About the GET Program
1. What is GET? +-
GET is Washington state's 529 prepaid college tuition program. It is governed by federal IRS rules and Washington State law (RCW 28B.95). With GET, you save money by prepaying part or all of your child’s college tuition costs now, to avoid paying higher costs in the future. The State of Washington guarantees that the value of your account will keep pace with the cost of resident undergraduate tuition and state-mandated fees at the most expensive public university in Washington (typically the University of Washington or Washington State University). Although the value of your account is determined by tuition costs at UW or WSU, you can use your account nationwide at practically any public or private college, university or vocational school, and the monetary value remains the same.
Learn more about GET in our Program Details.
Using My GET Units
How do I access my account when my child is ready to begin college? +-
In the spring before your student will begin college, we'll provide you with information about how to use your units. You, as the account owner, must initiate all distributions from your account.
When it's time for college, you'll need to choose your payment option. It's easy to use your units by logging in to your GET account, selecting "My Account," and looking for the "Use Units" section. To have GET send a payment directly to the school, you will submit a "Direct Payment Request." If you want to pay the school yourself and be reimbursed by GET for the expenses paid out-of-pocket, you will complete a "Reimbursement Request." You can also request to use your units by completing the paper forms found on our Forms page under "Use Your Units."
For more details on using your units, visit our Pay for School page.
What if my child decides not to go to college? +-
You have four options:
- Wait to see if your student decides otherwise later on. Your student has up to 10 years from the Benefit Use Year on listed on the account (typically the year he or she graduates high school) to begin using the funds.
- Transfer the funds to another family member with an existing account by completing a Transfer Request form. There is a lifetime maximum of 500 units per student.
- Change the student beneficiary to another family member by completing a Change of Student Beneficiary form.
- Request a refund by completing a Refund/Cancellation Request form. This form must be notarized. Review our Refund and Cancellation policy to learn more.
How soon can I use my GET units? +-
You must hold Lump Sum and Custom Monthly units for at least two calendar years before you can use them. In addition, your Custom Monthly contract must be paid in full. Please note that the longer the units remain in your account, the greater your long-term return on investment will be. You should plan to hold your GET units for at least six years before you can expect to see measurable gain.
How many units can I use each academic year? +-
You can use up to 125 eligible units per academic year and any unused units rolled over from previous years of eligibility. The academic year runs from August 1 - July 31.
How is the value of my account determined? +-
One GET unit equals one percent of the resident, undergraduate tuition and state-mandated fees at the most expensive Washington public university at the time of use. We determine this value, known as the unit "payout value," at the beginning of each academic year when the state public universities set their own tuition rates.
The current payout value of one GET unit is $117.82 (effective 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).
Example 1: Your student attends a Washington public college.
Let's say that your student plans to attend The Evergreen State College and you have 100 eligible units. Total tuition and fees for one academic year at Evergreen equal about 75 units. Consequently, after paying tuition and fees, you will have about 25 remaining GET units. You can use these units for books, housing and other qualified higher education expenses or wait and use them the following year.
Example 2: Your student attends a private or out-of-state college.
Let's say that your student will attend the University of Idaho as a non-resident and you would have 100 GET units to help cover the costs. For the 2014-2015 academic year, the payout value of one GET unit is $117.82. Therefore, 100 units are worth $11,782. You can use this amount to help offset your student's total costs. You and your student will be responsible for covering any remaining costs.
Why is the current GET unit price higher than the current GET unit payout value? +-
Because the state guarantees that the money you put into GET will keep pace with rising tuition, we must ensure that we always have sufficient funds available. The GET Committee sets the unit purchase price based on an actuarial formula that takes into account estimated future tuition, projected inflation and investment returns, and administrative costs. It also includes a stabilization reserve to adjust for periods of lower-than-expected returns or higher-than-expected tuition, and amortization of past losses. The GET Committee sets the unit price annually, and may adjust it once annually, if needed, to ensure financial stability for the program.
The payout value of a GET unit is established at the beginning of each academic year when the state public universities set their tuition rates. Each year, the payout value of a GET unit represents 1/100th of the actual resident, undergraduate tuition and state-mandated fees at Washington’s most expensive public university.
Today’s unit purchase price is higher than the current payout value because the state guarantees your GET account will keep pace with tuition in the future, even if it doubles or triples in price. This premium over current tuition ensures stability for the program.
It will take at least six years to realize a gain on your investment (more if using a Custom Monthly Plan), but GET’s guarantee ensures the money you save will be there in the future. GET is a self-sustaining program and receives no ongoing state appropriations.
Can a part-time student use this program? +-
Yes, you can use your GET units if your student attends school part-time. The value of your GET units will still be based on the resident undergraduate tuition and state-mandated fees at the most expensive public university in Washington.
Where can I use my units? +-
You can use your units at nearly any college, university or technical school - public or private - in the United States and selected colleges in other countries. In fact, GET has already helped students attend school in all 50 states and 15 foreign countries. A college is eligible if it participates in federal financial aid programs through the U.S. Department of Education. To view a list of eligible schools or to verify a federal school code, visit the US. Department of Education's Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) website.
If your student attends a private or out-of-state college, you'll have to pay the difference between the value of your GET units and the college's tuition. In addition, enrollment in the GET Program does not guarantee that your student will pay in-state resident tuition or be admitted to any school.
Can I use my GET account for graduate school? +-
Yes. However, if tuition for graduate school is higher than resident undergraduate tuition at the most expensive Washington public university, you'll pay the difference.
My child is taking college-level courses through Running Start. Can I use my GET account to pay for them? +-
You can use your GET account to pay for books and other eligible out-of-pocket expenses that are required for Running Start courses. You cannot request reimbursement for tuition since it is subsidized and not an out-of-pocket expense.
What will my units cover? +-
GET units are designed to pay college tuition. However, if you have eligible units after paying tuition, you can use them to pay for room and board, books and other qualified higher education expenses. Review IRS Publication 970 for details.
You can use up to 125 eligible units per academic year and any unused units from a previous year. For example, if you have 250 units and use 100 units in the first year, you could use 150 units in the second year (25 leftover units + 125 units = 150 units).
If you use your units for room and board, you can pay up to the total room and board allowance calculated by the college in its Cost of Attendance budget. Check with your child's college's financial aid office to determine its room and board allowance.
What are state-mandated fees? +-
State-mandated fees are required by state law and charged to every student who attends a Washington public college or university. They include operating, building, and services and activities fees. They do not include fees imposed by an individual school. These school-required fees may include technology fees, library fees, recreation fees, fees to secure repayment of bonded indebtedness or other types of fees. These fees are not considered state-mandated fees and, therefore, are not included when determining the GET unit payout value. However, you can use your units to pay these additional fees if you have extra units available after paying tuition and state-mandated fees.
How will a GET account affect my child's eligibility for financial aid? +-
A GET account is considered an asset of the account owner. If the parent or dependent student is the account owner, the GET account is considered an asset of the parent and treated like any other parental asset in determining a family's eligibility for federal financial aid. Parental assets are assessed at a much lower rate than a student's. Consequently, a GET account has significantly less impact on the student's eligibility for financial aid, as determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) website.
What if my child receives a scholarship? +-
You have four options:
- Use your GET units to pay for room and board, books, and other qualified higher education expenses if your child's scholarship covers tuition and fees.
- Wait and hold your units for use in the future. Your child has up to 10 years to use his or her units and may want to use them for graduate school.
- Transfer the account to a family member, as long as you don't exceed the maximum 500 units per student.
- Request a refund. Please review our Refund and Cancellation policy for details.
How can I transfer units between family members? +-
You can only transfer units between GET accounts of qualifying family members as defined by the IRS. If both students have a GET account, you may simply transfer the units by completing a Transfer Request Form. You can complete this form by logging in to your GET account, selecting "My Account" and looking for the "Transfer Request form" on the next screen; or you can download the paper Transfer Request form.
If you want to transfer all the units, you may just change the name of the Student Beneficiary on the account by completing a Student Beneficiary Change Form. This form requires the Account Owner’s notarized signature. Please mail original forms to GET Program, PO BOX 43450, Olympia, WA 98504-3450.
If you need to establish a new GET account to make the transfer to another student, you need to complete the Transfer Request - New Account form. This form is currently not available, but should be available by December 1, 2015. Note that a student may have multiple accounts but may have a total of no more than 500 units between all accounts in his or her name.
My student's college needs the payment for fall term right away. What should I do? +-
You have two options:
- Contact the Student Account's Office at your child's college and tell them your payment request from your GET account will take up to 14 days to process. You might ask if they will place a hold on his or her account to allow time for the payment to arrive. Some colleges will do this if they know they will receive guaranteed funding from GET.
- Pay the tuition bill yourself and then request reimbursement from your GET account. This can be done online by accessing your account with your Login ID and Password, then completing a Reimbursement Request Form.
I submitted my Direct Payment Request on time, and the payment deadline for my child's college has passed. Why hasn't the money been distributed from my GET account? +-
Some of the large Washington public colleges ask us to batch payments for each term, which allows them to receive one payment for all students. The colleges often post the GET funds to the student's account and then request payment from GET, typically after the deadline has passed. To see if this applies to you, log in to your account to verify that your online Direct Payment Request is in "approved" status and that the information you submitted, including the payment term and date, is correct. If you have additional questions, please call us.
Will I be able to use my GET account to study abroad? +-
You can use GET directly to cover qualified higher education expenses (tuition, room and board, etc.) at any of the schools in foreign countries that are listed on the FAFSA website. There are many international schools listed; just choose “State,” then “Foreign Country” in the search menu to view the complete list. Also, if tuition or other qualified higher education expenses for a study-abroad program will be paid directly to your university (for which GET is already approved), you can use GET as you normally would to cover them. The payment must go to an eligible institution of higher education. GET is unable to pay study abroad programs directly, or reimburse out-of-pocket expenses paid directly to these programs. Also, please note that travel to and from your destination is not considered a qualified higher education expense.
If a university charges differential tuition for a specific course of study, will my GET account cover that? +-
Differential tuition has not yet been fully defined by universities, nor has it yet been implemented. Your GET account can be used to pay these qualified higher education costs. However, the payout value for GET units, which is established at the beginning of each academic year, is based on tuition and state-mandated fees that are charged to all students at Washington's highest-priced public university. By definition in the GET Master Agreement, "State-mandated fees are those provided by statute, including operating, building and student activity fees." The statute (RCW 28B.15.031) defines operating fees as "the fees, other than building fees, charged all students registering at the state's colleges and universities..."
How the College Affordability Act Affects GET Customers
I want to leave my GET account as is. Is there anything that I have to do? +-
The good news is, no, if you wish to keep all of your units in the GET program, you do not have to do anything further at this point.
I have heard the GET program is closing for good and I have to refund my account. Is this true? +-
No, the GET Program is not closing. In fact, the GET Committee is confident that the program will continue to be a great college savings resource for years to come. Please note that GET is not currently accepting new enrollments or unit purchases for a period of up to two years as the Committee conducts a feasibility study to assess future options for the program in response to the College Affordability Act. It is important that the Committee completes this study before reopening for new enrollments and unit sales.
Did I hear that the GET Committee is considering offering a traditional 529 savings plan? +-
Yes, the GET Committee is currently exploring options for Washington to offer a state-sponsored 529 savings plan. The committee is working with a 529 plan expert to evaluate different options for products and plan structures. It’s important to know that if the Committee votes to offer a 529 savings plan, it will take time to develop and there is still much that must be approved and determined. Opening a new plan will require a source of funding for startup costs (likely an appropriation from the State Legislature), and will need to be authorized by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. It’s also important to know that any new 529 plan will be separate from GET, and funds will not be comingled. However, if such a plan were offered, GET participants would most likely have the option to rollover their GET funds into this new plan, stay with GET, or participate in both plans.
Opening a GET Account, Buying Units, and Making Payments
Can I buy new units right now or open a new GET account? +-
GET is currently not accepting new enrollments or unit purchases for a period of up to two years, while the GET Committee completes their legislatively mandated feasibility study. We will post notification here as soon as we begin accepting new enrollments and unit purchases.
What happens if I or a family member or friend tried to buy GET units for my account after July 1, 2015? +-
All contributions received after July 1, 2015 for anything other than monthly payments on Custom Monthly plans will be returned to the party who sent the contribution. This means that if, for example, a giftor made a contribution after July 1, 2015, they will receive the check back.
Can I open a new GET account and transfer my units from an existing account to this new account? +-
Yes, you can open a new GET account for the purpose of transferring units. Keep in mind that if you change the Student Beneficiary, the new beneficiary must be a relative of the current Student Beneficiary (out to first cousin). Also note, that new units will not be able to be purchased for any new accounts until the unit purchase delay has been lifted by the GET Committee. To transfer your units to a new GET account, complete the Account Transfer (new account) form.
What happened the Electronic Payment Option for my online GET account? +-
The online Electronic Payment Option has been temporarily disabled, due to the Committee decision to temporarily delay the purchase of new units for a period of up to two years. Customers who wish to continue making payments on their Custom Monthly plans can still set up Automatic Withdrawals (ACH) through their online GET account or by completing the Automatic Withdrawal Authorization form. Alternatively you can establish payroll deduction through your employer by completing a Payroll Deduction Authorization form. Finally, if you prefer, you can send a paper check to: GET Program, PO Box 84824, Seattle WA 98124-6124, along with a payment coupon. Note that customers wishing to make Lump Sum unit purchases or start a Custom Monthly Plans will not be able to do so until the unit purchase delay has been lifted.
What happens if I have automatic payments or payroll deduction set up for a Lump Sum plan? +-
If you have any Automatic Payments (ACH) set up with GET for the purchase of Lump Sum units, these have been inactivated. If you have payroll deduction set up with your workplace for the purchase of Lump Sum units, you will need to cancel it by completing a Payroll Deduction Authorization form and submitting it to your payroll office. Finally, if you have bill pay set up with your bank for the purchase of Lump Sum units, you will need to inactivate this by working with your bank.
How do I know if I will receive an automatic amortization refund and what do I need to do? +-
All customers who purchased any units at unit prices of $163 and/or $172 will receive an automatic amortization refund. The refund amount will be based on the year the units were purchased and the total number of units purchased at $163 or $172. The good news is that 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 2015.
Note that several adjustments will be made to Custom Monthly Plans that were locked in at a purchase price of $163 per unit or greater. Here is an overview of how these accounts will be adjusted:
- Custom Monthly contracts will be refinanced based on an adjusted unit price (the original unit price paid minus the amortization amount), and a lower monthly payment amount will be calculated. This means that the total principal and total finance charges that customers pay over the life of the Custom Monthly contract will be reduced.
- Then, GET will calculate each customer's refund amount based on the difference between the original monthly payment and the new, lower monthly payment. This difference will be multiplied by the number of payments made to date on the Custom Monthly contract to determine the total refund amount.
- GET will automatically send this refund amount to customers, as well as information on how to view their new on-going monthly payment amount. Customers can also expect to receive new coupon books with the updated monthly payment amount indicated. We will provide more information on how to adjust any automatic payments and payroll deduction that may be set up in the coming weeks.
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
When can I expect to receive my amortization refund? +-
Customers should expect to receive their refunds by the end of December 2015.
Can’t I just have my amortization refund go towards the purchase of more units instead of being refunded to me? +-
Since there is no unit price at this time and the Committee has voted to delay the purchase of units for a period of up to two years, we are unable to credit your account for more units. The good news is that the amortization refund will not trigger any IRS taxes or penalties, and you don’t need to take any action in order to receive your refund. We will send a check to the address you have on file.
Refunding a GET Account
How do I request a refund? +-
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, and can also be found on the 'Forms' page:
- Please carefully read all directions in the GET Refund/Cancellation Policy and Refund/Cancellation Request form. GET can only accept original, fully completed, notarized refund forms (refunds cannot be requested online or over the phone). The form can be mailed or physically delivered to the GET office. We do not accept copies or faxed or emailed Refund/Cancelation Request forms. Any errors in completing and submitting the refund form may significantly delay the process of completing your refund.
- The non-refundable enrollment fee and any previously incurred account fees, such as late payment fees and NSF charges, will not be included in 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 principal 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. Note that, per IRS regulations, 529 plan rollovers can only be performed once every 12 months.
- 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.
I bought some units at prices lower than $117.82 and some at prices that are higher. How do I request a partial refund of only the more expensive units? +-
Some customers have units purchased at prices below the current payout value of $117.82 and some purchased at prices above $117.82, and may wish to only refund the more expensive units. This can be accomplished by requesting a specific number of units on the GET Refund/Cancellation Request form. GET will pay out the most recently purchased units first (last-in-first-out).
If I paid more for my units than the current unit payout value of $117.82, can I just get a refund for the difference between the price I paid and the payout value? +-
If you paid more than the current unit payout value of $117.82, you can request a full refund of your contributions. However, we are unable to simply give you the difference between the price you paid and the current payout value, as there is no unit purchase price at this time. Keep in mind that if you are interested in keeping any units purchased at $163 or $172 in your account, you will still receive the automatic amortization refund, which will make these unit purchase prices lower (by approximately $18-20/unit depending on the year you purchased your units).
How long will it take to get my refund? +-
We estimate that it will take up to 10-12 weeks for you to receive your refund, once we receive your Refund/Cancellation Request form.
Refunding a Custom Monthly Plan
What if I have a Custom Monthly Plan where the unit price was less than $117.82, but after paying financing charges, I effectively paid more than $117.82/unit? +-
If you request a refund of your Custom Monthly Plan that is paid in full, we will determine if you paid less than the current payout value, after factoring in the monthly financing charges. If you paid more than the current unit payout value of $117.82, you will receive back your contributions. If you paid less, you will receive the current unit payout value.
I have a Custom Monthly Plan that is not paid in full. Can I request a refund? +-
Yes, all GET Account Owners have the option to request a refund. For Custom Monthly accounts that are not yet paid in full, we first convert the account to a Lump Sum plan before processing the refund. This means that each monthly payment you have made will apply towards the purchase of Lump Sum units at the unit price that was in effect when each monthly payment was made. You will receive a refund at the current payout value of $117.82/unit for all payments made on or before April 30, 2011 (the last date that units cost less than the current payout value), and a refund of your contributions for all payments made after that date. The original $50 enrollment fee and any previously incurred late payment or dishonored payment fees are not included in the total refund amount, as they are non-refundable fees.
If I plan to request a refund of my Custom Monthly Plan that I am still making payments on, do I have to keep making my monthly payments? +-
If you wish to refund your Custom Monthly Plan, and it is not yet paid in full, we first recommend that you call our Contact Center at 1.800.955.2318. They can put your account on hold so you will not receive late payment charges while your refund is being processed.
Potential Tax Implications and Rollover Information for Refunds
Do I need to report my refund to the IRS? Will I be taxed? +-
This answer depends on your situation. If you have made money in your GET account, and request a refund, you will be issued a 1099-Q tax form the following January that shows the earnings and principal portions of your withdrawal. If you do not use your funds to cover qualified higher education expenses incurred in the same calendar year, your account earnings may be subject to a 10% IRS penalty and will be taxed as ordinary income. It is our understanding that you will not be subject to these penalties if you rollover your funds into another qualified 529 plan within 60 days of the date that your refund is processed. Note that, per IRS regulations, 529 plan rollovers can only be performed once every 12 months.
If your refund is for contributions only, and does not include any gains, you will not receive a 1099-Q tax form and should not need to report your refund to the IRS. Please note, this means all amortization refunds will not receive a 1099-Q form.
Note that we always recommend consulting IRS Publication 970, a tax professional and/or financial adviser to fully understand any potential tax implications before requesting a refund of your account.
Can GET directly rollover my GET funds to another 529 plan? +-
We do not currently perform direct rollovers to other 529 plans. However, you can perform an indirect rollover by requesting a refund and re-depositing your funds into a qualified 529 plan within 60 days. It is our understanding, per IRS Publication 970, that by doing this you will avoid tax consequences. Note that, per IRS regulations, 529 plan rollovers can only be performed once every 12 months. Here is a link to Publication 970, which describes these rollover considerations (see p. 61): http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p970.pdf.
Note that we always recommend consulting IRS Publication 970, a tax professional and/or financial adviser to fully understand any potential tax implications before requesting a refund of your account.
My other 529 plan requires a principal and earnings statement in order to deposit my GET funds. How can I access this? +-
Once your refund is processed, you can download a principal and earnings statement from your online GET account. To do this, click “More Info” under the “Use Units” section of the “My Account” dashboard. Once on the “Use Units” page, you will see a record of your refund request and a yellow button to generate a PDF of your principal and earnings statement.