans have always competed on fees, but the latest round of the bidding war promises to be the most intense.

To attract and retain state contracts, wealth management companies — particularly Fidelity Investments and its primary rivals, Vanguard Group and TIAA-CREF — have been lowering fees on the plans basically since their invention. Fidelity fired the latest salvo on Tuesday, slashing its program management fees by a third to a half for its five state-sponsored 529 plans, including both its direct-sold and adviser-sold plans.

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