Pierce College students may be wondering: Are we going to get our GET?
Washington State’s Guaranteed Education Tuition program, a prepaid college tuition 529 savings plan, has been operating since 1998.
Recent media coverage of the first reading of HB1795, has caused those who have GET accounts to question if their college savings will be there for them when needed.
The first reading of the bill Feb. 2 said, “The legislature finds that Washington state is experiencing a profound structural shift in the funding of higher education. State support has declined dramatically over the past twenty years, thereby necessitating increases in tuition to supplant the support of higher education from general taxpayers.”
The bill goes on to say that, beginning in the 2011-2012 school year, each of the community and technical college governing boards may raise tuition at their institution to the limit.
The percentage increases in full-time tuition fees may exceed the fiscal growth factor for state universities and regional universities, as well as the state board for community and technical colleges.
HB1795 offers middle income families a bit of relief beginning Jan. 1, 2012.
At that time, “each four-year institution of higher education that raises tuition above 7 percent must retain half of the additional revenue for the express purpose of supporting financial aid programs for middle class students with incomes up to 125 percent of the median family income and mitigating the effect of tuition increases for the middle class.”
There was a public hearing of the bill scheduled on Feb. 9.
GET is overseen by the Washington State Higher Education Coordinating Board, with the State Treasurer as a member of the GET committee.
It’s a self-supported state program that serves Washington families by offering a prepaid tuition plan, where college savings are guaranteed by state law to keep pace with rising tuition no matter how much it increases in the future.
“We would like to clarify the fact that no proposed program changes would affect GET units that are currently held or those that are purchased during this enrollment year,” GET Director Betty Lochner said.
Upon redemption of the prepaid units purchased, each unit acquired is worth 1 percent of the resident undergraduate tuition at the highest-priced Washington state public university.
During the 2010-11 year, the current value of one unit was $85.92. Units must be used within 10 years after the beneficiary’s projected college entrance year or the first use of units, whichever is later.
The Higher Education Committee will be reviewing the tuition levels in relation to savings to ensure the program remains viable for students and their families.
The committee will report to the legislature by Nov. 1 on recommendations for establishing a second phase of the GET program.
The program is backed with the full faith and credit of the state.