PACT program to no longer pay full cost of tuition, pending court approval

MONTGOMERY, AL (WBRC) - The board that oversees the Alabama pre-paid college tuition program, or PACT, recommended major changes Tuesday.  In an effort to save the struggling program, board members voted to change the way it helps students.

The PACT program began in 1991 with parents paying a fixed amount for a child with the expectation that when the child finished high school, the State would provide four years of tuition at a state university. The $900-million fund has lost over a quarter of its value due to the downturn in the economy.

Beginning in the fall of 2010, PACT will only pay a set amount of tuition for students.  "The overwhelming sentiment of PACT holders is to keep it going," said PACT board member Daniel Hughes after Tuesday's meeting. "And that is why volunteers are on the board and we all know the value of higher education."

Members of the group, Save Alabama PACT, say they are baffled by the recommendations.  "In my opinion, I don't think changing the terms of a contract makes a program viable," says Karen Gandy, a Save Alabama PACT member.  "I think you honor a contract you enter into."

Save Alabama PACT is made up mainly of parents fighting to keep the program going as was originally intended.  Gandy says she does not understand why the PACT board moved to change the program considering the 2010 legislative session is just two weeks away.  She feels lawmakers have been supportive in considering ways to keep the current program going.  "Our stance is we have a contract.  It takes two parties to amend the terms and we are seeking legal counsel," added Gandy.

The recommendations are not final yet and may require court intervention in order to become final.