It's month old news, but I didn't write about it at the time, and since it's such a good example of how often our political and media leaders don't know what the fuck they're talking about, I just wanted to take a moment to chat about this little news item: "Funding back on track for prepaid GET program."
GET is our state's pre-paid tuition program—it allows parents and grandparents to buy their young children and grandchildren college tuition at current rates (plus a premium), shielding them from the vagaries of economic cycles and inflation. As such, it operates more as insurance than an investment, and has proven a valuable tuition planning tool for thousands of middle class Washington families.
But way back in January at the very start of the Rodney Tom regime, the new state senate "majority" "leader" made eliminating the GET program one of his legislative priorities. "We don't need to be in that business," Tom insisted at a pre-session forum sponsored by the Associated Press. Ten days later the Seattle Times editorial board dutifully echoed both Tom's concerns and his bullshit warning of a $631 million shortfall. "Lawmakers ought to look to Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Medina," the editors urged, "who chaired the GET legislative committee and calls for a long-term phaseout that protects current enrollees."
And yet just eight months later, a recovering stock market and a one-year tuition freeze has brought the program's unfunded liability down to $160 million. Indeed, a recent report from the state actuary projects that—even if legislators do absolutely nothing—GET will once again be fully funded by 2018 "if all assumptions are realized and the program remains open."
So had we shut down GET last session, we would have shut it down for absolutely nothing.
I talked with Tom a number of times about GET, but I could never quite figure out why he was so hot for killing the program. Perhaps it just got in the way of his "differential tuition" pricing scheme? Perhaps it was ideological reflex. Perhaps he could never quite wrap his mind around the math? (That would be a reasonable excuse for the Seattle Times ed board—they are notoriously sucky at math.) I dunno.
Or perhaps GET's financial woes were just a constant painful reminder of how Tom and his colleagues had so utterly failed current and future generations of college students. Tom paid only $2,507 a year in tuition and fees for his University of Washington education—adjusted for inflation! Today's resident UW students pay $12,383. It was the four years of double-digit tuition hikes that anti-taxers like Tom presided over that most threatened GET's solvency. Why would he want to be reminded of that?
Whatever. The real lesson here is don't trust the serious people. Just because they don't use the word "fuck," doesn't mean they know what the fuck they're talking about. Especially when it comes to math.