Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

House Committee approves PACT bills

A House committee voted unanimously Wednesday in favor of three bills designed to help Alabama’s struggling Prepaid Affordable College Tuition program. The bills each ensure that the PACT program will pay for the college tuitions of the 45,000 children whose parents bought into it.

Now that the plans have been approved by the House Education Appropriations Committee, they will face debate by both the Alabama House and Senate in the coming weeks.

One bill, authored by Rep. Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, would give $236 million to the PACT program over the course of eight years and place a floating tuition cap for students with PACT contracts.

Universities, including the University of Alabama, oppose the cap.

“The issue is, how can you tell one group of students, the ones whose parents bought the PACT plan, that their tuition is set and paid for while the other set of students, whose parents maybe didn’t have enough money to purchase PACT at the time, their tuition isn’t?” said Kelly Reinhart, UA System Board of Trustees spokeswoman.

The UA System Board of Trustees, which sets tuition rates, has raised tuition an average of 8.8 percent annually over the past five years, according to board documents.

Sen. Ted Little, D-Auburn, has also sponsored a bill to help save Alabama’s PACT program. It also calls for $236 million from the Education Trust Fund to pay for outstanding contracts, but it does not place a cap on tuition.

Reinhart said the UA system supports Little’s proposed bill.

The third bill, “Alabama PACT: Protect the Promise,” sponsored by Republican Rep. Greg Wren of Montgomery, also seeks to pay for the 45,000 children currently in the PACT tuition plan. His plan will also address critical issues concerning the program such as creating a statewide advisory task force and looking into changing management of the program.

Rebecca Thrasher, secretary-treasurer of Save Alabama PACT, said major rewrites of each bill could happen, ultimately combining ideas from all of the proposed bills into one major bill.

All three bills agree that once the state has successfully paid for the tuition of all those that are still under contract with PACT, the 20-year old tuition program will come to an end.

Beginning in 1991, parents could pay a set amount to the state government and receive PACT contracts for their children, ensuring that once their child reached the college level, his or her tuition would be paid. Rising tuition prices have cut the value of the PACT trust fund and have left the program without enough money to pay for the tuition of those who have already paid for the plan.

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