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Legislature revisits PACT program

Dexter Strong

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With the 2012 Alabama legislative session underway, Rep. Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, the Minority Leader in the Alabama House of Representatives, and Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, the Minority Leader in the Alabama Senate, are sponsoring legislation to fully fund the Pre-paid Affordable College Tuition program. Both Bedford and Ford are members of the board of directors. The program allows participants to pay tuition incrementally, long before their child attends college. The payments are made directly to the state in exchange for 128 credit hours worth of full tuition coverage. “We owe it to our citizens to ensure that the PACT program is adequately funded,” Ford said. “I knew that I was doing the right thing after I met a grandmother who used all of what she had left to purchased five PACT contracts, one for each of her grandchildren, because she wanted to makes sure that they all could afford to go to college. She just recently passed. My job is to honor her dying wish and help the state honor the promises they made to her and PACT contract holders everywhere.” Under the present terms of the PACT program, participants will only receive tuition covering up to the 2009-2010 college tuition rates, despite the rise in tuition price. University of Alabama student PACT participants will only receive $3,440 a semester to go towards their $4,300 full-time status tuition costs. Many Alabama citizens and college students are becoming suspicious of the state’s management of funds and believe that the state is duty-bound to honor the pledge made to PACT program contract holders. More than 39,000 Alabama families are depending on PACT money, Ford said. “Everyone who presently holds a PACT program contract has lived up to their end of the bargain, and it is time the state of Alabama honors theirs,” he said. “Every contract bears the state seal. That means a lot to me and should mean a lot to my Republican colleagues who have really dropped the ball.” The bill, sponsored by Ford and Bedford, would allocate a portion of the money going to the newly created budget stabilization account to pay for the deficit in the PACT program. It also proposes that the PACT program be readjusted every year to correspond with the most current tuition rates. The continuing ordeal with PACT in Montgomery is having its effects on students at Alabama. “It is really not right and downright disappointing,” Gabrielle Woodard, a junior majoring in psychology, said. “I know many people including myself, who that if financial aid didn’t totally cover the cost of attendance, probably could not be here. This is especially sad considering that PACT program participants thought they had paid for tuition a long time ago.”

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Legislature revisits PACT program