OLYMPIA – The Senate today passed a bipartisan bill to let participants in Washington’s Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) program directly share in unanticipated investment gains that the program has experienced in recent years.

Senate Bill 6087, sponsored by Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, would return those gains to GET account holders, giving them three months to redeem units for the cash value and roll the amount into Washington’s new 529 college savings program.

“State policy led to an unplanned surplus, but that money belongs to Washington families and so does any gain on it,” Mullet said. “We should give it back to those families and give them the flexibility to make the choices about saving for higher education that work best for them, especially because doing so won’t cost the state any money.”

The GET program allows households to purchase the cost of college tuition at today’s prices to ensure families can afford college, even if the cost of tuition increases in the future. The state then invests those funds in order to cover the actual cost of tuition for GET holders when students 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 about $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 more than $14,000.

Under Senate Bill 6087, GET account holders would have three months to redeem units for what they are actually worth and to roll that amount into the 529 college savings program, which works like a 401(k) retirement-savings plan.

The bill, which passed 43-3, now goes to the House of Representatives for further consideration.