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Tag Archive: Guaranteed Education Tuition

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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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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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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Win Tickets to Opening Day at Safeco to Watch the Seattle Mariners Beat the Los Angeles Angels!

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Our biggest inspiration here at GET is when we hear our customers’ stories about how their college savings efforts have made an impact in their families’ lives. We would love to hear your story, and in exchange, we want to offer you a chance to win your spot at the Mariners’ Opening Day game! To take advantage of this opportunity, submit in 100 words or less, as a comment on our Facebook post, how GET has made a positive impact in your life. A winner will be selected at random to receive two 100-level tickets on the first base side to watch the Mariners beat the Angels on Opening Day, April 6! Be sure to submit your entry by 5:00 PM, Monday March 30.

 *Disclaimer: GET’s “Opening Day with the Mariners,” promotion will take place from Thursday, March 26, 2015, through Monday, March 30, 2015. The prize will be awarded in the form of two 100 level tickets on the first base side to opening day at Safeco Field, to watch the Mariners play the Angels. To be eligible to win the tickets, comment on the original Facebook post submitting in 100 words or less, how GET has made a positive impact in your life, by 5:00 PM on Monday, March 30, 2015. Entries will be collected and a winner will be selected by a random number generator. GET reserves the right to use submitted entries in testimonials and promotional materials.

 The selected winner will be notified by GET via Facebook and will have 24 hours to claim their prize by replying to the message. If they do not reply to the GET program within 24 hours, a new winner will be selected. Tickets will be mailed when GET receives confirmation and a valid mailing address from the winner. When prizes are sent, there will be an enclosed form confirming receipt of the tickets. Prize winners will be required to complete this form and return to the program no later than Wednesday, April 8, 2015. Employees and family members of employees of the GET program and its parent agency, the Washington Student Achievement Council are not eligible to participate in this promotion. Neither Facebook, nor the Seattle Mariners are affiliated with, and do not otherwise support or endorse this promotion or the GET program.

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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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Tales From the Road – Part 4, “Dreams are extremely important. You can’t do it unless you imagine it.” – George Lucas

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Never was this more evident than last week when I visited several 3rd and 4th grade kids in Everett to talk about going to college.

One of my favorite moments that day was when I asked what they wanted to be when they grew up and nearly every child darted their hand up to answer the question.

The wonder and excitement on their faces as they told me their dream “I want to be….a doctor, teacher, pilot, chef, writer, architect, engineer, astronaut…” and so much more. I realized as I listened to each one speak up, that their dreams are just beginning and as adults we need to keep the dream alive with them and not just for them.  So how do we do that?

Thinking back when my children were this age and where they are now as young adults I can appreciate how hard this is because we don’t always see those dreams as a real possibility.  What clouds our vision when theirs is so clear?  What dampers our spirit of enthusiasm when they don’t see any barriers?  It isn’t just one thing that erases the lines of that carefully detailed dream of our youth, but rather many little experiences along the way.  But now it’s about them and not us so let’s explore some ways to help your children’s dreams turn into realities:

Jackie's blog pic 21) If you can imagine it, you can become it. An article in 2013 by the Huffington Post stated that positive thoughts can actually create real value in your life and help you build skills that last much longer than a smile. Speaking positively with our children (and grandchildren) from the time they are infants will help us develop the skills to speak with encouragement. Even if their dreams change they will always know you are supporting them.

2) Be the example. I don’t remember learning about goal setting skills until my first clerical job and it was because I didn’t want to forget what I needed to do. Set goals for yourself and let your kids see you work toward them.  Again, even if your goals change along the way (and that’s okay), just keep setting them so they see how that pays off.

3) Play! Our children’s first learning experiences come from playing so let them explore occupations through acting. I take my grandson Dante to our community children’s museum and they have a play stage and costumes which he puts on to act out different characters.  On the ride home we often talk about who he played that day.  As children get older they can start reading and researching occupations that interest them to learn what it will require academically, financially and mentally to achieve that dream and then encourage them to share what they learn with you.

As I left the elementary school that day one little girl’s comment lingered in my mind and inspired me to write this post. She said “I want to be the first women President!”

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them” – Walt Disney

Written by Jacquelyne Ferrado

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