SENATE APPROVES BILL ON PREPAID COLLEGE TUITION
How Northeast Mississippi senators voted for the prepaid college tuition plan:
Bill Minor, D-Holly Springs; Gray Tollison, D-Oxford; Bennie Turner, D-West Point; John White, D-Baldwyn.
Nickey Browning, D-Ecru; Hob Bryan, D-Amory; Jack Gordon, D-Okolona; Travis Little, D-Corinth; Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo.
By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – A bill that would allow parents to pay in advance for their children’s college educations to avoid the rising cost of tuition barely passed the state Senate Wednesday.
Supporters of the bill said an amendment that was added makes the prepaid college tuition plan ineffective.
But on the positive side for supporters, the bill is still alive. And supporters hope the wording in the bill can be “fixed” in the House of Representatives and brought back to the Senate for another vote.
“The more they (senators) read about the bill, and the more they understand it, the more likely it is they can vote for it,” said Sen. Terry Burton, D-Newton. “It is a good piece of legislation.”
Under the bill, a parent could pay in installments or one lump sum for a child’s education. When the child reached college age, his or her education would be paid for at any public school in Mississippi.
The bill passed the Senate Wednesday on a 27-18 vote, which was the three-fifth majority needed. The bill now goes to the state House for consideration.
But Burton said, “We are not happy with the way it came out. The bill was gutted.”
Burton said he opposed the removal of the “full faith and credit of the state of Mississippi” wording that was in the bill.
Under the plan, a parent of a newborn could pay a lump sum of $8,420 for four years of college or $76.24 monthly. There are different plans for community college and senior colleges.
Under the original wording of the bill, the state would invest parent’s money and establish a trust fund to make sure sufficient funds were available to pay for the child’s education. But if the investment did not provide enough money, “the full faith and credit of the state of Mississippi” meant the difference would come out of the state general fund.
The “full faith and credit” measure also prevented the trust fund from being subject to federal taxes, supporters said.
But the full-faith-and-credit line bothered many senators.
For instance, Sen. Jim Bean, R-Hattiesburg, said, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Bean introduced the amendment to remove the full-faith wording from the bill. He said it is impossible to project if there will be enough money in the trust fund to provide for the education of all the people who invest.
Members also were concerned because some parents might invest in the program and have their child decide to go to an out-of-state school or not to go to college at all. In such cases, the person would get back all the money that had been invested, plus the interest earned.
Sen. Bill Canon, R-Columbus, asked in jest, “What if somebody decides to go to college out of the country, like Canada or Harvard or Yale?”
But Burton said the measure, which has the support of the state College Board and state Treasurer Marshall Bennett, was “an incentive to invest in our children’s education.”