MPACT at Standstill

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Jackson, Miss. Mississippi's Prepaid College Tuition program is at a stand-still. It's supposed to allow parents to lock in college tuition rates early and not have to pay for any tuition hikes later.

But there's been a growing crack in the piggy bank. A recent audit of the program raised multiple financial concerns and put the board on notice that changes had to happen to keep it going.

"It laid out a road map on how we can work through the issues," said State Treasurer Lynn Fitch. "Look at investments, our debt allocation and how to make this fund sustainable and then also how we look at other opportunities as we move forward."

Since the audit presentation Apr. 30, committees have met to focus on MPACT's future. While there's currently a freeze on new enrollees to the program, the board has started taking steps to bring it back to life.

"There has been a lot of careful and considered study about how to make the MPACT plan sustainable. How to make it so the state can afford it, as well as deliver on the promises we've made to Mississippi school kids," incoming board member Cory Wilson said.

Those currently enrolled in the program will have their investments honored. But two of the committees recommended a change. And the full board approved lowering the assumed rate of return from 7.3 percent to 7.0 percent.

"The changes will just be truly investment," Fitch said. "How we switch our investment. How we look at where we invest and we allocate our debt."

The bottom line is the college savings program still has a future, but it will be restructured.

"It may not be exactly like it is but certainly, how we can make progress to open it sometime in the future," said Fitch.

And the board still has questions it's researching before pressing play again.

"Do you do a full tuition plan or do you go by the semester plan or possibly by the hour?" asked Fitch.

Because this phase of research and recommendations is complicated, the board has not set a timeline for how soon it may reopen enrollment.