New bill may relieve PACT

Published 6:26 pm Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A new state bill that would provide relief for Alabama’s sinking prepaid college tuition program could alter plans Troy University made just last week to assist.

A proposal approved by Troy University’s Board of Trustees at the request of PACT officials will put a halt on any tuition increases the school may incur in the next three years.

But, a bill that will make its way to the Alabama Legislature next week and will grant $30 million a year for the next five years to the tuition program if passed, could mean Troy’s assistance isn’t needed.

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“I don’t think anybody knows at this point,” said Troy University Spokesman Tom Davis. “On the face of it, it might remove the need for any university to waive tuition for PACT, but we don’t know that because we don’t know the final outcome.”

The bill as proposed would draw around $30 million a year from the state General Fund, a fund already facing some $200 million in shortfalls this year.

Sen. Wendell Mitchell (D-Luverne) said he isn’t sure this particular bill will be the answer.

“I’m for doing something for the PACT program, but I don’t know the general fund is the place to find that money,” Mitchell said. “The general fund doesn’t have any money.”

Mitchell said while PACT is an independent program that doesn’t receive any state funding now, he wouldn’t mind legislators stepping in to assist with—but, only if they can.

“I think it’s something we’re going to have to analyze and see if we’re in a position to help with,” Mitchell said.

Rep. Alan Boothe (D-Troy) said while he hasn’t studied the particulars of this bill in depth, he does support allotting funds to PACT.

“I would support anything that would help that PACT program within reason, and if that $30 million would solve the problem, I’d be inclined to support them,” Boothe said.

Mitchell said he was one of the legislators who originally thought to ask universities to waive increased tuition costs, as a way to alleviate the program.

And for now at least, Troy University will continue with plans to follow through on its proposal as approved.

“We have made our proposal and put our proposal out there, and we think it was the right thing to do, but now it’s sort of in the hands of the legislature,” Davis said.

About 600 of Troy’s students are on the PACT program, and the current resolution is expected to cost more than $2.5 million.

Davis said likely many different bills will address this issue before anything is resolved completely.

And, if the need becomes different, Troy University’s trustees could choose to alter its proposal by resending it for another vote.

The bill should be reintroduced when the Legislature reconvenes next Tuesday.

*The Associated Press contributed to this report.