Group offers plan to help pay tuition

Plan reveals payment alternative

by Robert Schoenberger

Daily Cougar Senior Staff

Do you ever find yourself thinking, "I wish I could have paid 1980 tuition rates today?"

That is now an option for Texas parents with the Texas Tomorrow Fund.

The University of Houston System, the Houston Community College System, Houston Baptist University, Clear Creek ISD and several other Houston-area schools announced support for the new project at a press conference at the UH Child Care Center Thursday.

Texas State Comptroller John Sharp spearheaded the program, which allows parents and grandparents to place money in a special fund to be used to cover their child's tuition when he or she is ready to go to a Texas college.

Encouraging people to begin planning early for their children's futures may help UH's problems with decreasing enrollment, said UH System Chancellor Bill Hobby.

"The Texas Tomorrow Fund will help us meet this challenge (of raising tuition) by removing the financial barriers many students will undoubtedly face in the future," Hobby said.

UH interim President Glenn Goerke said he sees the fund as a way of serving current students. "There is no doubt higher education will be a necessity for children like the young people who come to the (UH Child Care Center) every day," he said.

"The cost of this education will not decrease," Goerke added. "That is why the time for the Texas Tomorrow Fund has come."

The Pennington family of Clear Lake was one of the first to take part in the fund. John Pennington said he saw the TTF as a better option than the mutual funds and savings bonds he had planned to use to secure his daughter's future.

Ashley Pennington had a different view of the program's advantages. "(Without the TTF), when I got to college I would have to work," said the 14-year-old. "Now, I can concentrate on my schoolwork."

Sharp said the fund officials are encouraging grandparents to invest in the futures of their grandchildren. "We are shamelessly marketing this at (American Association of Retired Persons) meetings all over the state," he said.

Sharp explained that the universities do not risk losing money with the new proposition. When a TTF student comes to a Texas university, the school will bill the fund for the full amount of tuition and the fees all students must pay. Special course fees are not covered by the fund.

"We basically try to invest the money to cover the rising cost of tuition," said Wardaleen Belvin, director of the fund, to explain how parents can pay today's rates for a more expensive education in the future.

Sharp said he believes the fund will grow to a point it could actually make a profit. "If you come to Wall Street with a $1 billion fund, you have a lot of investment power," he said.

There are four payment options to start the fund. The first is a lump sum payment in which the parent will donate the full amount of the current cost of education.

The five-year and 10-year plans spread the sum into lower monthly fees. The `until graduation' option allows parents to start paying on a monthly basis now, and to stop when their child graduates.

Although the fund will most likely be less expensive than paying future tuition rates, the fund rates are not cheap.

If a parent were to begin payments on a newborn child today, they would either pay $69 a month until their child graduates, $97 a month for 10 years, $162 a month for five years, or a lump sum of $8,320.

The deadline to take part in the program for 1996 is March 31, and Sharp said his office hopes to see 10,000 people enrolled by that time. Currently, there are about 6,000 participants.

Those interested in joining the program may call 1-800-445-GRAD (4723) for a free brochure and application form.

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