On May 11, 2022, the WA529 Committee voted to guarantee that all active GET accounts as of May 11, 2022, receive a total account payout value that is no less than the total of all account contributions, including Custom Monthly Plan finance charges and payment processing fees. The Committee clarified that this determination and any resulting payment (if applicable) are to be made once all GET units have been distributed from an account.
On September 14, 2022, the Committee voted to suspend the availability of new Custom Monthly Payment Plans during the 2022-23 Enrollment Period.
Why did the Committee make these decisions?
In recent years, a subset of GET account owners found their accounts in situations where the payout value of the units purchased was less than the amount the account owner had paid into the account (when including Custom Monthly Plan finance charges). This situation primarily impacted customers who set up Custom Monthly Plans between 2011 and 2014, prior to the state tuition reductions in 2015. While many options were offered to all customers over the past several years and most affected customers have since adjusted their accounts to avoid this situation, some customers did not respond to these options. To alleviate any potential concerns for affected customers, the Committee decided that all customers with active accounts as of May 11, 2022 will receive, at minimum, the sum of their contributions, effectively guaranteeing that current active customers will not lose money by participating in GET. While most GET customers will not have to worry about this situation for their accounts, those affected can take comfort in knowing that the amounts they have contributed to GET are protected in addition to the state guarantee of keeping pace with long-term tuition inflation.
Why did the Committee decide to suspend offering the Custom Monthly Plan to new customers? Is there something wrong with it?
The GET Custom Monthly Payment Plan was first developed during a time when college tuition was growing, on average, at an annual rate of 7% or higher every year. In such an environment, entering into a contract that locked in a monthly payment - even including a finance charge - was an attractive option for many GET customers. However, in 2015 Washington lawmakers passed the College Affordability Program, which lowered tuition at our state’s public colleges for two consecutive academic years. Further, the legislation states that beginning in the 2017-18 academic year, annual tuition increases may be no more than the state’s average annual growth rate in median hourly wage.
The benefit of the state’s current tuition policy set in 2015 is that tuition growth has remained fairly low for several years and has allowed us to offer pricing on GET units with lower premiums. In fact, for two years straight, we have been able to price GET units with no premium over current tuition rates - a historic milestone for the program. Because of this stability, the WA529 Committee determined that it is important to closely review the Custom Monthly Plan. This option allows customers to lock in a fixed monthly payment plan for a specific number of units. The benefit is that you can pay over time while knowing exactly how much you are paying for a specific number of units and not worrying how rapidly state tuition and GET unit price might increase in the future. The tradeoff is that Custom Monthly Plan units are more expensive than Lump Sum units bought up front as the Custom Monthly Plan includes finance charges.
Because the Committee wants to make sure that our various purchase options are delivering meaningful value for customers, for the 2022-2023 Enrollment Period, the Committee has voted to pause the Custom Monthly Payment Plan Option for new accounts. It’s possible that the Custom Monthly offering will be resumed at a later date, or it may be modified or replaced by a similar purchasing option. This pause doesn’t impact Custom Monthly Contracts set up prior to the 2022-2023 Enrollment Period. If you have questions about your existing contract, please call the GET Contact Center at 800.955.2318.
For now, the WA529 Committee continues to keep the GET unit price low without a premium over current tuition and provides flexible contribution options, which is a tremendous benefit to all customers buying GET units.
What caused some Custom Monthly accounts to have higher contributions than payout?
The GET Custom Monthly Payment Plan was first developed during a time when college tuition was growing, on average, at an annual rate of 7% or higher every year. In such an environment, entering into a contract that locked in a unit purchase price with a monthly payment - even including a finance charge - was an attractive option for many GET customers. However, in 2015 Washington lawmakers passed the College Affordability Program, which lowered tuition at our state’s public colleges for two consecutive academic years. Further, the legislation limited annual tuition growth, beginning with the 2017-18 academic year, to no more than the state’s average annual growth rate in median hourly wage.
As a result of this legislation, annual tuition growth in Washington state has consistently been under 3% since 2017. Accordingly, some of the Custom Monthly Plans that many customers eagerly signed up for five to fifteen years ago have been slow to recoup their value. This has also allowed the Committee to keep the GET unit price low. This has led to an environment where the Custom Monthly Plan, under its current structure, does not provide as much upside benefit as it did in the past under faster tuition growth environments.
What can I do if my Custom Monthly Account has higher contributions than payout?
Reach out to the GET Contact Center at 800.955.2318 to discuss options. It’s important to understand that even if your account value is currently less than the contributions you have made, it’s possible that by the time your student is ready to use the account to pay for education expenses, it may no longer be at a value less than you contributed. And, if your Custom Monthly Contract was active on May 11, 2022, your account is eligible for the Contribution Guarantee. This means that even if your total account payout is less than your contributions, we will cover the difference to ensure you receive back no less than the sum of your contributions (including finance charges). The Committee determined that any payouts made to satisfy the Contribution Guarantee are to be made once all GET units have been distributed from an account.
Can I convert my GET account from a Custom Monthly Payment Plan to a Lump Sum Plan?
If your Custom Monthly Contract is NOT paid in full, you can convert your Custom Monthly Payment Plan to a Lump Sum Plan by filling out an Account Change Request form (found on our website). All prior payments received will be reposted at the purchase rate that was in effect when the payment was received. You may continue to make Lump Sum contributions, but they will purchase units at the current unit price when your payment is received. Keep in mind that there is a two-year hold from your unit purchase date before units are eligible to use. Before requesting changes to your Custom Monthly Plan, please reach out to the GET Contact Center. They can help discuss options and run estimates to see if you could benefit from converting or making changes to your non-paid in full Custom Monthly Plan contract.
Can I cancel my Custom Monthly Payment Plan?
You may cancel your Custom Monthly Payment Plan and convert it to a Lump Sum Payment Plan by completing an Account Change Request Form. If you cancel your entire account, penalties and fees will apply. Before requesting changes to your Custom Monthly Plan, reach out to the GET Contact Center to run estimates for this and go over other possible options for your account.
Is the Contribution Guarantee available if I opened a GET account after May 11, 2022?
As of September 14, 2022, the Committee has not extended this contribution guarantee to GET accounts opened after May 11, 2022. However, under current expectations about tuition growth, and because the GET unit price does not currently include a premium over current tuition, customers who purchased units last enrollment year or this upcoming enrollment year are not expected to lose money.
Will Custom Monthly Payment Plans be available again in the future for new purchasers?
It is possible that the Committee will decide to resume the Custom Monthly offering at a later date, or it may be modified or replaced by a similar purchasing option. For now, the Committee continues to keep the GET unit price low without a premium over current tuition and provides flexible contribution options, which is a tremendous benefit to all customers buying GET units and continues to allow customizability to your savings approach.