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Is Saving for College a Taxing Thought?

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Tax season can often add a level of stress to an already full to-do list. It’s seems that there are never enough hours in the day, so how in the world are you going to add ‘File My Taxes’ to the list? Just thinking about compiling all of the necessary paperwork by April 15 seems daunting enough. As a parent, the list is always long, and will probably never end. There are items like purchasing diapers, bringing cupcakes to the school bake sale, fixing the broken bicycle. But there are also mental notes you’ve most likely made that may include signing them up for piano lessons, getting them involved in a team sport, and starting to save for college (they may be young, but the sooner the better, right?).

Yes, all of these things are important, and some may not have to be done right now (though you probably shouldn’t wait too long on the diapers). However, waiting to cross something off the list means the list doesn’t get shorter and you will continue to have things looming over you.

Though so much is happening in the ‘now’ of life, so much of what we do is for our child’s future. We want them to be happy and healthy, so we plan while they dream. And part of that planning should include saving for their future. Washington’s College Savings Plans (WA529) offers flexible savings options to families. Opening and contributing to a 529 college savings account while your child is young can provide peace of mind for you when they’re ready to start their higher education journey. You can also encourage friends and family members to contribute to your account. “It takes a village” is certainly true, right!?

WA529 administers two 529 plans. The DreamAhead College Investment Plan allows you to choose your own stock market-based investments, which gives you full control over how your funds are allocated. The Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) Plan guarantees your funds will match public university tuition rates in Washington. The funds from both plans can be used at any accredited school in the country, and can be used for tuition, room and board, books and supplies, and a number of other expenses. And speaking of tax season, all of the growth on a 529 account grows tax free if it’s used for qualified higher education expenses.

Tax season can be stressful, but can also be rewarding. Today is a great day to open an account and start investing. We do our best to give our children every opportunity to learn and grow. Investing in their future today is the gift that keeps on giving. Learn more about saving for college at www.wastate529.wa.gov

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National 529 Awareness Campaign

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On March fourth, 27 states started their march forth to address the student debt crisis. This diverse group of states will work together to set the next generation on a better path by increasing awareness of 529 plans, which help families save for higher education and lessen reliance on student loans.

Because we are inspired by Fred Rogers Productions’ mission to instill a lifelong passion for learning, we have teamed up with Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood to amplify our message. This series is one of the highest co-viewed children’s shows between parents and young children and is based on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Anyone watching Daniel Tiger will see information about 529 plans before and after each episode. We will also be coordinating other awareness efforts with Fred Rogers Productions that will involve Daniel Tiger.

Seventy-one percent of Americans don’t know this option exists. By setting up a 529 account, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, godparents, and friends can lessen a child’s reliance on student loans, and the stress that comes with paying them off.

  • It doesn’t take much money to get started. You can open a 529 with as little as $10.
  • It’s easy to set up a 529. It takes about 10 minutes to go online and start your account.
  • Though plans vary, saving $10 a week over 18 years can add up to around $21,000.

Which state has the best 529 plan?

You can participate in almost any 529 plan across the country, but your home state’s plan is a great place to start.

A 529 College Savings Plan can be used for any education-related expense at any accredited college in the country. That means tuition, room and board, books and other required supplies are covered.

Student debt facts:

  • The total amount of student debt is now at $1.5 trillion – surpassing America’s credit card and car loan bills and making it the second highest debt category behind mortgages.
  • Fewer young people are buying homes and college graduates are leaving rural areas because of their student debt, according to the Federal Reserve.
  • Federal student debt is growing at 17 percent – more than seven times the current rate of inflation.
  • One recent poll showed 20 percent of millennials expect to die before paying off their debt.

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Inspire a Child with the Gift of College Savings

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Becoming a parent is a special experience. It’s truly inspiring to watch your kids’ eyes light up and their minds open wide when you ask them what they dream of becoming when they grow up. There’s magic in the moment when they believe they can be anyone and do anything; and with the right encouragement, they can.

One of the best ways to support their dreams is to help them save for college, and it’s never too early. College is expensive. It’s increasingly difficult for students to pay their way through school without the need for costly student loans, yet having a college degree is becoming necessary to stay competitive in the job market. It’s essential for students to have family support to ensure college is truly a reality and not just a dream.

Every family is different, and no single approach is a perfect fit. That’s why Washington College Savings Plans (WA529) provides families with a diverse set of options to build a college savings strategy that works for them. With WA529, families can choose between the Guaranteed Education Tuition Program (GET), and the DreamAhead College Investment Plan.

As a prepaid tuition plan, GET guarantees that if you buy 100 units today, those units will always be worth one year of tuition and state-mandated fees at Washington’s most expensive public university, regardless of how much tuition changes. You don’t have to worry about the ups and downs of the stock market. You are assured that the money you save in GET will be there when your student is ready for college.

The DreamAhead College Investment Plan complements the GET program and provides additional savings options for Washington families. DreamAhead is a market based 529 plan, so its investment returns are tied to financial market performance. Families have multiple investment choices with varied degrees of customization and risk. DreamAhead’s investment options range from funds that automatically adjust as your student approaches college age, to others that give account owners greater control.

As 529 plans, all earnings and withdrawals from GET and DreamAhead are tax-free when used for qualified higher education expenses. Your student can use them to attend colleges, universities and technical schools anywhere in the country, and even abroad.

Preparing for the costs of higher education can be daunting, but you’re not alone. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and even friends can contribute to your student’s 529 plan. To learn more about Washington College Savings Plans and to find out how you can give the gift of education, visit www.wastate529.wa.gov or call 1.800.955.2318. The GET program’s annual enrollment period ends May 31, and DreamAhead is open to enrollment year-round.

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Have No Fear…the New Year is Here!

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Whew! The holiday celebrations have come and gone…and we hope they went wonderfully! The white elephant gift exchanges are done, the wrapping paper, ribbons, and bows have been taken back up to the attic, and family from out of town have traveled back home. Now…you can take a deep breath (in through the nose, out through the mouth). This breath is one that doesn’t involve thinking of when schedules will allow time to visit the self-cut tree farm. A breath that doesn’t include multiple trips to the grocery store for holiday meals. And a breath that reminds us to make the most of every day before the kids head back to school.

And just like that, it’s 2019! Another year has come, and with it, another opportunity to fill your year with what’s important. What resolutions have you made? What goals do you want to reach?

Resolutions can include financial, physical, or emotional health goals, among many others. Making a plan is a good place to start. What do you want to accomplish? Grab a piece of paper and a pen (or your phone), and start developing a blueprint.

If you’re anything like us, when we think of the New Year and what’s important, our kids come to mind (well, chocolate comes to mind too). We want the best for our kids, and it’s up to us to do what we can to provide opportunities when possible. Encouraging our kids to stay in school and to start thinking about education beyond high school can help expand these opportunities. Saving for college while our kids are young is one way that parents and grandparents can help open doors for their futures.

Washington’s 529 college savings plans can help you reach your goals. The GET Program and the DreamAhead College Investment Plan offer flexible ways to save for college, and the investments grow tax-free. Though your children might be focused on toys and earning allowance, setting goals alongside your kids, and saving what you can, when you can, will help provide peace of mind for the whole family.

It’s a new year. Grab the leftover fruitcake, set your goals, and make 2019 the best year yet!

 

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Win Mariners Tickets and More with GET

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GET College Savings Night

On Tuesday, May 29, 2018, GET will be celebrating national 529 College Savings Day with a night at the ballpark. We would love for you to join us for GET College Savings Night at Safeco Field to help us cheer on the Mariners as they take on the Texas Rangers at 7:10pm! Leading up to the game, you can enter to win tickets on our Facebook page, or you purchase discounted tickets that come with a free t-shirt (see details below).

Prizes:

Grand Prize (1 available)

One Grand Prize winner will be selected at the end of the promotion period, from among all entrants. In addition to 2 tickets to the game and 2 t-shirts, the Grand Prize winner will receive 2 Mariners hats and a once-in-a-lifetime pregame on-field experience! This on-field experience will allow the winner and one guest a chance to watch and interact with Mariners players as they warm-up.

Ticket and T-shirt Packages (49 available)

49 winners will be selected to receive 2 tickets to the Mariners game on May 29, 2018, along with two commemorative 2 t-shirts that winners will be able to pick up at the game.

GET College Savings Night Tuesday, May 29 7:10 PM vs TexasHow to Enter:

From May 10 – May 17, “like” our Facebook page and comment “529 Day” on one of our GET College Savings Night posts. Each post will have a deadline of 4:30pm PT, when winners will be selected, so be sure to “like” and comment before the cutoff. Winners will have 24 hours from the time that they are notified to claim their prize.

Additional Tickets:

We’re also excited to offer additional discounted tickets to the game for those who don’t win tickets, or win tickets, but want to bring along additional friends and family! Discounted tickets are $17 and include a free t-shirt. Purchase tickets at: https://www.mlb.com/mariners/tickets/specials/washington-get

Swing by the GET booth before the game to pick up your free t-shirts, say hi, and get your college savings questions answered. We hope to see you there!

DATES: This promotion will run Thursday, May 10, 2018 – Thursday, May 17, 2018 at 4:30pm.

DISCLAIMER INFORMATION:

The GET College Savings Night promotion will take place from Thursday, May 10, 2018 – Thursday, May 17, 2018. There will be a total of fifty (50) prizes awarded (see above for prize package descriptions). Ticket and T-shirt Package prizes will be awarded after 4:30pm each business day of the promotion by a process of random selection from a pool of all individuals who commented “529 Day” on the promotional Facebook posts. The “Grand Prize” will be awarded last. Individuals commenting on promotional posts will receive a maximum of one entry into the final prize drawing per each promotional post. Selected winners will be notified via Facebook direct message and will have 24 hours to claim their prize and if they do not, GET program staff will hold additional drawings until a selected winner claims his or her prize. T-shirts (while supplies last) and hats must be picked up at the GET table in section 318 of Safeco Field before the 3rd inning. Individuals can only win one set of tickets during the course of the promotion, however, ticket winners are eligible and will be included in the Grand Prize drawing for 2 additional tickets, 2 Mariners hats, 2 t-shirts, and a pregame on-field experience. Washington Student Achievement Council employees, including GET program employees, and their families are not eligible for the prize drawings. The Mariners tickets are provided in partnership with the Mariners, but the Mariners do not endorse this promotion or the GET Program.

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529 Day Inspired Learning Giveaway

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Enter to Win Tickets to One of Washington's Museums and Inspire Lifelong Learning

 

PROMOTION INFORMATION

At GET we believe that learning doesn’t begin or end in the classroom. It starts with the first question, and draws on the world around us for inspiration. To celebrate 529 day, GET would like to offer you a week-long chance to win tickets to one of Washington’s many fantastic science centers or museums in hopes that a visit may fan the flames of curiosity in your little learner. “Like” one of our 529 day Facebook posts and send us “529 Day” as a direct Facebook message before 11:59 pm on May 31 to be entered into a drawing to win one of six prize packages! Winners will select tickets to a museum/science center* of their choice from the following list:

Group A

  • Pacific Science Center – Seattle
  • Seattle Art Museum – Seattle
  • Museum of Flight – Seattle

Group B

  • Hands on Children’s Museum – Olympia
  • Mobius Science Center – Spokane
  • Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture – Spokane
  • Washington History Museum – Tacoma
  • Children’s Museum of Tacoma – Donation only
  • Imagine Children’s Museum – Everett
  • The Reach Museum – Richland
  • Children’s Museum of Skagit County – Burlington
  • Whatcom Museum – Bellingham

* The named museums/science centers do not support or endorse this promotion or the GET program.

The prize packages are as follows:

Grand Prize – $80 value (1 winner)

Choose 1

  • 4 tickets to a Group A venue
  • 8 tickets to a Group B venue

First Prize – $60 value (2 winners)

Choose 1

  • 3 tickets to a Group A venue
  • 6 tickets to a Group B venue

Second Prize – $40 value (3 winners)

Choose 1

  • 2 tickets to a Group A venue
  • 4 tickets to a Group B venue

Dates

This promotion will run Wednesday, May 24, 2017 – Wednesday, May 31, 2017, at 11:59 pm.

DISCLAIMER INFORMATION

GET’s Inspired Learning promotion will take place from Wednesday, May 24, 2017 – Wednesday, May 31, 2017. There will be a total of six (6) prizes awarded (One Grand Prize, two First Prizes, and three Second Prizes. See above for prize package descriptions). Prizes will be awarded at the end of the promotion by a process of random selection from a pool of all individuals who “Like” one of GET’s 529 day Facebook posts. The order of the prize drawing will be from least to most valuable prize package, with the “Grand Prize” awarded last. Individuals who “Like” one of GET’s 529 day posts AND send us “529 Day” as a direct Facebook message before 11:59 pm on May 31 will receive a maximum of one entry into the final prize drawing. The prize drawing will be held on the afternoon of Thursday, June 1, 2017.

Selected winners will be notified via Facebook direct message and will have seven (7) days to claim their prize and if they do not, GET program staff will hold additional drawings until a selected winner claims his or her prize. Individuals can only win one prize package during the course of the entire promotion. Washington Student Achievement Council employees and their families are not eligible for this promotion. The named museums/science centers do not support or endorse this promotion or the GET program.

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GET’s Response to the College Affordability Act (Updated September 2, 2015)

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Dear GET Customers,

Yesterday the GET Committee met for the third time since the Legislature enacted the College Affordability Act, which lowers the cost of tuition at Washington’s public colleges and universities. These new tuition provisions affect some of the assumptions that the GET pricing and payout models have historically been based upon. The GET Committee continued reviewing the legislation and developing a plan for responding to all of the components of the Act. At the meeting, Committee members heard from the State Actuary, received reports from staff and comments from customers, and considered options for the GET Program moving forward.

The GET Committee is confident the program will continue to be a great college savings resource for years to come, they understand that some customers may wish to seek other options. Accordingly, after a period of discussion, yesterday the GET Committee voted on three policy changes they believe will protect GET customers and provide them with increased account flexibility  The motions, which passed unanimously, are:

  1. Based on the recent passage of the College Affordability Act, effective September 2, 2015 the payout value for the GET program will remain $117.82 per unit until the time when one year of resident undergraduate tuition and state mandated fees at Washington State’s highest priced public university surpasses $11,782.
  2. Based on the recent passage of the College Affordability Act, effective September 2, 2015 and through December 15, 2016, the GET program will waive all state program refund fees and the two-year hold requirement for all account owners.
  3. Based on the recent passage of the College Affordability Act, effective September 2, 2015 and through December 15, 2016, the GET program permit account owners to receive a refund of their contributions or the payout value, whichever is greater.

With respect to the first motion, it is intended to give GET customers peace of mind in knowing that they will not receive less than the current payout value for their account.

One effect of the second motion is that customers who are concerned about the tuition policy will be able to move their GET fund balances into a different 529 plan, including a 529 savings plan.

With respect to the third motion, refunds of contributions include finance charges paid by customers with Custom Monthly plans, if these finance charges caused the effective unit price to be greater than $117.82 per unit. Motions two and three provide GET customers with a 16 month window of time to exercise these options, which will gives account owners the flexibility to evaluate the outcomes from the feasibility study that is being conducted, as well as any new programs or developments before having to make a decision regarding their GET account.

Please note:

  • The non-refundable enrollment fee and any previously incurred account fees, such as late payment fees and NSF charges, will be deducted from all final refund amounts.
  • The earnings portion of any refund may still be subject to IRS taxes and penalties. For example, any increased value may be taxed as income and an additional 10% penalty may apply.
  • If you take a refund, a 1099-Q tax form will be sent to you that shows the principle and earnings portions of your refund. You may be required to report this information to the IRS.
  • To avoid a taxable event, you may deposit your refund into another 529 plan within 60 days of the date your refund is processed. To compare various 529 plans, go to www.collegesavings.org.
  • We strongly advise you to consult IRS Publication 970 and a tax advisor about potential tax implications.
  • It may take 10-12 weeks to process your refund from the time that GET receives your request.

If you choose to request a full or partial refund of your GET account(s), you must first review the GET Refund/Cancellation Policy, and then complete a GET Refund/Cancellation Request form for each account being refunded. Links to these documents are below:

  • GET Refund/Cancellation Policy
  • GET Refund/Cancellation Request form

Prior to the passage of these three action items, State Actuary Matt Smith provided a preliminary actuarial valuation report regarding the GET fund. Mr. Smith reported that the funded status of the GET program as of June 30, 2015 is 141%, up from 106% one year earlier. The increase in funded status was based in large part on lower than expected tuition growth as a result of the College Affordability Act. The Actuary advised the GET Committee that his preliminary valuation needs to be carefully considered as it is simply a snapshot in time and is sensitive to a number of economic and legislative variables.

Moving forward, the next GET Committee meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, October 7th in the Cherberg Building on the Capitol Campus in Olympia, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. At that meeting the Committee will discuss in more detail the possibility of establishing a 529 Savings Plan and will continue moving forward with other action items that are a part of the legislatively ordered feasibility study that needs to be completed before December 1, 2016.

Please visit our website for more details on these policy updates at get.wa.gov. If you have account specific questions, we encourage you to call our Contact Center at 1.800.955.2318 or email getinfo@wsac.wa.gov. We are here 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (PST) Monday through Friday, excluding state holidays. Finally, below I have provided you with a review of the action items that the GET Committee approved in its previous meeting on August 18, 2015.
In closing, it is important to remember the GET team is confident the program will continue to be a great college savings resource for years to come, and that the option to refund is simply an opportunity for customers to have flexibility with their college savings. Please know that I, the GET staff and the GET Committee appreciate your continued support. As information and more details become available, we will be sure to share updates with you.

Sincerely,
Betty Lochner
GET Director

Additional Action Items Approved by the GET Committee on August 18, 2015

1.) The GET Committee authorized that effective August 19, 2015, the GET program refund the amortization fee paid by account owners who have unredeemed units at a purchase price of $163 or greater.

Since 2011, GET customers have paid an amortization fee as part of the unit purchase price. This fee was charged to ensure the program’s funded status recovered after the impacts of the Great Recession and years of double-digit tuition increases at state universities.

The program’s funded status has fully recovered, and this amortization amount is no longer needed.  As such, the overpayment will be refunded to every customer with unredeemed units purchased at $163/unit or greater. Customers entitled to an amortization refund do not need to take action in order to claim this refund at this time. It will be an automated refund sent to all accounts that qualify in the form of a check issued to the GET account owner. Customers should expect to receive their refunds by the end of December.

Customers with custom monthly plans at a purchase price of $163 per unit or greater will automatically receive a cash refund of the amortization fee for the number of units they have accrued to date. Ongoing future monthly payments will be adjusted to a new lower amount based on the reduced unit price without the amortization fee. Once the amortization refund is completed in December, customers will be notified of their new monthly payment amount so that adjustments to automatic withdrawals can be made with their financial institutions.

The refund amount per unit is listed below, which is directly correlated to the original amortization amount paid per unit:

Year Units Purchased Refund Amount Per Unit
5/1/11 – 6/30/12  $      18.70
7/1/12 – 06/30/13  $      19.73
7/1/13 – 06/30/14  $      20.82
7/1/14 – 6/30/15  $      20.82

2.) The GET Committee authorized the delay of new unit sales for a period not to exceed two years effective July 1, 2015. Continued payments on Custom Monthly Plans established prior to July 1, 2015 shall be allowed.

GET will not accept applications for new GET accounts and current customers will not be able to purchase any new units until the restriction has been lifted.  All accounts opened or contributions made after June 30, 2015 will be refunded to the account owner.  One exception is that customers with existing Custom Monthly Plans may continue to make monthly payments in order to keep accruing units they have under contract.

Any automatic payments (ACH) customers have set up with GET for the purchase of Lump Sum units have been inactivated. If you have bill pay set up through your bank or GET payroll deduction set up through your employer, you will need to inactivate these automatic payments.
This unit purchase delay has been designed and implemented to ensure GET customers are protected pending potential changes to the program. GET is currently conducting a legislatively mandated feasibility study to evaluate future options for the program.  More specifically, the feasibility study is intended to answer the following questions:

  • How does GET continue to protect customer account values after two-year payout value is unfrozen?
  • What is the impact of decreasing tuition rates on GET’s funded status and future unit price?
  • What are some alternatives and impacts for changing the program’s distribution policy from tuition and fees to a cost of attendance metric?
  • What is the feasibility and impact of establishing a 529 college savings plan?
  • What are some potential alternatives and impacts for whether the state penalty for withdrawal should be changed?

Answers to these questions must be researched and developed by December 1, 2016 and will be presented to the Legislative Fiscal and Higher Education Committees. It is important the program has answers to these questions before it considers selling new units.

We thank you for your support of the GET Program, apologize for any inconvenience, and hope that you will continue your college savings efforts. If you would like to ensure your refund amount continues to go towards saving for college, we encourage you to consider depositing your refund into another 529 plan. To compare various 529 plans, go to www.collegesavings.org. Also, please continue to visit the GET website for program developments.

Additional Information about the College Affordability Act and its Impact on GET

What does lower tuition mean for students today?

  • This historic event will make college more affordable and accessible for more Washington families and current students.
  • More specifically, tuition will be reduced at the state’s two research institutions (UW & WSU) by five percent in the 2015-16 academic year and by another ten percent in the 2016-17 academic year for a total two year reduction of 15 percent. This is important because these are the two institutions for which GET’s payout value is based upon.
  • In addition to the tuition reductions noted above, the College Affordability Act also reduces tuition by 20% over the next two years at the state’s regional institutions (CWU, EWU, WWU and The Evergreen State College) and 5% in 2015-16 academic year at the state’s community and technical colleges.
  • The legislation goes on to say that beginning in the 2017-18 academic year, tuition operating fees for resident undergraduates at community and technical colleges, may increase by no more than the state’s average annual growth rate in median hourly wage as determined by the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

How will this impact my student if they are needing to use their units in the next two years? 

In response to lower tuition, the legislation states that for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 academic years, the GET Committee shall set the payout value for units redeemed at the 2014-15 rate of $117.82 per unit.

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GET’s Response to the College Affordability Act (Updated August 19, 2015)

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Dear GET Customers,

Yesterday the GET Committee met for a second time since the passing of the College Affordability Act at the close of the legislative session in early July, which lowers the cost of tuition at Washington’s public colleges and universities. Four key items were discussed at this meeting:

  1. Returning the Amortization Fee paid by customers who purchased units at $163 or greater since 2011 in anticipation tuition would increase.
  2. Waiving the program’s refund fees and two year holding period.
  3. Refunding customers’ contributions if greater than the current payout value.
  4. Delaying of new unit sales for a period up to two years.

After hearing from GET staff and customers, the Committee discussed these action items at length and took action on the following two items:

  1. The Committee authorized the refund of the amortization fee paid by customers who purchased units at $163 or greater.

    Since 2011, GET customers have paid an amortization fee as part of the unit purchase price. This fee was charged to ensure the program’s funded status recovered after the impacts of the Great Recession and years of double-digit tuition increases at state universities.

    The program’s funded status has fully recovered, and this amortization amount is no longer needed. As such, the overpayment will be refunded to every customer with unredeemed units purchased at $163/unit or greater. Customers entitled to an amortization refund do not need to take action in order to claim this refund at this time. It will be an automated refund sent to all accounts that qualify in the form of a check issued to the GET account owner. Customers should expect to receive their refunds by the end of December.

    Customers with Custom Monthly Plans at a purchase price of $163 per unit or greater will automatically receive a cash refund of the amortization fee for the number of units they have accrued to date. Ongoing future monthly payments will be adjusted to a new lower amount based on the reduced unit price without the amortization fee. Once the amortization refund is completed in December, customers will be notified of their new monthly payment amount so that adjustments to automatic withdrawals can be made with their financial institutions.

    The refund amount per unit is listed below, which is directly correlated to the original amortization amount paid per unit:

Year Units Purchased Refund Amount Per Unit
05/01/2011 – 06/30/2012 $18.70
07/01/2012 – 06/30/2013 $19.73
7/01/2013 – 06/30/2014 $20.82
07/01/2014 – 06/30/2015 $20.82
  1. The Committee authorized the delay of new unit sales for a period not to exceed two years effective July 1, 2015. Continued payments on Custom Monthly Plans established prior to July 1, 2015 shall be allowed.

    GET will not accept applications for new GET accounts and current customers will not be able to purchase any new units until the restriction has been lifted. All accounts opened or contributions made after June 30, 2015 will be refunded to the account owner. One exception is that customers with existing Custom Monthly Plans may continue to make monthly payments in order to keep accruing units they have under contract.

    This unit purchase delay has been designed and implemented to ensure GET customers are protected pending potential changes to the program. GET is currently conducting a legislatively mandated feasibility study to evaluate future options for the program. More specifically, the feasibility study is intended to answer the following questions:

    • How does GET continue to protect customer account values after two-year payout value is unfrozen?
    • What is the impact of decreasing tuition rates on GET’s funded status and future unit price?
    • What are some alternatives and impacts for changing the program’s distribution policy from tuition and fees to a cost of attendance metric?
    • What is the feasibility and impact of establishing a 529 college savings plan?
    • What are some potential alternatives and impacts for whether the state penalty for withdrawal should be changed?

Answers to these questions must be researched and developed by December 1, 2016 and will be presented to the Legislative Fiscal and Higher Education Committees. It is important the program has answers to these questions before it considers selling new units.

More Decisions to Come at the September 1st GET Committee Meeting

Moving forward the GET Committee chose to address the following two options at the September 1st meeting in order to gather more information over the course of the next two weeks:

  1. Waiving the GET program refund fees and two year holding period.
    The GET Committee is considering allowing customers to have the option to refund all or a portion of the funds in their accounts without program refund penalties or fees, through December 15, 2016. Additionally, the Committee is considering waiving the two-year waiting period that typically applies to all accounts before they can be refunded. This gives customers who are concerned about the tuition policy changes the opportunity to move their savings into another program, such as a 529 savings plan.
  2. Refunding customer’s their contributions if their contributions are greater than the current payout value.
    The GET Committee is also considering allowing customers with unredeemed units to refund their account(s) before December 15, 2016 and receive the current unit payout value of $117.82/unit or the amount of their contributions, whichever is greater. Refunds of contributions include finance charges paid by customers with Custom Monthly Plans, if these finance charges caused the effective unit price to be greater than $117.82 per unit.

With both of these items the GET Committee is considering providing a 16 month window to take advantage of these options, so that account owners are able to evaluate the outcomes from the feasibility study and any new programs or offerings that might be offered by the state before having to make a decision regarding their GET account.

As the program moves forward, the GET Committee will look at a number of longer-term solutions to the issues outlined in the feasibility study in an effort to benefit customers and the overall financial health of the program. Yesterday’s decisions are just the first of several actions the GET Committee will take to fulfill the program’s mission of helping families save for college.

We appreciate your patience and understanding. Please know that the Committee’s number one priority is the best interests of our customers. As information and more details become available, we will be sure to share updates with you.

Sincerely,

Betty Lochner
GET Director

P.S. Dates and times for the upcoming GET Committee meetings are as follows:

Tuesday, September 1, 2015
2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Cherberg Building, Capitol Campus, Olympia
Senate Hearing Room 1

Wednesday, October 7, 2015
2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Cherberg Building, Capitol Campus, Olympia
Senate Hearing Room 3

Thursday, December 3, 2015
1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Cherberg Building, Capitol Campus, Olympia
Senate Hearing Room 3

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Updates From the July 13 GET Committee Meeting

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July 14, 2015
Dear GET Customers,

Yesterday afternoon the GET Committee met for the first time since the close of the 2015 legislative session and the passing of the College Affordability Act, which lowers the cost of tuition at Washington’s public colleges and universities. The Committee took its first steps in reviewing the legislation and developing a plan for responding to all of the components of the Act. At the meeting Committee members spent time listening to comments from customers and evaluating the requirements of the program moving forward.

After a period of discussion, the Committee agreed that it was best to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the variety of options in response to lower tuition rather than moving ahead with any action at the July meeting. At two upcoming meetings this summer, the GET Committee will be reviewing and considering action on a number of issues, including: refunds, waiving penalties and fees, implementation of the legislatively mandated feasibility study, future pricing and actuarial studies, as well as plans for any upcoming enrollment periods.

Dates and times for the upcoming meetings are as follows:

Tuesday, August 18
1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Cherberg Building, Capitol Campus, Olympia
Senate Hearing Room 4

Tuesday, September 1
2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Cherberg Building, Capitol Campus, Olympia
Senate Hearing Room 1

In the meantime, if you have comments, concerns, or ideas you would like to share with the committee, we would encourage you to click on the link below and complete our short survey.  Your constructive input is important to us. The Committee will review and consider your feedback in the process.

http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/2235368/GET-Customer-Feedback-Tuition-Reduction

We appreciate your patience and understanding as the GET Committee works through all of these significant decisions. Please know that the Committee’s number one priority is the best interests of our customers. This priority necessitates that thoughtful, professional, and well-grounded decisions are made on your behalf.

As information and more details become available, we will be sure to share updates with you.

Sincerely,

Betty Lochner
GET Director

 

Information from Our Previous Update on June 30, 2015:

What does lower tuition mean for students today?

  • This historic event will make college more affordable and accessible for more Washington families and current students.
  • More specifically, tuition will be reduced at the state’s two research institutions (UW & WSU) by five percent in the 2015-16 academic year and by another ten percent in the 2016-17 academic year for a total two year reduction of 15 percent. This is important because these are the two institutions for which GET’s payout value is based upon.
  • In addition to the tuition reductions noted above, the College Affordability Act also reduces tuition by 20% over the next two years at the state’s regional institutions (CWU, EWU, WWU and The Evergreen State College) and 5% in 2015-16 academic year at the state’s community and technical colleges.
  • The legislation goes on to say that beginning in the 2017-18 academic year, tuition operating fees for resident undergraduates at community and technical colleges, may increase by no more than the state’s average annual growth rate in median hourly wage as determined by the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

How will this impact my student if they are needing to use their units in the next two years?

  • In response to lower tuition, the legislation states that for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 academic years, the GET Committee shall set the payout value for units redeemed at the 2014-15 rate of $117.82 per unit.


What happens to the value of my account if I am not going to use my units in the next two years? Will I lose money?

  • Beginning in the 2017-18 academic year, the GET Committee is required to make the necessary program adjustments to ensure GET customer accounts are not decreased or diluted as a result of lower tuition. This may include a cash refund, additional units, a minimum payout value, or another solution that is deemed appropriate. Part of a feasibility study the program will be conducting during the next 18 months is to develop a resolution to this issue.

What is the GET Committee going to do about the future of the program?

  • By December 1, 2016, the legislation calls for the GET Committee to review and report to the legislative fiscal and higher education committees on the following:
    • The impact of reducing tuition on the funded status of GET and future unit prices;
    • The feasibility of establishing a traditional 529 college savings program;
    • Alternatives of linking GET to tuition and fees and linking GET to a cost of attendance metric;
    • And the current state penalty for nonqualified withdrawals
  • Details regarding next steps for the GET program will be discussed at the GET Committee meeting on Monday, July 13 from 2 to 4 p.m. at Senate Hearing Room 3 on the Capitol Campus in Olympia. As information becomes available, updates will be shared on the GET website.


Does the two year freeze in payout also mean a two year freeze in unit cost? Does this mean the current unit cost is now calibrated to a tuition cost 15% less than today?

  • These are good questions and issues the GET Committee will be addressing. The Committee will be meeting on Monday, July 13 to begin conversations around future unit pricing; however, a great deal of analysis will need to be done by the State Actuary and other financial experts before any future pricing formulas will be considered.

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GET’s Response to Lowered Tuition

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Last night the Washington State Legislature passed a budget and accompanying legislation to lower tuition at the state’s colleges and universities. This legislation is expected to be signed into law by the Governor today. This historic event will make college more affordable and accessible for more Washington families and current students. Below you will find responses to questions arising from this legislation in order to provide you with more information about the impacts to the GET program.

In the meantime, customers with account-specific questions can call the GET Contact Center at 800-955-2318 or email getinfo@wsac.wa.gov. As information becomes available, updates will be shared on the GET website.

What does lower tuition mean for students today?

  • This historic event will make college more affordable and accessible for more Washington families and current students.
  • More specifically, tuition will be reduced at the state’s two research institutions (UW & WSU) by five percent in the 2015-16 academic year and by another ten percent in the 2016-17 academic year for a total two year reduction of 15 percent. This is important because these are the two institutions for which GET’s payout value is based upon.
  • The legislation goes on to say that beginning in the 2017-18 academic year, tuition operating fees for resident undergraduates at community and technical colleges, may increase by no more than the state’s average annual growth rate in median hourly wage as determined by the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

How will this impact my student if they are needing to use their units in the next two years?

  • In response to lower tuition, the legislation states that for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 academic years, the GET Committee shall set the payout value for units redeemed at the 2014-15 rate of $117.82 per unit.

What happens to the value of my account if I am not going to use my units in the next two years? Will I lose money?

  • Beginning in the 2017-18 academic year, the GET Committee is required to make the necessary program adjustments to ensure GET customer accounts are not decreased or diluted as a result of lower tuition. This may include a cash refund, additional units, a minimum payout value, or another solution that is deemed appropriate. Part of a feasibility study the program will be conducting during the next 18 months is to develop a resolution to this issue.

What is the GET Committee going to do about the future of the program?

  • By December 1, 2016, the legislation calls for the GET Committee to review and report to the legislative fiscal and higher education committees on the following:
    • The impact of reducing tuition on the funded status of GET and future unit prices;
    • The feasibility of establishing a traditional 529 college savings program;
    • Alternatives of linking GET to tuition and fees and linking GET to a cost of attendance metric;
    • And the current state penalty for nonqualified withdrawals
  • Details regarding next steps for the GET program will be discussed at the GET Committee meeting on Monday, July 13 from 2 to 4 p.m. at Senate Hearing Room 3 on the Capitol Campus in Olympia. As information becomes available, updates will be shared on the GET website.

Does the two year freeze in payout also mean a two year freeze in unit cost? Does this mean the current unit cost is now calibrated to a tuition cost 15% less than today?

  • These are good questions and issues the GET Committee will be addressing. The Committee will be meeting on Monday, July 13 to begin conversations around future unit pricing; however, a great deal of analysis will need to be done by the State Actuary and other financial experts before any future pricing formulas will be considered.

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