Dear friends and neighbors,

As a parent and small business owner, I know the importance of preparing our children for the future and the essential role of higher education in that process. I also know how expensive and challenging this can be for middle-class households.

That’s why I sponsored two bills this legislative session to help make higher education more affordable and to give families the flexibility they need to make the choices about preparing and saving for higher education that work best for them.

Shared returns for holders of GET units

Senate Bill 6087 would make changes to Washington’s Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) program to allow holders of GET accounts to directly share in investment gains that the program experienced in recent years.

The GET program allows families to purchase the cost of college tuition at today’s prices to ensure families can afford college even when tuition increases in the future. The state then invests those funds so they can afford to cover the cost of college tuition for GET holders when their kids start college. The value of a GET unit has not changed in the past six years because the state has frozen tuition.

Currently, 100 GET units is equal to $10,386, enough to send a student to college for a year. However, the state currently has a surplus in the GET investment fund that would mean 100 GET credits is worth $14,400 or an extra 40 GET units. Under this bill GET account holders would have six months to redeem units for what they are actually worth and to roll that amount into Washington’s new 529 college savings program, which works like a 401(k) retirement-savings plan.

Put another way, we can offer families in our state that invested in GET a 40 percent return on the money they invested. Additionally, it likely won’t cost the state a dime.

College credits for international baccalaureate exams

Senate Bill 5917 would require higher education institutions to establish a policy for granting college credit to students who receive passing grades on international baccalaureate exams.

Like the Advanced Placement (AP) Program, the International Baccalaureate Program is a great way for high school students to obtain college credits and accelerated placement in college, saving themselves and their families time and money in pursuing a degree.

But even someone with a PhD in math would be hard pressed to figure out which schools accept those credits or how much, given that the minimum score needed to earn credit can vary from school to school and, sometimes, even from program to program within an institution.

Senate Bill 5917 helps ensure that a student who passes an IB exam will receive college credit. It also forces the public universities to create an easy to understand system for high school students explaining which IB classes will count for a course equivalent credit. For example, passing an IB course in Biology should mean you don’t have to retake Biology in college.

Both bills will be under consideration in the coming weeks. It’s my hope that both will help students pursuing higher education and their families save time and money and, ultimately, help make higher education more affordable for middle-class households in our district and across our state.

Best regards,