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Op-Ed: Do right by Washington families and save GET program

This Op-Ed was written by LEV board member Sarah Merkel Reyneveld and was originally published in the Tacoma News Tribune on February 7, 2013.

Higher education is facing a funding crisis in the United States today. In Washington state, the recession and state budget cuts have dealt a blow to higher education funding. In light of severe funding challenges, our state should be doing everything it can to preserve – not eliminate – programs that enable families to afford college.

The Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) Program, Washington’s prepaid college tuition savings plan, is a critical savings tool for middle-class families. Purchasing GET accounts – which are guaranteed to keep pace with tuition – allows Washington residents the opportunity to start saving early for the costs of their children’s higher education.

Currently 86 percent of GET students use their units to attend higher education institutions in our state. Washington’s GET program is the second-largest prepaid tuition plan in the country, with participants in every county in the state.

As the state’s share of higher education has decreased from 70 to 30 percent today, funding the cost college of has fallen on the backs of students and their families in the form of dramatic tuition increases. With tuition and fees nearly doubling between 2008 and 2012, Washington’s public higher education institutions are rapidly becoming out of reach for some families and students.

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