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Wash. prepaid tuition units increased to $117

SEATTLE — As of Saturday, it will cost $117 to buy one unit in Washington’s prepaid tuition program, or about $11,700 for a year for tuition at the state’s most expensive public colleges.

The increase from this year’s price of $101 per unit is a few percentage points more than the 14 percent tuition is expected to go up at the state’s four-year colleges next fall.

The Guaranteed Education Tuition committee set its new unit price to reflect future investment and tuition expectations, said GET Director Betty Lochner.

Meeting in Olympia on Monday afternoon, the GET committee got some good news about enrollment and investment results.

Enrollment this academic year was the second largest in the program’s 12-year history. New accounts do not hold as much money as new accounts did in previous years. Lochner blames the recession and the higher cost of tuition for slowing investments.

Investment returns picked up during the last quarter and the fund is now looking at a one-year return of 7.5 percent, although that wasn’t enough to make up for several years of investment losses. The fund has $1.3 billion and continues to grow, Lochner said. The 10-year investment return is about 4.93 percent.

“It’s very well funded,” she said, noting that if every kid whose has a GET account wanted to use the money now, including the newborns, the fund could cover them all.

In the past 12 years, parents and other family members opened 119,677 GET accounts worth more than $1.3 billion to send children to college.

The state of Washington guarantees that 100 GET units will pay the tuition at the state’s most expensive universities for one year. Families will need fewer GET units to pay tuition at the state’s other public university and colleges and the money can be used at out-of-state and private colleges as well.

Enrollment is closed for the year — except for new accounts for infants, which are now open year round — but people who are already enrolled have until Friday to buy units at this year’s price of $101.

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