November 25, 2002
GET Program helps dreams come true
by Deborah Stone
Over 540 Washington students are reaping the benefits of their Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) accounts as they pursue their college studies this year. That's the number of students whose tuitions are being paid, at least partially, through their GET accounts.
There are another 535 eligible students waiting to use their benefits in the future. The state's GET Program allows families to buy college tuition units today, at the current unit price, for use up to 18 years in the future.
In this way the cost of college tuition is locked into whatever unit price is in effect at the time the units are purchased. GET accounts are totally guaranteed by the state, offer families flexible purchase plans, can be transferred among family members and the increased value of the accounts is tax-exempt when used for eligible education expenses.
If a family buys a year's worth of units today, it will have one year's worth of tuition when the student starts his/her college education, no matter how much tuition increases.
One year's tuition at the most expensive public university in Washington is equivalent to one hundred GET units (this year's unit price is $52).
Students can utilize their account proceeds at any accredited college, university, technical or trade school in the country and if they attend a private institution or school out-of-state, they are then responsible for the difference between the GET account value and the institution's costs.
These accounts can be opened for students of all ages, from birth through adulthood, but the program is open only to residents of Washington state.
The maximum number of units that can be purchased is 500 for each beneficiary. There is no minimum. Anyone can contribute to a GET account, including parents, grandparents, other family members, friends and even students themselves.
Currently, there are 24,000 students enrolled in GET in the state. In Woodinville, nine students are presently using their accounts to help pay for their college.
Jennifer Jackson, a WHS graduate, is in her first year with the program. Jackson spent her freshman and sophomore years at a community college and is now a junior at the UW.
Her parents, Flint and Joyce Jackson, first learned about GET five years ago, through ads on the television.
"The program appealed to us because college costs are high and they keep rising," comments Joyce. "This way, the tuition is fixed at whatever the amount is at the time you buy into the program. Our son had gone through college before Jennifer and we knew what could happen to the costs in just four years. It's a rude awakening if you haven't done your homework."
The money Jennifer earned from a paper route went into a GET account, which was opened for her in 1999. She has enough money to cover her tuition for her next two years at UW and that is a comfort to her parents.
"It makes us feel more secure," says Joyce. "But it's important to note that the money won't cover room and board costs. That's another expense that parents need to keep in mind if their kids are planning on living on campus."
Joyce recommends the GET Program to everyone she knows and praises its flexibility.
"If the student doesn't want to go to a Washington state school, he or she can use the money elsewhere, so it doesn't limit you," explains Joyce. "It's really a win-win situation."
Leo and Cynthia Plude of Woodinville learned about the GET Program after reading an article in the newspaper explaining its benefits.
"We were motivated to participate in it because our oldest at the time was in seventh grade and we thought it was time to look into investments to pay for college," explains Cynthia. "This was six years ago."
The Pludes bought 400 units for each of their two children, at $35 a unit. The Plude's oldest son, Matthew, is currently a freshman at Western Washington University and he will have enough money in his account to cover four years tuition at this institution. "He even has some left over to apply to housing costs because tuition at Western is less than at UW," says Cynthia. "That really helps us out."
The Pludes are happy with the GET Program for all of the same reasons that the Jacksons extol, but they also like the fact that the money in the account can be transferable to others in the family if not used.
"This is an extra plus," adds Cynthia. "It's also such a hassle-free program. The university bills us each quarter and we tell them how much to take out of the GET account. Iíve told so many people about the program because it makes so much sense. It's a simple and affordable way for parents to save for college education."
The GET Program is administered by the Washington State Higher Education Coordinating Board.
To request enrollment forms, call 1-877-GET-TUIT, or visit the agency's Web site: www.get.wa.gov.