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Parents wanting to save for college have until midnight on May 31 to open a Washington Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) account before the state program closes for this enrollment year. Program enrollment will reopen November 1, 2014 with a new unit price. GET is Washington’s 529 college savings plan that is guaranteed by state law to keep pace with rising tuition, while also offering tax-free growth and withdrawals for qualified higher education expenses.
“Over the past decade, college costs in the state of Washington have gone up nearly 10 percent every year,” Betty Lochner, director of the GET program, said. “Even more startling, student loan debt in our nation is now up to 1 trillion dollars, with the average student graduating with more than $29,000 in debt.”
Lochner encourages families to start saving when their kids are young. “The amount that is being saved is not as important as establishing a regular contribution plan. A small monthly contribution can add up over time and will significantly reduce the debt a young person may face upon graduation.”
According to the Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis, children with a college savings account are seven times more likely to attend a four-year college, compared to children with no dedicated account. In addition, a recent study by Georgetown University’s Center on Education reported that by 2020, more than 65% of new jobs in the United States will require a college education.
Lochner points out that these are two are the main reasons why more than 700,000 new 529 college savings plan accounts have been opened nationally in the past two years. In Washington, more than 157,000 GET accounts have been opened since 1998 and over 34,000 students have used their GET accounts to attend college in all 50 states and 14 foreign countries. Money in a GET account can be used to pay for tuition, room and board, or other qualified expenses at nearly any public or private college, university, or technical school in the country.
Accounts are fully transferrable to other family members, and flexible plans allow for regular monthly contributions or occasional deposits. Over 93% of enrollments in Washington’s GET Program are completed online at www.get.wa.gov. Paper enrollments are accepted and must be postmarked no later than midnight on May 31. This deadline applies to all new enrollments as well as all new custom monthly plans for existing accounts.
GET's web site offers details, charts, planning tools and answers to questions families may have about the program. The GET Contact Center is ready to help at (800) 955-2318 or GETInfo@wsac.wa.gov.