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MPACT Funding Remains Uncertain

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 20 Jun 2013 09:13am | comments

Changes are coming to a popular Mississippi college savings plan but that doesn't mean it will be re-opened to new enrollees. The Mississippi Pre-paid Affordable College Tuition Program, or MPACT, will remain frozen while state leaders say they try to shore up its long term stability.

 MPACT allows parents to lock in current day college tuition rates for when their children eventually go to college.

 The College Savings Board approved a set of changes to the MPACT Wednesday.

 Treasurer Lynn Fitch, who oversees the board, says the existing program is under-funded and the goal is to make sure it can stand the test of time.

 "What we are doing is we are being very through. We are being very diligent. We are looking at processes and different opportunities on ultimately how we can get the program back up. It may not look exactly like it did. But certainly how we can make progress to open it in the future," Fitch said.

 Some of the changes include lowering expected returns on their investments, firing a current management company and expanding investment in emerging foreign markets.

 Board member Rita Wray says it makes sense to look outside the U-S ways to increase the cash in the system.

 "To look to emerging markets. The ones we have not look at before. In countries like Brazil, where there is a growing middle class. We believe that there are wonderful opportunities there to realize some investments," Wray said.

 One change that did not happen is re-opening the program that has been frozen to new members since last fall.

 Treasurer Fitch says she is committed to re-opening MPACT but thinks it is unlikely that will happen any time soon.

 "This is a very complicated, very through process. We want to be sure that we walk through every step and we have looked at every opportunity and avenue so that when we stand it back up its very sustainable and we will have a good opportunity to have people invest in this program," Fitch said.

 The most recent audit of MPACT shows it has about 75-percent of the money it needs to pay all its bills, a figure that Fitch says is far too low.

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