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Deadline extended on tuition savings

The 2003 deadline for a state college tuition savings programhas been extended to Dec. 5, adding almost a week to its originaldeadline of Nov. 30, according to state treasury officials.

“We want to ensure that the Thanksgiving holidays don’tinterfere with anyone’s ability to get an application in so thatthey can take advantage of the best deal in state government,” saidState Treasurer Peyton Prospere.

The Mississippi Prepaid Affordable College Tuition (MPACT)program allows parents, grandparents and guardians to plan aheadfor a child’s college needs.

Because college tuition is a major expense for most Americanfamilies, Prospere said, anyone who has children should beinterested in planning ahead to ensure the necessary funds areavailable when that first semester arrives.

MPACT offers its enrollees the ability to lock in today’stuition rates and the ability to offset future tuition hikeswithout creating debt. It guarantees full payment of tuition andmandatory fees at any public institution of higher learning in thestate.

“It’s an excellent time to lock in a tuition rate because therewas no increase this year,” Prospere said. “People frequentlychoose to enroll when the tuition rate has increased, but it’sequally important when it’s not up.”

By locking in a tuition rate with the MPACT program, enrolleesare exempt from future tuition rate hikes that could drive theprice up by hundreds of dollars from now until the child is oldenough to attend college, said Barry Simmons, director of collegesavings plans.

The average tuition at a major university this year is $3,700and $1,400 at a junior college and climbing, according toSimmons.

In the past 20 years, the average major college tuition hasclimbed 6.97 percent, Simmons said.

The average rate hike last year was negligible, according toTreasury Department statistics, but the average college tuitionrose 8.63 percent in 2002-2003 and 15.01 percent in 2001-2002.

Any Mississippi child 18 years of age or younger and not yet incollege at the start of the MPACT enrollment period is eligible andcontracts can be purchased for community colleges, universities, ora combination of the two.

MPACT payments are made primarily in four different ways: lumpsum and monthly payments over three, five or ten years.

For example, for a five-year senior college or university plan,enrolling a newborn would cost $17,235 in lump sum, $539 per monthover three years, $350 per month over five years, or $210 per monthover 10 years.

MPACT covers tuition and all mandatory fees, but does not coverother expenses, such as books, dormitory fees or other voluntaryfees.

A second state program, the Mississippi Affordable CollegeSavings program (MACS), has no age limits and no deadlines and canbe used for qualified higher education expenses, such as books,off-campus living, and dormitories, but “it’s more like atraditional savings program,” Simmons said.

For more information on the MPACT or MACS programs call theCollege Savings Plans office at 800-987-4450 or visit the Web siteat www.collegesavingsmississippi.com. Online applications areavailable at the Web site.