Two different but similar bills have been approved to go to the full House for debate on the issue of the Prepaid Alabama College Tuition Program.
These bills will ensure college tuition the state of Alabama is paid for the 45,000 children whose parents bought contracts in the state’s prepaid college tuition program.
“I think it is still going to be a tough battle,” said Richard Huckaby, cofounder and V.P. of Save Alabama PACT. “But I think this is the solution that is worthy of hard work from everyone involved.”
The Alabama Senate voted 33-0 for a plan to transfer $236 million over eight years to the state’s Prepaid Affordable College Tuition program last week.
“This vote shows that the senators are fully aware of the problem in the state of Alabama with the PACT program,” said Democratic Rep. Craig Ford of Gadsden. “And that they want to address the issue.”
The House Education Appropriations Committee also voted unanimously on a bill that will guarantee payment of all current contracts.
“This is to serve the people who have bought a contract with the state of Alabama regarding the PACT program,” Ford said. Senate Bill 162, writ-
ten by Sen. Ted Little, does not limit state universities’ ability to raise tuition on students with PACT contracts.
The rival bill is House Bill 228 and was written by Ford.
“If we don’t act now the state is going to be spending more money defending lawsuits than paying for PACT students,” Ford said. “Because the state is going to have to defend itself with taxpayer’s money.”
Both of these bills allow the same amount of $236 million over eight years for funding, but one puts a 2.5 percent increase cap on tuition per year for PACT students.
“The bill is for sure and my bill (House Bill 228) has a cap on tuition increase for PACT students for the universities,” Ford said. “Sen. Little’s bill is like a bottomless pit.” The idea of tuition caps is not a popular one among universities.
The Alabama Education Association teachers have lobbied to encourage a cap on tuition for the PACT program, saying a bailout would cost much more than $236 million.
“I foresee my bill being passed,” Ford said. “Negotiations will be made over the two bills with the hope of compromise between them.”
Either one of these bills will put an end the 20-year-old PACT program when all current contracts are paid.
“These bills ensure the PACT program contracts continue through their duration to completeness,” Huckaby said. “At that point in time the PACT program as we know it is over.”
Huckaby said he is hopeful for a college tuition program in the future, but he said it would not come back in its current form.