It's Never Too Early to Save for College!
Once children enroll in kindergarten, the countdown begins. The years left before graduation are clearly numbered and parents begin to wonder, “Do we need to start saving for college?”
The answer is yes. Over the past decade, tuition at Washington colleges has increased an average of 10% a year, with family income and investments falling behind. Parents who hope to see their children graduate from college without assuming large debt are setting cash aside now to save on those future costs. If trends continue, one year’s tuition and state-mandated fees costing $11,782 today will amount to over $38,500 a year when today’s newborn is heading to campus. Tuition will always go up, but Washington’s Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) program was established by the Legislature in 1998 to help families save for these predictable costs.
How does GET work? GET works on a unit system, where 100 GET units purchased at today’s cost are guaranteed to be equal to the future cost of a year’s resident, undergraduate tuition and state-mandated fees at Washington’s most expensive public university, either UW or WSU. This parity holds true whenever your child is ready for college, even if tuition doubles or triples in that time.
Here are answers to some common questions about GET:
- What if my child wants to go to college elsewhere? GET accounts can be used anywhere in the country to pay tuition at colleges, universities or vocational schools, whether public or private. The value of GET units is based on tuition at Washington’s highest priced public university, but you can use that value anywhere. If your chosen school costs more, you pay the difference. If it costs less, you can use extra units towards room and board, books, etc.
- What if my child gets a scholarship, or if our plans change? You can transfer GET units to other family members, put them on hold, or request a refund.
- What’s the difference between GET and other savings plans? Unlike regular mutual funds or savings accounts, GET accounts offer tax-free growth and withdrawals. And unlike other tax-advantaged 529 savings plans, GET accounts are not subject to the ups and downs of the stock market. Instead, GET guarantees a steady and safe rate of return. College tuition is only part of the overall picture, so you may need these additional savings plans to help with room, board and books. GET is a foundation for your college savings strategy because its increase in value is guaranteed.
- Can I afford this now? With flexible savings options, families can afford to start saving for their child’s future. You can sign up for a monthly payment plan, or choose to contribute amounts in lump sum whenever money is available. Or you can save with a combination of both. Friends and relatives can also contribute, which makes a great gift idea for special occasions.
Fortunately, and especially if your children are young, time is on your side. It’s never too early to save for college. If you don’t plan ahead, you’ll be paying a lot more in the future. Families who start saving early have the opportunity to save the most and to realize the greatest gain from their GET account. GET units are required to be held for two years before use, and will not show increased value until held for four to five years. GET is a long-term plan that’s helping thousands of Washington families save for college. Over 146,000 accounts have already been opened, and over 29,000 students have already used their accounts to attend college. What makes the program unique is that it’s flexible, it’s secure and your kids can use it anywhere.
Enroll online at www.get.wa.gov
Enroll online at www.get.wa.gov