If your kids or grandkids are still in elementary school, now is the best time to begin planning for their post-high-school education. Washington is one of only a handful of states that offer the option to pre-pay for future education costs with a state-backed guarantee. That opportunity is known as the Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) program.
With college tuition prices generally rising each year, saving early with GET is a smart decision thousands of Washingtonians have made since the program first opened in 1998. GET's 2020-2021 enrollment period ends on May 31.
As a 529 prepaid tuition program, the State of Washington guarantees that GET savings will keep pace with in-state tuition and state-mandated fees. GET funds are versatile and can be used in a variety of ways. Families can use GET to pay for tuition, fees, room and board, books, and supplies at nearly any public or private university, community college, or technical school in the country. GET can even be used to pay the costs of apprenticeships and for certain student loan repayments.
"With all of the day-to-day distractions over the past year, it's important to keep in perspective that your child's dreams and your goals for their future are long-term," says Washington College Savings Plans director, Luke Minor. "Whether their future plans include college, trade school, or some other form of post-high school education, GET is a great way to ensure those dreams become reality."
While the GET program can be described as an insurance policy of sorts, protecting families against rising future education costs, Washington also offers an investment-based 529 plan. The DreamAhead College Investment Plan opened in 2018 and is already earning a national reputation as a best-in-class 529 plan. Late last year, investment research firm Morningstar, Inc., recognized the plan with a Bronze medal.
Recently, the White House and many federal lawmakers have discussed options for subsidizing college costs, but that's what makes the versatility of a 529 plan so valuable.
"Think about all the expenses that come with getting an education," said Minor. "Big expenses such as room and board, can add up to more than half the total cost of a college education. Those costs most likely won't be included in any 'free college' legislation, so it's still important to save early with GET or DreamAhead."
GET's annual enrollment period closes on May 31, while DreamAhead is open year-round. To get started, visit wastate529.wa.gov.