House of Representatives
Office of Program Research
Higher Education Committee
This analysis was prepared by non-partisan legislative staff for the use of legislative members in their deliberations. This analysis is not a part of the legislation nor does it constitute a statement of legislative intent.
Brief Description: Regarding the Washington advanced college tuition payment (GET) program.
Sponsors: Senate Committee on Higher Education & Workforce Development (originally sponsored by Senators Brown, Hewitt and Shin).
Hearing Date: 3/21/11
Staff: Madeleine Thompson (786-7304).
Most states have a form of a "529 Plan" operated by a state or educational institution designed to help families set aside funds for future college costs. They are named after section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code which created these types of savings plans in 1996. Washington's Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) Program was created in 1998 as Washington's prepaid college tuition program.
The GET Program allows purchasers to buy tuition units at current prices for use at a later date. These funds are invested by the State Investment Board and the purchaser is guaranteed that one year's worth of units purchased now will be worth one year's worth of public university tuition in the future and is guaranteed to keep pace with rising tuition. One hundred GET units are equal to one year of resident undergraduate tuition and state-mandated fees at the most expensive public university in Washington.
The Higher Education Coordinating Board administers the GET Program while the State Investment Board oversees its investments. A five-member committee establishes the policies of the program and sets the price of the GET unit, currently $117. GET accounts can be used at nearly any public or private college in the country. Families can buy between one and 500 units per child, and the account will benefit from tax-free growth and withdrawals. Since GET began in 1998, families have opened more than 119,000 accounts and 16,500 students have used their GET accounts in all 50 states.
Summary of Bill:
The two members of the Committee on Advanced Tuition are appointed by the Governor for four-year terms instead of an unspecified period of time.
Various changes are made to the GET program as of August 1, 2011. These changes apply for tuition units purchased or contracted for purchase on a custom monthly plan:
the definition of tuition and fees includes operating fees and building fees, but no longer includes services and activities (S&A) fees. Students will pay S&A fees at the time of enrollment;
the value of each tuition unit is the price of tuition and fees at the time of purchase multiplied by the average percentage increase in resident undergrad tuition and fees at all state institutions of higher education weighted by the number of full-time equivalent resident undergrad students;
a limitation may be made to the number of GET units purchased. Currently, the limitation may not be less than those needed to achieve four years of full-time undergraduate tuition charges;
the minimum purchase price may not be discounted for special circumstances;
after the first GET unit is redeemed, the beneficiary must use the remainder within six years;
refunds in cases of death or disability or after a student graduates remain at 100 percent of current value minus administrative fees. In cases when the beneficiary chooses not to attend or other circumstances, the refund is for the lesser of : (1) the actual dollar value of contributions plus actual interest earned; or (2) the price of tuition and fees at the time of purchase multiplied by the average percent increase in resident undergrad tuition and fees at all state institutions of higher education weighted by the number of full-time equivalent resident undergrad students.
Fiscal Note: Preliminary fiscal note available.
Effective Date: The bill takes effect 90 days after adjournment of the session in which the bill is passed.