It’s hard to believe that we just wrapped up our 16th enrollment period! Since the program opened in 1998, GET has helped Washington families open more than 157,000 college savings accounts. Further, to date, we’ve already paid out $560 million in benefits on behalf of more than 36,000 students. And remarkably, our students have used GET to pay for college expenses at schools in all 50 states and even 14 foreign countries!
Now, 1998 may not seem like it’s all that long ago, but let’s consider the following:
In 1998, cell phones looked like this:
A laptop weighed about as much as a sack of bricks, tablets didn’t yet exist, and we still stored data on these things:
(which held a whopping 1.44 MB of data – that’s 1/90,000th the amount a 128 GB micro SD card holds, yet more than 200 times larger in physical dimensions).
To put it plainly, things have come a long way in sixteen short years, from technological advancements, to fashion trends, to the number of families choosing 529 plans like GET to put away money for future college expenses. Speaking of technological advancements, these have also helped us continually improve our services to GET participants. For instance, in 1998 families only had the option to fill out paper forms and mail them in to enroll in the program. In 2003, GET launched online enrollment – significantly increasing convenience and decreasing the amount of time it took to enroll. Today, over 92% of our enrollments are completed online! Further, we continually add new services that allow program participants to conduct nearly all of their account management online, from address changes to requesting payment to schools.
Unfortunately, while technology has advanced at a breakneck clip over the last decade and a half, so has the cost of tuition at our state’s colleges and universities – increasing every year between 1998 and 2012 (while more than tripling in price). While GET’s guarantee to keep pace with tuition costs has helped defray the impact of this astronomical growth for program participants, it was a huge reprieve for all Washington residents when the legislature decided to hold tuition prices for the 2013-2014 biennium (for the first time since 1986). Finally, families have a chance to catch their breath.
While this temporary stall in tuition increases is welcome, it’s not likely to stick around. Therefore, it’s more important than ever for families to take advantage of this lull and continue to build their college savings to prepare for future increases. The most important thing to remember is that anything you can put away today will help reduce the need for costly student loans in the future.
Whatever the future holds, we’re excited for the opportunity to help more and more families get their college savings started and to continue serving and being a resource for our current GET families. And of course, we’re still waiting for the hoverboard to become a reality and not just a movie prop. So keep saving, and just maybe your child will be the one who invents it.
Written by Lucas Minor