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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 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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Forming Strong Habits is Key to Building a Bright Future

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On Sunday, May 31, we will be closing out our 17th enrollment year here at GET. This time of year is always so encouraging, as we see thousands of families making the decision to take action and get started, saving their way to a bright future for their children. If you’ve been thinking about starting your child’s college savings, but just haven’t been able to get to it yet, now is a great opportunity to take the plunge.

The good news is that once you take that first step and get started, the rest becomes easier. The key is to make the act of putting money away for college a habit. I recently read a book called The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg, that I found to be quite powerful (no pun intended). As Duhigg puts it: “Most of the choices we make each day may feel like the products of well-considered decision making, but they’re not. They’re habits.” The three main elements of a habit are: a cue that triggers action, a routine response to that cue, and a reward for that particular course of action. It’s a cyclical process that feeds itself, which is why, for good or bad, habits are very difficult to break.

Now let’s have a look at how we can apply this framework to college savings specifically. The cue could be anything from seeing the rising cost of college, or talking with your kids about what they want to be when they grow up. The reward can be immediate: seeing your college savings account grow; or far out into the future: imagining your children’s long term success and happiness, or knowing they won’t be saddled with mountains of student loan debt. Of course, the hardest part to get going is all that work in the middle – the routine. For maximum success, many families find it helpful to make regularly scheduled contributions to their accounts. This can be in the form of monthly payment plans, or making bigger deposits at the same milestones each year (birthdays, holidays, the end of a school year, etc.). Of course, every family has a different routine that works for them, but the key is to find a routine that is predictable so that it becomes second nature.

Duhigg’s concepts are simple, yet profound. If we take the time to understand what drives us and fully commit ourselves to creating new habits that will help us reach our goals, we can make big impacts. College savings is no exception. It’s not an easy undertaking, but once you start, establish a routine, and keep your rewards in sight, your college savings plan will be a force to be reckoned with. So, with this year’s enrollment deadline around the corner, we encourage you to heed Smashmouth’s advice from the song, Walking on the Sun: “Don’t delay, act now!” But don’t worry, supplies are not running out – there’s plenty of GET to go around. It’s easy to enroll online at www.get.wa.gov.

Written by Lucas Minor

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Get your savings in full swing this spring

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CSPN-Baseball-Quote

I always welcome the start of baseball season, as it’s a great reminder that good things are in store for the months ahead. It’s a chance for renewed optimism as we cheer on the home team (Go Mariners!) and hope that maybe ‘this’ will finally be their year. And accordingly, Mother Nature is showing signs of bright life: the sun starts showing itself again, flowers are in bloom and everything is turning green again! But what do baseball and the change in seasons have to do with college savings?

Just as start of the season involves a steep learning curve for a team, getting your college savings started is not always easy right out of the gate. You’ll experience some growing pains and it will take time to get a consistent game plan established. Despite these early road bumps, remember that this time of year is also the perfect opportunity for a fresh start and to try out a new approach. If you stay committed and keep working hard, it will continue to come more naturally, and your college savings plan will begin to blossom.

A hang up for many parents looking to start their college planning is where to start. When I’m out in the community sharing information about our program, I often hear “What should we be doing?” “How much do we need to be saving?” “Tell me what I need to do!” This line of questioning is understandable, as it can feel overwhelming to be looking ahead when you’re busy trying to raise kids and triage their day-to-day needs. While I’m able to provide these harried parents with resources and tools, the reality is that there is no single magic formula that works for everyone. Every family’s situation is unique and their goals for their children are equally varied. But the good news is that often parents just need to have these early conversations, and once in the right mindset, they’re ready to find their own way.

Although there is no one right way, there are some best practices that families can look to so they can ensure long-term savings success. First, start as early as possible when kids are still young so there is more time to add to your savings and watch them grow. It’s easy to compare different options on the CSPN website to see which plan or mix of plans will work best for your family. Just as importantly, don’t set it and forget it – keep adding as your kids grow and get family and friends involved. Finally, let your kids know what you’re doing to plan for their future and reinforce that college will be part of their future.

However you choose to save for college, remember that practice and routine are the keys to success. In the words of legendary Dodgers team manager, Tommy Lasorda: “There are three types of baseball players: those who make it happen, those who watch it happen, and those who wonder what happens.”

Written by Lucas Minor

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Bright Futures Start with Being a Champion for Others’ Success

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We have all heard the term “kids today.” It is usually followed up by a statement like: “they sure have it easy,” or “they just don’t have the work ethic of our generation.” What we must remember is that kids are just a reflection of us in the mirror of life. As adult mentors we must hold high expectations for student success and students must have hope and be academically and financially prepared beginning at an early age.

This philosophy was the premise for creating our GET Bright Futures program in partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Washington State. This program plants the seeds of hope in youth and provides an avenue for the champions (parents, teachers, coaches, friends, other relatives) in their lives to respond and support their dreams and aspirations. Only a holistic approach to creating a college-going culture will increase the number of students achieving certification or a degree beyond high school.

This past week I traveled the I-5 corridor from Olympia to Bellingham visiting more than a dozen Boys & Girls Clubs during spring break in order to share our GET Bright Futures Program with more than 500 kindergarten through third grade students. During our presentations with the kids at the Clubs we asked them a few basic questions and then facilitated a rich conversation. Our questions included: “What’s a goal and how do you accomplish your dreams? What do you want to be when you grow up and why?” And lastly we asked “who are the champions in your life and how can these people help you achieve your goals and support you when you face challenges or opportunities?”

It makes me wonder, as adults, do we ask these questions of ourselves enough and do we look for ways to support the people in our lives to the best of our abilities? The way I see it, kids have not changed over time. They are still innocent, curious, and creative sponges that just want to be happy, loved and to know they are working towards something meaningful in their lives. These are the same things we continue to search for as grownups; however, too often we let our egos, gadgets, and bitterness get in the way. What I learned from my week with these amazing kids is don’t let the world stop you from being your best.

We must remember we are born into this world with no preconceived ideas; everything that makes us who we are is truly a result of the people and the environments which surround us. The world is changed when we choose positive behaviors and thoughts and when we decide to be champions for those we love and care about. Our background and circumstances may have influenced who we are, but we are responsible for the person we become.

When talking about his “Moral Bucket List” in a recent editorial in the New York Times, David Brooks said, “It occurred to me that there were two sets of virtues, the résumé virtues and the eulogy virtues. The résumé virtues are the skills you bring to the marketplace. The eulogy virtues are the ones that are talked about at your funeral — whether you were kind, brave, honest or faithful. We all know that the eulogy virtues are more important than the résumé ones and I came to the conclusion that wonderful people are made, not born — that the people I admired had achieved an unfakeable inner virtue, built slowly from specific moral and spiritual accomplishments.”

In my opinion, Mr. Brooks hit the nail on the head with this statement because as I went from one Boys & Girls Club to the next I saw the same genuine light, optimism, and hope in the eyes of the children we met with that I had at such a young age. It was the champions in my life, the people focused on their eulogy virtues, that made the most impact on my upbringing and my path to and now through adulthood. If I can be that champion for family, friends and colleagues in my life, I will consider my journey a success.

When we asked one kindergartner to describe college he said it was “an opportunity to become your best self!” And when I asked a second grader what a path is she said, “It is just your journey through life and that it has ups, it has downs and it has lots of turns. It really is not about getting someplace, it is just about becoming a better person by never giving up and remembering the people you love and how they have helped you along the way.” Amazing insight from two kids I now consider champions in my life!

By Ryan Betz, Associate Director of GET Marketing & Communications

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Reaching your dreams takes a lot more than a little bit ‘o luck

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Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity

Many symbols associated with St. Patrick’s Day signify luck. Shamrocks, horseshoes and the color green are often revered as tokens that promise bounties of good fortune. However, while there definitely are times where the cards seem to be more in our favor than usual, good fortune typically takes more than luck alone. In fact, the things we attribute to luck are usually direct results of the efforts we make. As Thomas Jefferson is credited with saying, “I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”

This is all too true when it comes to planning for our children’s future success. If we simply cross our fingers and hope our child wants to become a doctor, gets into the most prestigious medical school, and secures the scholarships to pay for it, we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment. There’s nothing wrong with these lofty goals – we SHOULD dream big for our kids, and inspire them to do the same. But when these dreams aren’t supported with sweat equity, the chances of our desires coming to fruition can be slim. So how do we bring our hopes for our children’s success from simple wishes to tangible realities?

It starts by fostering a sense of wonder and instilling a thirst for life-long learning in our kids. This starts from birth and goes all the way through their development. Children enter this world as books with blank pages, waiting to be filled with the story that will be their lives. It’s both awesome and frightening to know that we play one of the most influential roles in helping them craft this story.

As the story develops, it may start feeling like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” novel, where nail-biting parents are faced with a series of choices, whose selected courses of action can yield drastically different story lines and plot twists. This analogy is also important, as it illustrates the reality that there is no parenting blueprint. Every child has unique needs, interests, emotions and strengths. The key is to think about the big picture – how can we proactively take steps today that support our children in striving towards what they want to become?

If you’re struggling to answer this question, DON’T PANIC! As the young mother of a newborn shared at an event I recently attended, the biggest piece of guidance she received from parents who started the journey before her is: “You’ll figure it out.” This advice may not seem all that profound or reassuring, but despite her worst fears and apprehensions, the advice was spot on, and she DID figure it out. If we can accept that there is no one right way, and instead commit to a holistically-minded decision making approach and encourage our children to do the same, perhaps Lady Luck will smile upon us.

Written by Lucas Minor

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Now is the Time for Congress to Pass Legislation to Strengthen 529 Plans

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This past month both the US Senate and House of Representatives introduced legislation to make enhancements to 529 College Savings Plans. These tax-free plans are used by millions of families to save for their children’s future higher education expenses. These plans have proven to help limit or eliminate future student loan debt, while aiding to increase access to higher education.

This year, student loan debt reached an all-time high of $1.3 trillion, with the 2014 graduating class finishing college with an average of $30,000 in loans. Of the 37 million people carrying student loan debt, one-third are over the age of 40 and almost 2 million people  over the age of 60 are still paying off loans. It is important to take into consideration the simple fact that $20,000 in student loans paid over 20 years is actually more like $63,000!

When Americans are saddled with student loan debt, they are not able to buy homes, cars and other products that boost our economy. They are not able to innovate by putting their ideas into action by starting a new business. They are also limited in their ability to invest in their future by saving for retirement and other long-term goals.

On the flip side, 12 million Americans have saved approximately $250 billion in 529 plans; less than a quarter the amount of student loan debt in our country. It is the goal of all state 529 plans to reverse this trend and to someday have college savings out-pace student loan debt. The only way we can do that is to continue to improve 529 plans by offering more incentives for families to save.

Enhancements like those that are part of the proposed legislation in the Senate (SB 335) and House (HR 529) help all American’s see and understand the value of saving through 529 plans. These companion bills specifically call for:

  • Making computers an eligible expense;
  • Allowing the redeposit of funds without negative tax implications in certain extenuating circumstances (e.g. a student gets sick at the beginning of the term);
  • Updating outdated accounting rules.

Implementing common sense improvements to 529 plans so that more families see the benefits of saving will only help the overall health and well-being of our country over the long-haul. Simply put, when students graduate with little to no debt they have the resources to innovate, purchase, invest, volunteer and create. Now is the time to pass this legislation that strengthens 529 plans and if you agree, we encourage you to reach out to your Representatives and Senators in Washington D.C. to let them know of your support of these enhancements.

Written by Betty Lochner, Chair of the College Savings Plans Network (CSPN) and Director of Washington’s Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) Program.

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President’s College Plan: Well Intentioned with Misguided Funding Strategy

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529 form

During the recent State of the Union address President Barack Obama proposed some philosophical changes in the road to higher education, including a strategy that provides free community college for all Americans. The idea of creating greater access to higher education to strengthen our country’s economy, workforce and the number of career opportunities for our citizens is commendable and inspiring.

I think that as Americans, no matter your political affiliation, we can all agree that a better educated citizen-base is essential to helping our country prosper with more engaged, innovative and open-minded people that have the resources to purchase, invest, volunteer and create.

The biggest concern with the President’s plan is that it comes at the expense of one of few tax breaks for middle class families. The President’s proposal calls for the removal of the ability for Americans to use the money earned in their 529 college savings account on a tax-free basis. The rationale behind this plan is that additional income taxes collected from students could be one of the mechanisms for funding the free community college proposal.

With 12 million accounts open, 529 college savings plans are helping American families save for future higher education costs. Research shows children with a college savings account are six to seven times more likely to attend a four-year college, compared to children with no dedicated account.

Taxing college savings is detrimental and will have a chilling and resounding effect on the future of families’ investments in their children’s higher education. Even more families will be left to rely on student loan debt, which is currently at $1.3 trillion; nearly five times the amount ($250 billion) American families have saved in 529 plans. Loans and tax credits alone are not the solution to making college more affordable, so we should be doing all we can to encourage, not stifle, savings.

Even if the President’s plan for free community college is implemented, there will still be a huge demand and need for students with bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees. Further, students with an associate’s degree may also want to continue their education with a professional certificate at a technical or trade school. All of these advanced degrees will continue to be a significant financial investment that families will need to save for, especially during a time when the cost of a college degree has increased 12 fold over the past 30 years.

The concept of saving has and will continue to be the most critical step in creating access to higher education and making it more affordable to middle class families. If you agree that saving for college is important, I encourage you to reach out to your Representative and Senators in Washington D.C. to let them know how you feel about these proposed changes so that they can advocate on your behalf.

By Betty Lochner, Chair of the College Savings Plan Network & Director of Washington State’s Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) Program

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Tales from the Road – Part 3

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photoIt’s already December and it feels like the year just flew by.  I look back at all that happened and all that I planned to do and ask “how can the year be almost over”?  It seems like it was just summer and now we’re wearing our winter coats and turning on the heaters.

It’s times like this when I reflect on the year and all the wonderful things about it. One big change this year has been with my grandson, Dante.  He will turn four this month and as you can imagine, he’s changed a lot in the last 12 months.  I feel like it was just yesterday when he arrived in my life, and now he’s reciting his ABCs, starting to read and count, changing his own clothes and my goodness – having his own opinion!  When I think about the days and months following Dante’s arrival I’m so grateful that I was available to help my son and his wife through many of the changes that were happening in their life with a new little one.  And even now that Dante is a toddler I am still a part of his everyday life of learning.

peps logo As I look at his sweet face, I realize I’m excited to see the young man that he will become and it reminds me of one of our favorite partnerships – the PEPS organization.  PEPS stands for Program for Early Parent Support. They are a Seattle based nonprofit organization established to help parents connect and grow as they begin their journey into parenthood.

This past year, GET had the opportunity to be involved in PEPS’s new grandparent outreach program called “Grandparent Happy Hour.  As PEPS put it “grandparents are the third point in the parent, baby triangle and sometimes it can be tricky making the relationships work harmoniously.” Each happy hour event starts with a time of meeting, greeting and visiting with new grandparents and sharing stories and experiences. Then there is a lecture by Jan Faull, parent educator, author and Seattle Times columnist covering a variety of topics affecting grandparents today.  During the happy hour event in September I had the chance to sit with a group of grandparents that had grandchildren in other states.  They expressed their sadness in not being able to see their grandkids on a regular basis, but are thankful that they can stay connected with the use of Skype, cell phones and photos. They also shared with me their desire to help their adult children save for the grandchildren’s college education and asked how GET could help them do that.  One thing that stood out the most to them was that GET can be used at nearly every college, university and trade school in the US and even foreign countries.  One grandparent said after the discussion, that this helped them realize just how far reaching the gift of education can span.  I remember the smiles and relief they felt just knowing they could play a part in the education of these little people even though they were not able to be actively present every day.

Our partnership with PEPS, including the grandparent outreach has been an incredibly positive experience and I look forward to the new faces and new experiences in 2015. I’m also so excited to see what the new year has in store for Dante. It seems like every time I see him, he’s reaching a new milestone, and it fills me with such an amazing sense of awe and pride. He’s one of the greatest joys in my life, and I am so thankful to be his “Grammie.”

Written by Jacquelyne Ferrado

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Thanksgiving: A Great Time to Recognize the Education Pilgrims in Our Lives!

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On May 9, 1998, I was the first person in my family to graduate from college. This was not a fluke, it was an intentional goal set by my parents the day I was born. Neither my mom nor my dad had the opportunity to pursue a degree.

My mom is a self-taught computer programmer who became independent at the age of 16 and worked full-time while finishing high school. My dad is the son of a farmer from Iowa who was captured while building runways in Japan during WWII. He was held as a prisoner of war for close to six years. Because my grandfather’s health was not the best after the war, my dad also worked through high school to support his family and when he graduated, college was not an option.

Throughout their careers, my parents inspired me with their work ethic, positive attitude and compassion for others. Dad worked nights so he could be there for us when we got home from school and for a while he worked selling real estate on the weekends. My mom was constantly learning new skills and programming languages to stay relevant in a male dominated industry that was changing by the minute.

_95A1504It wasn’t until I was older that I realized my mom worked with really smart people who had master’s degrees in computer science from MIT. I also realized that my dad had built a business importing and exporting goods to China based on common sense people skills he learned from decades of customer service work.

The reason I didn’t recognize how hard my parents worked was because they never talked about their jobs; they were too busy giving my sister and me every opportunity to grow and succeed in and out of the classroom. While my parents did not have very much money in the early years, they always put money aside for college. They were going to ensure that our dreams would not just be fantasies but attainable realities.

When researchers at Washington University in St. Louis recently announced that students with a college savings account in their name are seven times more likely to pursue a post-secondary education, I was not surprised. Growing up knowing that hard-earned money had been set aside for me to go to school was a huge motivator for keeping good grades and pushing me with challenging pre-requisite college courses. I knew a lot of people in my family had worked and sacrificed for generations to give me that opportunity to further my education and I was not going to let them down.

As we approach Thanksgiving, I am so grateful to my parents for their love, mentorship and belief in the transforming power of a college education. If you have the opportunity this holiday season to thank a teacher, coach or parent for their investment in you, do it and be sure to let them know how they’ve made a difference.

Written by Ryan Betz

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