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Video: Rocky stock market may give 529 program a bump up

Jeannie is a stay at home mom who is planning to home school her children, 4-year-old Ella and 2-year-old Jack.

They may be young, but she's already taking steps to ensure their college education.

When Ella was just a month old, and Jack still in utero, Jeannie and her husband enrolled them in the state's Guaranteed Education Tuition Program - or GET.

"A lot of my friends thought I was, thought I was a little bit premature because they said, 'Oh you've got so many years,' and I was like but 'Yeah, those years go by that!'" she said.

Participants buy future college tuition at just over today's prices.

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When the stock market is strong, the plan doesn't have the sexy appeal of rapid growth, but in tough times, it stays the course.

Now, the GET is getting a closer look from countless families.

The program's phone bank is being inundated with 20 percent more calls than last year, and it's seen 60 percent more rollovers from market-based 529's than in the past.

"Anything you put in is guaranteed to keep up with tuition inflation. So if you buy 100 GET units, you have a year of tuition regardless of when your child or grandchild goes to school," said Betty Lochner, Director of GET.

The cost of GET is tied to the price of a year's tuition at the state's most expensive public university. Right now that's at the University of Washington. But as the school expects to raise its prices significantly due to budget shortfalls, the price of the GET will likely also rise.

Jeannie has already locked in four years of tuition for Ella, and more than one year for little Jack.

She says with so much turmoil in the economy, it bought her some peace of mind, in addition to her children's future education.

The enrollment period for new participants ends March 31. The program is expected to cross the threshold of 100,000 participants this year.

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