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Alabama evaluates state PACT

Pact: an alliance, a deal, a covenant, an agreement. For most studens, that is what the word pact means, but for some from the state of Alabama it means a way to pay for college tuition.

The Prepaid Affordable College Tuition Plan is being re-evaluated because of the economy.

According to the Alabama State Treasury's Web site, the program lets people pay for college tuition today instead of when it is time to go to college. They offer contracts for four years, 128 semester hours, or one year, 32 semester hours.

"The contract can also be used at private or out-of-state institutions," according to the Web site. "PACT will pay the average tuition of Alabama's public four-year institutions to any private or out-of-state institution."

Alabama State Treasurer Kay Ivey said while they won't know anything about fall tuition until May 18, because the Alabama Legislature has until then to make a decision, students still in school should be OK until this summer.

"Nobody's missed a payment," Ivey said. "It's not intended that anybody's going to miss a payment."

Ivey said the PACT board has formed a committee to work with the legislature and the governor to find a way to continue to provide money to the program.

"That process is unerway. The committee has completed their assignemnt and the recommendations are within the body of the legislature."

Ivey said they are no longer accepting applications for the PACT Plan, but the ones who already have a plan should be OK.

"When the market has recovered the PACT trust fund with its assets will being to again function and again continue to provide the necessary income for the program," Ivey said.

Mike Reynolds, executive director of student financial services at Auburn, said one option the state is looking at to make the payment consistent through 2012, which would mean there would be no increase in tuition.

"The legislature would have to come out and say that no school could increase tuition," Reynolds said.

Reynolds said part of the problem is the program is private, but it is being administered by the state.

"I think it would be a little different if every office that you contacted or the administrative office of the PACT Program is with the treasurer's office," Reynolds said. "It's giving every indication of being a state program although it's not."

He said there are many alternatives to those who are anxious about whether or not their PACT Plan will come through in the fall.

"There are definitely loans and other financial aid and that's what my job is to do, to connect the students with the money needed to complete these higher education goals"

He said it is not too late to apply for financial aid.

"My suggestion would be that every students, whether the be on PACT or not, should complete a FASFA and then when the financial aid award comes out, you have an option at that point to accept it or to reject it," Reynolds said.

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