In short: The state should fully fund PACT, or it is robbing parents of their investments and students of their opportunities.
As it stands right now, many Alabama parents will have to pay out of pocket for tuition that they rightfully believe they have already paid for. The Prepaid Affordable College Tuition program promised parents the opportunity to give their children an affordable college education, and mismanagement by the state is threatening to take that away.
Fortunately, there are now two bills in the Alabama Legislature that would help combat this problem. One introduced in the House would put a 2.5 percent tuition cap on PACT students, while the bill introduced in the Senate would not.
UA President Robert Witt is right in saying the House bill is unfair. PACT students should not have to pay anything beyond what their contract with the program entails. When parents signed up for the plan, they did not sign up for prepaid tuition unless rates increase, or unless there’s an economic crash, or unless the government mismanages its investments. They signed up for affordable tuition and a chance at an education. It would be almost criminal for the government to deny them that.
The state of Alabama may not be in the best economic situation at the moment, but that is not an excuse for betraying the citizens who need all of the help they can get. Students already face an uncertain future in a volatile workforce, and a college education has always been one of the best ways to get ahead. Now is not the time to betray the trust of Alabamians and throw these students and their families out into the cold.
It would also be just another knock on a failing education system in this state. Alabama suffers from an incredible “brain drain,” with many top students and talented young people fleeing the state in droves. Alabama can’t keep its most talented students at home if they can’t afford the rising cost of tuition. PACT is a great way to ensure students stay here, but its failure is a good way to make sure students lose what little faith they had left in Alabama’s devotion to education.
President Witt has done a great job of attracting talented students from all over the country and building UA into an institution that is more respected and revered every day. Unfortunately, our officials in Montgomery don’t always seem to have the same lofty goals and expectations in mind.
Any refusal to completely honor the promises made to PACT students is tantamount to robbery. They would not just be robbing students of their tuition money and their education, but robbing this entire state of its promise.
Our View is the consensus of The Crimson White’s editorial board.