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‘GET’ting clarification on some common misconceptions

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As much as we here at GET would like to think otherwise, some of the specifics of how the program works are  not always straightforward. Whether I’m talking to families at community events throughout the state or overhearing conversations that our contact center team has with customers, I often hear the same questions and misunderstandings about GET and how it can be used. Below are some of the more common misconceptions about GET, along with detailed explanations that will hopefully provide some clarity.

I thought about GET, but I wish you could use it out-of-state.

The good news is that GET can be used to pay for school nearly anywhere in the country and even at some schools in other countries. Better yet, GET participants are not limited to traditional four-year universities. In addition to both public and private four-year institutions, GET can be used at community colleges and technical schools, and even for certificate programs and graduate school. The requirement for being able to use GET is that the institution participates in federal financial aid programs through the U.S. Department of Education. To find a list of qualifying schools, you can search the database on the FAFSA website.

Where GET's been used

If my child decides not to go to school or gets a scholarship, am I out of luck?

Fortunately GET is not a use-it-or-lose-it program. If your child decides not to attend school, or has another source of funding, such as a scholarship, there are many options available to you. You have up to ten years to begin using your units once your child graduates high school. We often find that kids who decide not to attend college right away may end up changing their mind later on. In that time, the value of your account will simply grow, keeping up with tuition inflation. Further, in the situation of a scholarship, there are often expenses that aren’t covered that GET can be used for. Remember that GET can be used not just for tuition, but for student fees, room and board, books and supplies, and any other qualified educational expenses.

If it becomes apparent that your child is very unlikely to use their GET units, then it’s time to consider the next option: transferring the unused funds to another family member, such as a sibling or cousin. Finally, if all else fails, you can always request a refund. Refunds pay out at the current value, so any gain you would have seen in the account is still yours. Keep in mind that program fees and/or IRS taxes and penalties may apply depending on the reason for the refund.

I want to save for college, but I’m afraid it will hurt my child’s financial aid eligibility.

Quote-for-3.24.14-postWhile this is a valid concern, fortunately, savings in a GET account (or any 529 plan for that matter) typically have a relatively small impact when being considered in the financial aid calculation. As long as the parent is named the “account owner,” the GET account is counted as a “parental asset” and makes up just a small component of the “expected family contribution” (parental assets make up about 5.6% of the formula).  Further, financial aid packages, especially those for middle class families, consist primarily of student loans that need to be repaid with interest. Every little bit you can put away ahead of time will substantially reduce the amount you owe after graduation.

There are other features and benefits of GET that aren’t always straightforward. In response, we have an FAQ page on our website that does a great job at answering the more common questions.

Written by Lucas Minor

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