College costs assistance

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 3, 2001

bill goes to governor


Staff Writer

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Legislation that should help parents defer the ever-increasing costs of a college education has been passed and gone to the governor for his signature.

A bill sponsored by State Rep. Alan Boothe, D-Troy, intended to help parents plan for the future, passed Tuesday with an 89-0 vote in the House of Representatives. A similar bill sponsored by Sen. Jimmy Holley, D-Elba, passed the Senate, earlier in the session that has only six working days remaining.

Currently, the Prepaid Affordable College Tuition Program, known as PACT, allows parents and grandparents to set aside college money for Alabama children. By putting money in that trust fund, it is available for higher education when a child is ready to attend a state college or university.

"It helps a person start saving for college," Boothe said of PACT.

By adding House Bill 426, Boothe believes more people will be able to receive college educations in Alabama even with the rising costs of a four-year degree.

A child born this year would likely enter college in 2020 and there is no way to predict what the cost of higher education will be, then, Boothe said.

Under the PACT program, parents can start putting money away for that day. Children who are in the ninth grade or younger may be enrolled in the program.

The new bill would allow PACT money be used for room and board, books and other expenses. Under the existing program, the money can only be used for tuition and mandatory fees. Boothe said the companion bill will also allow students to attend out-of-state colleges.

"This will help more people go to college," Boothe said, adding, the existing program does not include "other costs involved" in getting a college diploma. "It can cost a lot of money to keep a child in college, now."

Boothe said the companion legislation will even further reduce the financial burden of sending a child to college.

Tt will allow out-of-state beneficiaries of PACT contracts. For example, he said, a grandparent, who lives in another state, would be able to enter into a PACT contract for a grandchild living in Alabama. At this time, only Alabama residents can participate in the program.

Boothe said he was "glad to sponsor" legislation that will help people not only planning to attend Troy State University, but any other college. He said State Treasurer Lucy Baxley, whose office oversees the "very successful" PACT program, asked him to help get the bill through the House.

According to Baxley, tuition and mandatory fees, as provided by PACT, are about one-third of the costs for a college education.

The current cost to enroll a 1-year-old in the Prepaid Affordable College Tuition program is $9,000 and at the time that child enters college, the cost will be about $52,000 for four years.

The enrollment period for the PACT program is the month of September and information about the program can be received by going to the state treasury’s website, or by calling 1-800-252-7228.