Higher Prices Could Fix Mississippi College Tuition Plan

Tim Goral's picture
Thursday, May 2, 2013

Mississippi's prepaid college tuition plan may be underfunded by more than $100 million, auditors from a private consultant told the board that oversees it Tuesday.

However, the actuaries say the plan can be at least partially fixed by charging more for future contracts. If the board doesn't make changes, either colleges or the Legislature would have to make up the deficit, the actuaries from Gabriel, Roeder, Smith & Co. warned in a Tuesday meeting of the board that governs the Mississippi Prepaid Affordable College Tuition Program.

State Treasurer Lynn Fitch, whose office administers the program, told board members she wants to overhaul the program and continue it.

"The bottom line is we want to reopen this program," the Republican said.

The board, at Fitch's request, blocked the sale of new contracts during last fall's enrollment period. Under the plan, parents or grandparents typically buy tuition contracts for children who expect to later attend college. Their money is invested by the plan to cover the cost of future attendance.

Although several board members said they want to reopen the program this fall, Fitch said 2014 is a more likely target.

Actuary Ken Alberts told board members the current expectation of earning 7.8 percent a year in investments is unrealistic. His firm recommended lowering the investment target to 7 percent a year.

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