By Patrick McCreless
The Cullman Times
CULLMAN — Candidates for Alabama treasurer will be in Cullman Thursday to discuss the state’s ailing prepaid college tuition program and what is needed to fix it.
The meeting, hosted by the Save Alabama PACT organization, will be held at 6 p.m. at the Cullman County Courthouse. The main speakers will be state treasurer candidates George Wallace Jr., Jeremy Sherer and Charles Grimsley.
The public is invited to attend, especially Cullman citizens who have purchased prepaid college tuition plans.
“Each speaker will have five to 15 minutes to give their ideas,” said Mark Persall.
Persall, Cullman resident and member of Save Alabama PACT, bought tuition contracts for his two children.
“The state has had my money for 10 years, and now they are trying to back out,” Persall said. “We just want our kids to have guaranteed tuition.”
According to state statistics, there are 456 PACT contracts between Cullman County residents and the state. The city of Cullman has the most with 313, followed by Hanceville with 46.
Persall noted there were approximately 48,000 total citizens in the state with contracts.
“What we’re hoping is that the contracts will be honored. ... There are 48,000 citizens who would be educated in the state and have college degrees,” Persall said. “They will add to the economic stability of the state.”
The Prepaid Affordable College Tuition (PACT) program is a college savings program administered by the state treasurer’s office. PACT is based on the concept that citizens can pay today for tomorrow’s tuition.
For about 20 years, parents and others have bought contracts in expectation that PACT in future years would pay the college tuition and fees of covered children. However, tuition has skyrocketed, which has increased the PACT program’s obligations. Also, the recent stock market slump has slashed the value of its trust fund.
Persall said one of his organization’s goals is to force a commitment from higher education and two-year colleges to freeze their tuition for PACT participants.
* Patrick McCreless can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com or by telephone at 734-2131 ext. 270.