Ala. PACT program saved for now

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The Alabama's Pre-paid Affordable College Tuition (PACT) program's board sat through nearly three hours of dizzying numbers before making a decision Tuesday.

One option was to dissolve the program since it's lost so much money, but that's not what the board decided.

Accountants, one after the other, told a grim story of how much money the program lost in two years. It had a net worth of $899 million in 2007. As of today the program is down to $396 million.

The governing board had two options; either dissolve the PACT program, which it rejected unanimously, or get the Alabama Legislature involved and suspend new enrollments until further notice. The PACT board believes it needs $45 million a year from the legislature to help keep the program solvent.

"I talked with a number of state senators and representatives and they tell me they want to fix this," said Lt. Governor Jim Folsom.

Another key component of the temporary rescue plan is to transfer funds from the Opportunity Enhancement Fund to the PACT fund.

PACT will be able to pay college tuition for people like Patti Lambert's six grandchildren, but not for the two younger ones, since there will be no new enrollments for the time being. Still, Lambert is okay with that. "I guess we'll just have to invest our money elsewhere. I am so pleased Alabama has this program," she said.

If Alabama lawmakers truly want to fix the PACT shortfall they better move quickly. There are only 17 legislative days left in this year's session.


State Representative Craig Ford held a news conference Tuesday afternoon to announce his proposals to fix the ailing program's problems. He then introduced them for discussion in the House.

His "Plan A" calls for taking $5 million from the Capital Improvement Trust Fund and $25 million from the Abandoned Property Funds. He says over the next five years that would deposit more than $150 million into PACT.

"Plan B" would pull funding from the Oil and Gas Trust Fund, about $50 million in the first year, and an addition $25 million each following year until it reaches $150 million in funding that way.

"Basically what we're doing is bailing them out at a 50% level for five years, hopefully at that time the market will turn around," he said. "It would give them 50% of the revenue needed for the next five years."