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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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Cousin’s Legacy Lives on Through Investments in Children’s Futures

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Simon Sinek Start with Why

Fifteen years ago my cousin Michael passed away after a tragic airline accident. He was only 30 years old and had a bright future ahead of him. Over the years following my cousin’s death, my aunt and uncle searched for ways to honor Michael’s life. One of the ways they chose to recognize Michael’s contributions to the world was by establishing a 529 college savings account for both my daughter and my son. My aunt and uncle believed education was the one way Michael’s legacy could be carried on by giving my children the opportunity to follow their dreams and aspirations through a college education.

My aunt and uncle’s choice to celebrate Michael’s life through a 529 plan contribution was not based on maximizing investment returns in order to make a lot of money; it was a much deeper and meaningful decision. They simply wanted to ensure all the amazing experiences that were afforded to Michael because of his education were passed along to the next generation of our family. In fact, I remember Michael’s college graduation pretty vividly since it was the first I had ever attended. I recall thinking at the time, how cool it was that he achieved such a high level of education. That memory was left engraved in my mind and was something I circled back to when I needed a little motivation with my own studies.

Golden Circle By Simon SinekLittle did I know that 25 years after Michael’s graduation I would be in a profession focused on helping families prepare and save for their children’s college education. The memory of Michael and what my aunt and uncle did to honor his life is something I think about almost every day in marketing Washington’s Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) college savings plan. So often in marketing investment products, we get caught up in focusing on the features and benefits of our products and we forget about why families are making the decision to save for a higher education.

In Simon Sinek’s TED Talk titled “Start with the Why” he discusses the fact that “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Sinek focuses his discussion on the “why” section of our brains that controls our trust, loyalty and feelings. He says great leaders and great businesses put their energy into inspiring us. He refers to Dr. Martin Luther King Junior’s “I have a dream speech” and he says there is good reason why he did not call it “I have a plan speech” with a 30-point agenda. MLK was so successful because he got people to take ownership of his ideas and share them as their own original thoughts and beliefs. This is exactly what we are doing each day in the college savings industry; we are working tirelessly to inspire families to develop strategies for their children’s educational future.

In his book “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years,” author Don Miller asks the reader if a movie based on a guy who works his entire life to buy a Volvo would move a person to tears when he finally saves enough money to drive this luxury sedan off the lot. The answer of course is no; however, as he points out, this is how most people live their lives. In looking at our lives as a story, Miller says we can learn a lot about how to make life interesting and meaningful. And if you look at education and its role in our lives, it is the core plot of our life story. School is where we create lifelong friendships, establish our values, attain job and life skills, acquire mind-opening knowledge and explore the world around us through life-altering experiences. Education’s relevance in our lives is huge and 529 plans are at the heart of making these learning experiences possible.

We take the responsibility of educating families about the benefits of 529 plans very seriously because the impacts are far-reaching. The college savings industry is very different than other sectors of the economy where business leaders look for ways to reduce services and product offerings in order to maximize revenue and earnings. When it comes to 529 plans, the focus continues to be on how to improve, enhance and expand our services and customer benefits because the more we can help the next generation save and prepare for their future, the better off our society will be in the long-run.
Close to three years ago, my uncle who helped set up my children’s 529 plan passed away after a hard-fought battle with cancer. His passing was just another reminder about how short life can be and the importance of the precious time we share with family and friends. When it is all said and done, we can’t take anything with us and the only thing we can leave behind are experiences that live on as memories with those we love and the legacy of our kindness and compassion for helping others live a happy and consequential life. My uncle and my cousin succeeded in this mission and I believe it is my responsibility to help other families reach the same goals.

Written by Ryan Betz, Associate Director of GET Marketing & Communications

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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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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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Finding the Perfect Holiday Gift

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Photo source: http://www.betweenthekids.com/2012/11/funny-kids-christmas-list/

 

The holidays are right around the corner, and you know what that means – gift shopping! Love it or dread it, finding the perfect gift can often be a challenge. When it comes to shopping for kids, the good news is they’re not shy about letting you know what they want (or about reminding you what they want over and over again).  The bad news is that even if a kid’s wish list is a mile long, there’s always that one toy that he “really, really wants more than anything else in the world,” and it’s about as impossible to find as a polar bear in a snowstorm. And if you do actually find it, you may have to fight tooth and nail for the last one. Then after the holidays are over, that dream toy that he “had to have” is soon cast aside in favor of the next new and exciting thing.

What if there was a gift that you knew would never be out-of-stock, lasted a lifetime and didn’t even require wrapping?

This year when relatives ask what your little one wants for the holidays, consider asking for the gift of education. A contribution to a child’s college savings is a thoughtful gift that shows a commitment to his or her future success. Not only does the gift of college savings help families reduce the future cost of college tuition by saving early, it sets a precedent that higher education will be an integral part of their child’s life. In fact, studies show that if children have a college savings account in their name and know it, they’re seven times more likely to go to college.

Further, an investment in higher education will reduce the need for student loans, which will be a huge burden off of the back of your future college graduate. Then comes the job search – studies show that by 2018, nearly 70% of all new jobs in Washington state will require some form of post-high school education. All these considerations make it easy to see why a contribution in a child’s future education is truly a gift that will keep on giving for years to come.

When it comes to giving the gift of education, GET makes it easy for the whole family to get in on the action. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, friends, and anyone else who wants can simply go to the GET homepage and click the blue “Give the Gift of a GET Account” button, and choose to contribute to an existing account or open a new account for a child. Here, giftors will also find colorful, customizable gift announcements to present to the lucky beneficiary.

christmas story picThe gift of college savings is a meaningful gift that’s always the right size, will last a lifetime, and best of all, unlike an official Red Ryder carbine-action two-hundred-shot range model air rifle, it won’t shoot your eye out.

 Written by Lucas Minor

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GET Program Returns to Fully Funded Status

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There is no doubt that education is the key to unlocking the door to opportunity. Throughout the past several years, new research continues to provide supportive evidence that a college degree not only increases the economic earning power of both individuals and our state economy, but it’s also proven to contribute to improved health and other social benefits such as increased homeownership, voting rates, and community volunteerism.

While there is no denying that the cost of a college education has increased dramatically over the past two decades, the citizens of Washington state continue to display their growing value of a college degree by saving more of their hard-earned dollars for their children’s future higher education expenses. In fact, since 1999, Washington’s Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) program has paid more than a half billion dollars in higher education expenses on behalf of more than 37,000 students.

funded status calloutThe GET program now manages more than 157,000 college savings accounts that are valued at close to $3 billion. Just recently, the State Actuary, Matt Smith, announced that the program’s funded status is 106 percent and it is expected to meet all of its financial obligations for current enrollees.

The financial health of the program has definitely improved over the past few years. Last year, the program enhanced its solvency report card grade from a “B” to an “A” rating and this year the program surpassed its 2021 projected funded status (seven years earlier than expected). The positive change in the program’s funded status is due primarily to strong investment returns and the fact that tuition did not increase at the state’s universities for the second straight year.

Having tuition continue to remain flat is a huge reprieve for Washington families who experienced double-digit tuition growth from 2009 to 2013. Over the past 10 years, tuition has increased an average of 8.6 percent per year, which has contributed to the growth in student debt that is now valued at more than $1.2 trillion nationally.

Ultimately, our goal as an organization is to switch the personal finance of higher education from a debt-driven model to a savings-driven model so that when a student completes their degree, they have the financial freedom to pursue their dreams and take an active role in contributing to our state’s economy and communities.

We strive to accomplish this goal every day by offering Washington families incentives, tools, and resources to help them save, make wise investment decisions, and to make it as easy as possible to make regular contributions to their accounts. By providing these resources to families, their children will be better positioned to continue to grow and prosper in their academic pursuits.

Written by Betty Lochner, GET Program Director

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Top 10 reasons to save for college

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Another September is here, and that means another College Savings Month! This month is a time where 529 plans around the country commemorate college savings and recognize the importance of starting while kids are young. In that spirit, we’re kicking off our celebration with some reminders of why saving for college is so important:

1) Reduce the need for student loans.
With student loan debt now at an average of $30,000 per borrower, and with total nationwide student loan debt surpassing $1 trillion, it’s more important than ever to save now to avoid borrowing later.

2) Expand your child’s college choices.
Your college savings have the potential to expand your child’s college choices. If an Ivy League school comes calling, wouldn’t it be great to tell your student “We’re so excited to support you in this opportunity,” rather than “We wish we afford this opportunity.”

3) Create a college-bound culture for your family.
Studies show that children who have college savings accounts in their name and know it are seven times more likely to do well in school and go on to college. Plus, setting this precedent for your children may lead them to do the same when they start their own families.

4) Reduce stress.
Your savings efforts will pay off in peace of mind. You and your children will be able to focus on “where” they want to go to school instead of “if” they can even go.

5) Create financial literacy learning opportunities for yocollegesavingsbankur kids.
Use your thoughtful planning and saving as a tool to teach your kids about the importance of being prepared, managing finances and the time value of money.

6) It makes a great gift.
The gift of college tuition is one that will keep giving for a lifetime by giving your child access to academic and personal growth opportunities as well as expanded employment options.

7) Improve your children’s long-term financial security.
Without the burden of tens of thousands of dollars of student loan debt, your children will be better set up for their own economic prosperity – the ability to purchase a home, start putting away for retirement and of course, start saving for their own kids’ college education.

8) Pay less for college costs.
By saving while kids are young, you’ll give your money the opportunity to work for you and grow in value. Pair that with the reduced need to borrow money, and the total college bill will set you back significantly less.

9) Keep your household expenses in check.
By committing to saving, you’re simultaneously making a commitment to reduce your spending. You’ll be amazed to find how much money slips out the back door when you’re not looking.

10) Ensure your nest stays empty in the future.
By setting your kids’ up with the tools they need to be marketable in the business-world and by helping them achieve financial independence by reducing the need for loans, you’ll get a chance to enjoy one of the best benefits of saving for college. Just think about how nice it will be to have your space back and your pantry full.

These are just a few of the many great reasons to save for college while your kids are young. The most important thing to remember is to not let the prospect of how much college may cost in the future be overwhelming or discourage you from getting started. A dollar saved today is a dollar (or more) you won’t have to borrow down the road. Beyond that, when you make an investment in your children’s futures, you are setting them up for a lifetime of opportunity!

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Tales From the Road – Part 2

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mamacon 1

In mid-May I had the pleasure of attending MamaCon – The Conference for Moms, in Bellevue Washington.  This was their third year of bringing activities, resources, shopping and fun to mom’s in Seattle and surrounding areas.  In addition to sharing information about the GET Program in the Market Place (the shopping and resource experience at the conference), I also had the pleasure of introducing each guest speaker.  The speakers covered a range of topics including, motivating your kids, how to have a happy mealtime, how to avoid running on empty, and learning to say NO without guilt or shame.  What a pleasure it was to get to know each of the speakers and learn more about them, their families and the work they do to encourage and support moms.  One of my favorite moments at the conference this year, was meeting one very special mom who shared with me what it meant to her to attend MamaCon.

Being a mom is a joyful blessing but there are moments that lean toward hard and exhausting.  All moms experience this, including the very special mom that I had the opportunity to meet at the conference. I was immediately aware of her profoundly powerful attitude. She exuded confidence, genuine kindness, and a willingness to learn.  She came to my table in the Market Place to pick up a GET brochure and ask some questions about the program.  She shared that she has two little ones and really needed to understand how GET could help her and her husband get prepared for the kids’ college in the future.

jackie at 529 dayShe didn’t come with girlfriends, sisters or a family member. It was just her alone and she said it was one of the most important steps she’s taken in a long time.  “To have the opportunity to meet new people, gather information, learn something new and feel refreshed, was a blessing in disguise,” she explained. Since her children had been born she had forgotten to take care of herself and when a close friend gave her the gift of attending the conference she realized how important it is to be “engaged in life” and then pass that attitude on to her kids.

As we talked about GET, she asked a lot of great questions and finally ended with an emphatic “Wow! We’re doing this!”  Her excitement was infectious.  She shared with me that she had wanted to go to college so badly but wasn’t able to afford it so she moved through her life with a sadness that she kept to herself.  When she got married and they started a family she was determined to encourage her kids to embrace life, embrace activity and embrace learning and to provide the best avenues to support them in pursuing it.  She was so thrilled that on top of having the whole day to be pampered and enjoy the company of other women, she learned how to open the door to the college dream for her kids.

As she left my table, I realized I was smiling.  Her attitude and exuberance were uplifting and I was grateful that the chance meeting with this wonderful lady filled me with a renewed enthusiasm to embrace life and appreciate all of my chance encounters, because you never know whose heart you may touch.

Written by Jacquelyne Ferrado

 

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Back to School Checklist

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Back2SchoolPlanning

It never fails that just as summer gets rolling and we’re finally starting to adjust to erratic new daycare/summer camp/vacation schedules, it’s already time for “Back to School” planning! For your kids, this phrase is like a pin quickly deflating their balloon of summer fun. For parents, all we can think of are the millions of things we need to take care of – “not” waiting until the last minute to diligently work through the school supply list, finding the “right” in-style clothes, meeting with your kid’s new teachers, etc.

As we prepare our children for important educational transitions such as starting pre-school, kindergarten or even high school, we also find ourselves making more involved decisions on issues like before and after school care, technology purchases to support classroom learning, and tutoring and enrichment programs.

Since many of these decisions have significant financial impacts, now is a time when many families are re-evaluating their household budgets and spending habits. This truly lends us as parents a fantastic opportunity to make college savings a part of these financial and educational planning discussions. You’re already in the mode of equipping your kids with what they will need to be successful for another school year, so consider taking a moment look at the big picture.

Here’s a quick checklist of just some of the important considerations for keeping your children’s future college plans on track as they grow:

What? When?
If you haven’t already, start a 529 college savings plan, such as GET. Saving will offset the need for student loans and let your child know that post-high school education is a priority. We recommend starting no later than grade school, but sooner is always better (even when your child is a baby or before birth). Keep adding to your savings as your kids grow.
Talk with your kids about their future aspirations and encourage them to dream big. There’s a much greater chance of them achieving these dreams if they’re motivated and supported.  Anytime! It’s important to continue this dialogue throughout your child’s development.
Make visits to college campuses. Get your kids excited about the idea of being college students. Anytime, but it’s especially important as your kids are entering middle and high school.
Encourage your kids to take on extracurricular activities, volunteer in the community and take advanced/honors courses. This can increase their marketability to college admissions departments and open doors to scholarships. Middle school to early high school is an ideal time to start these activities.
Ensure your children are meeting with advisors/counselors, and taking college prep courses and college entrance exams. No later than junior year of high school.
Make sure your kids start their college applications early! Applicationsconsist of several components that take time to complete: essays, letters of recommendation, transcripts, test scores, etc. Applications are typically due by early winter of senior year of high school.
Help your kids find and apply for scholarships. The Washboard is a great resource for locating scholarships in our state. Junior and senior year of high school.
Fill out the FAFSA early. Even if you don’t think your family will qualify for financial aid, it’s an important to fill this out – if you don’t you could miss out on some helpful dollars. Late winter/early spring of senior year of high school. Don’t risk losing out on assistance by missing the priority deadline!

This is a just a brief overview of some of the stepping stones to college – for more details and checkpoints we encourage you to check out www.readysetgrad.org. There’s a lot to plan for, but don’t get discouraged. The main thing is to be aware of what’s ahead, keep the stress down by staying ahead of deadlines and support your kids in their academic success. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to pick up 50 of those $0.19 boxes of crayons before the coupon expires tomorrow!

Written by Lucas Minor

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I didn’t want to grow up, but since I did, I’m glad I was a college bound kid

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As a kid, I spent so much time wishing I was older and daydreaming about what I wanted to be when I grew up. Yet as I look back, I wish I wouldn’t have spent so much time worrying about the future. Instead I should have focused on the important things like perfecting the best techniques for pestering my sister, causing trouble with my friends, and repeatedly testing the hypothesis: “Just what would happen if I tried [insert allegedly dangerous activity here]? It can’t hurt that bad.”

I don’t know if the same goes for your kids, but there were at least a hundred different things that I wanted to be between the time I was four and when I graduated from college. In fact, once I got to college, things weren’t necessarily easier. It took me awhile to find the discipline that “spoke to me.” Unfortunately, I wasn’t unique in this regard. According to research at Penn State University, half of college students change their majors at least once before they graduate, with some changing several times.

No matter how many times kids change their visions of their future selves; this kind of introspection is an essential component of developing and discovering their passions. But connecting dreams to realities takes work. Sure, we’re good at reminding our kids of this – study hard, do your homework, and whatever you do, don’t end up in the principal’s office! But we as parents have just as much responsibility in ensuring our children do well in school and grow up to be successful and responsible citizens.

While it’s important to support your kids in their academic endeavors, it’s easy to take it too far. As parents, we may be tempted to push our children towards the things we have in mind for them, rather than encouraging them to search for what they’re passionate about. While this may be well-intentioned, this parenting faux pas can create a dilemma for students who want to live up to expectations, but are interested in other subjects.

And of course (you know I had to work this in), in addition to being emotionally invested in your kid’s ambitions, it’s important to financially support their dreams. Saving for future college expenses ensures your children can focus on “what” they want to do, rather than “if” they can afford to pursue it. As the cost of higher education continues to increase, so does the importance of a college degree in staying competitive in today’s job market. With studies showing that 67% of new jobs in Washington will require at least some postsecondary education by 2018, it’s clear that college is a valuable stop on the path to the work world.

It’s important to be ready to support your children in their dreams and take the necessary steps to help them succeed in whatever career path they settle on. Investing in your child’s future will help ensure they’ll move out of the house and buck the rising trend of “boomerang kids”…Wait, what I meant to say is, it will help set them up for a lifetime of success!

Written by Lucas Minor

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