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Safe saving for your child's college education

By MARGO HORNER, The Mirror

Brandon Locke, 6, and Sydney Lock, 4, may grow up to be star athletes and earn scholarships to the colleges of their choice.

Or they may not.

Either way, college will be an option to the young brother and sister from Federal Way.

Sherry Locke and her husband, Aaron, are saving money for their children’s college education early through the Washington State Guaranteed Education Tuition Program (GET). They started participating in the program five years ago.

“The topic of how on Earth are you going to pay for college always comes up, especially as a new mom,” Locke said. “If I get started on it now... it won’t be quite so overwhelming.”

GET allows parents to make deposits into a college fund now and be guaranteed that the value of the account will keep pace with rising tuition costs. So if a parent pays for one year of college tuition today, they will receive one year of college tuition when the time comes, no matter what the price is then.

“Tuition and education costs are only going up. At least it’s money that I know is safe that’s there for them and their education,” Locke said.

Originally, Locke opened a GET account and a money market account. But when her money market account lost money the first year, she decided to stick with the GET account for college planning. Even if the stock market crashes, Locke’s GET account will be safe.

“I knew I wouldn’t be losing money since it was guaranteed by the State of Washington,” she said.

In fact, Locke said her GET account deposits have increased in value 42 percent since she opened the account.

For the past 15 years, undergraduate tuition at the top public state universities has risen faster than inflation and family incomes, according to a release from the GET program. If rates continue to climb at the same pace, a family with a newborn today can expect to pay more than $100,000 for four years of college education at Washington State University or University of Washington.

If the child decides against college, the family can wait up to 10 years, transfer the account to another family member or request a refund.

The GET account is a state 529 plan, so the money grows tax-free and all withdrawals are tax-free when used for higher education expenses.

Contact Margo Horner: mhorner@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

Enrollment for the GET program is open through March 31. For more information, visit www.get.wa.gov or call (800) 955-2318.

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