A potential 'bait and switch' for state's Guaranteed Education Tuition program?

State Sen. Jim Kastama, D-Puyallup, is criticizing a proposal that might mean the Guaranteed Education Tuition program won’t cover the future cost of a year of a child’s education at a state university after all, the News Tribune of Tacoma reported.

Kastama is calling it a potential “bait and switch” for parents who were told buying 100 GET units would cover a year of their child’s future university education no matter how high tuition climbed, the newspaper said.

“Now they’re going to get there and find out that only covers the cheapest degree at the institution,” he told the News Tribune.

The problem is that Washington universities won authority last year to vary undergraduate tuition rates according to what different degrees cost. For instance, engineering degrees would cost more than English degrees.

According to the News Tribune, state and university officials and lawmakers are considering imposing new fees to help pay for expensive degrees – fees that wouldn’t be covered by GET.

Don Bennett, executive director of the state Higher Education Coordinating Board, which administers the GET program, told the News Tribune that GET needs a uniform tuition level to set its price and can’t be expected to pay for differential rates.

GET “was never guaranteed to cover the full cost, because even today there are course fees, lab fees that aren’t part of the calculation,” he said.

When parents buy GET credits, they sign a contract with a similar disclaimer. Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, said the contract arguably lets GET off the hook for the proposed program fees.

But someone could challenge such a decision in court. Frockt has a bill to spell out the authority more explicitly in law. It is scheduled for its first vote Wednesday in a Senate committee.

College students told lawmakers last week they worry program fees could be a kind of “stealth tuition.”