State money isn’t the answer

Published 10:01 pm Wednesday, March 18, 2009

As most of us probably know by now, our state’s Prepaid Affordable College Tuition Plan is broken, those that put money in the plan are upset, and lawmakers are looking for ways to clean up the mess.

We just need to be sure the solution doesn’t create more problems.

The PACT program lost about half its assets — and its viability as a means to fully pay for college tuition to state institutions — because of the ailing stock market. PACT participants were unhappy, to say the least, because they thought the plan was guaranteed. It was not.

Legislators, though, are still approaching the issue as if the state has some sort of obligation to make good on the anticipated payments. Democratic state Rep. Craig Ford of Gadsden said Tuesday he’s preparing a bill that would provide about $30 million a year for at least five years. That money would come from the state’s General Fund, a fact that has some of Ford’s colleagues concerned, and rightly so.

In a time when caution and prudence describe the preferred financial mindset, promising funds to something the state has no legal obligation to is not the right move.

Instead, the best course of action might be no action. Alabama Community College Bradley Byrne announced Monday the state’s community college system would join four-year institutions Troy University and Alabama State University in waiving tuition increases for PACT students.

So, PACT participants have options, if maybe not the first option. If these students want to go to school, let them go to a school that has agreed to give our state a break. And let’s all remember which schools were willing to be team players.