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Lynn Fitch opens up on school savings programs

State Treasurer Lynn Fitch spoke about her two plans that she hopes will be effective in Mississippi. The Mississippi Prepaid Affordable College Tuition (MPACT) Program is Mississippi’s prepaid tuition plan that prepays the cost of tuition and mandatory fees, and protects against the future rise in college tuition. The Mississippi Affordable College Savings (MACS) Program is a state-sponsored savings program that helps Mississippi families save for future college expenses that makes giving the gift of college easy and affordable.

Fitch said for the MPACT plan, they have two plans, the legacy and horizon contracts.

The new ones are the horizon programs which opened in 2014 after they reset the original program.

“Those are cost neutral to the tax payers, they are financially sound in the long run and they’re cost effective for Mississippi savers,” Fitch said.

The legacy programs are the contracts that were done before 2014.

“Those programs are full faith in credit and they will always be made whole so everybody that has an impact account they are in extremely good shape,” said Fitch. “However, the legislature has to make good on a full faith in credit so what we have determined through our actual audit is that it’s $135 million short for the legacy impact programs so I have outreached to the leadership and the legislature and asked them to be cognizant and begin some cash infusions based on the college savings board request, based on our investment policy and our recommendation to sure up this $135 million short fall.”

Fitch said the short fall is the fifth request that the college savings board has made to the legislature, and this time they are asking for $13.5 million in special appropriation.

“Unfortunately these requests have gone unanswered and we believe it’s certainly time to look at this very conscientiously and make a cash infusion,” said Fitch. “These legacy contracts don’t even expire until 2039 so it’s important to take a hard look and begin the cash infusion.”

She added that the horizon contracts monies are dedicated to the horizon contracts, not to balance out the legacy or pay for the legacy contracts.

Fitch said the MACS plan is the exciting and affordable one. It covers things like room and board, computers, tuition and books.

“It’s what people can put in and save for the future for their children and grandchildren, and can use it at community colleges, universities and vo tech schools,” said Fitch.

She said it is a great saving tool for families across our state and has been very important because they have gone out and done payroll deposit, so now employees can make a deposit through their employer program directly from their account into the MACS account, which Fitch claims has been very successful.

“We have over 150 employers that have done that and it ranges from large employers to school districts to state agencies down to very small companies or agencies,” said Fitch. “Again, it’s an opportunity for people to save if they did not in the past so this has been very important.”

Fitch said that there is also a new law that was passed in December of 2017 by the federal law that affects their MACS accounts in a very positive way, so that gave them a new element to add to savings. So now, if you choose to save for an elementary or secondary student for a private or parochial school, you can do that as well through the MACS account and in that perspective, you can put up and use up to $10,000 per student in tuition.

“Our phones have been ringing off the wall,” said Fitch. “We are ready, we are prepared, the team is ready, and our programs are ready.”

Fitch said they have been setting up the MACS accounts since January first.

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