From Diapers to Diplomas

~ From PEPS sponsor, Washington College Savings Plans (WA529)

It is that time again! Vacations are over, cooler days are ahead and the beginning of the new school year is here. Kids across the country are getting ready to head back into the classroom to embark on an exciting new year. 

For some kids, going back to school can be intimidating. Starting something new can be scary. Children may wonder things like, “Will I like my new teacher? Will any of my friends be in my new class? Do we still get recess?” Meanwhile, parents may ponder things such as, “Did we purchase enough supplies?” or “Are lunches figured out for the week?”

Not being prepared is the fear that runs through every parent’s mind. Parents and students alike share “What’s next?” questions. While many of these concerns are out of your control, one worry you can help solve is “What will we do about the high costs of higher education?” According to the College Savings Plan Network, children are six times more likely to attend higher education if they know they have a college savings account waiting for them. A 529 plan is a great way to let your student know that they have options in the future, regardless of how uncertain that future may be.

WA529 offers parents and grandparents two plans to help plan for their student’s future:

  1. The DreamAhead College Investment Plan allows you to select from multiple investment options, providing flexibility to your savings. You can choose your own stock market-based investments, which gives you full control over how your funds are allocated.
  2. The Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) Plan guarantees your funds will match the most expensive public university tuition rates in Washington State, no matter how much they go up.

How it works: Pay a set price today that guarantees 100 GET units will equal one year of resident undergraduate tuition and state-mandated fees at the most expensive public university in Washington, no matter how much it changes in the future.

Eligibility: Open to Washington residents (at time of enrollment)

Annual enrollment period: November 1 to May 31 (year-round for newborns).

Minimum contribution: One unit.

Maximum contribution: 800 units per student (use up to 200 units per academic year once your student reaches their benefit use year).

Enrollment Fee: No online enrollment fee.

Other Fees: The GET unit purchase price includes a premium over current tuition rates. No annual or asset based fees.

How it works: There are a wide range of flexible investment choices based on your student’s age and your risk tolerance. Choose from portfolios made up of stock, bond and/or cash preservation funds and build a savings strategy that fits your needs.

Eligibility: Open to all U.S. citizens or legal U.S. residents.

Annual enrollment period:
Year-round

Minimum contribution: $25

Maximum contribution: $500,000 per student (minus any contributions made to a GET account for the same student).

Enrollment Fee: No enrollment fee.

Other Fees: Annual account maintenance fee of $35 and annual asset-based fees of 0.276% to 0.400%


The funds from both plans can be used at any school in the country that accepts federal financial aid.  The savings can be applied to tuition, room and board, books and supplies, as well as a number of other expenses. In addition, all of the growth on a 529 account accumulates tax-free, as long as it’s used for qualified higher education expenses.

Instead of a new school year, maybe you are awaiting the birth of a new child. Did you know that you can start a GET or DreamAhead account for newborns? Before the first diaper change, you can open an account and begin to dream of a brighter future for your child.

Starting something new can be scary. “Saving enough” can be an uncertain goal.  The first step is to start saving now, regardless of how old your child is. Saving even a little now can mean a lot later on. Perhaps the best advice is to simply do what you ask of your kids: do your best.


About the Author

Washington’s 529 College Savings Plans (WA529) help families save for higher education expenses. With tax benefits, flexible contribution options and nationwide choice of colleges, it’s easy to start saving today. To learn more, visit the site or call 1.800.955.2318 with questions on GET or 1.844.529.5845 with questions on DreamAhead.

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