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BEST tuition program gets another state infusion

BEST tuition program gets another state infusion

Posted: Monday, July 19, 2010 9:02 pm
By: AP

NASHVILLE (AP) — State officials have put another $15 million into the Baccalaureate Education System Trust.
The fund was envisioned as self-sustaining and would use investment returns to pay for an eventual college education for children whose parents prepay at current tuition rates.
But the program — known as BEST — is struggling because of slender return on investments.
This is the second infusion of funding the state has put into the program. Lawmakers appropriated $26 million when the stock market began declining in 2007.
The parents of a newborn would pay $7,000 today to buy a year of tuition that will cost an estimated $24,000 by the time the child turns 18 and would enroll as a college freshman.
WPLN radio in Nashville quoted Claude Pressnell Jr., president of the Tennessee Independent Colleges and University Association, who doubts BEST is sustainable in its current form and needs an overhaul.
“Whatever it is, it needs to begin to clearly take care of itself and rise and fall on its own financial bottom,” he said.
Presnell sits on the trust fund board. He said either prepaid rates should rise or the state should end the tuition program.
Blake Fontenay, a spokesman for the state treasurer’s office, said the fund is sound for now. Enrollment is still open and, to date, nearly 10,000 families have signed on.
Five other states suspended similar programs this year. According to the College Savings Plans Network, Tennessee is one of just 13 states to continue its prepaid tuition trust fund.
Aaron Painter of Nash-ville is one of the parents who participates in BEST.
“I’ve thought about this BEST program the same way I thought about buying a house.” Painter said. “It’s not putting money in somewhere where you don’t know where it’s going. You know the state is going to bear the risk on it. That made sense.”
Painter says the offer is hard to resist.
Information from: WPLN-FM, http://www.wpln.org/
Published in The Messenger 7.19.10

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