TEXAS TOMORROW FUN
HOUSTON - Each year, it seems like the cost of higher education is getting, well, higher. Just ask University of Houston sophomore Brian Carrington.
"If I didn't have loans, I probably wouldn't even be here," he said.
"It's one of the schools that's the cheapest and I'm still having a hard time finding money to pay for my school," said freshman Steven Tomselli.
Tomselli says he's paying his own way, but some parents started paying for their children's tuition long before they were old enough for college through the Texas Tomorrow Fund.
The program allowed parents to pre-pay for tuition at locked-in rates. Although the fund is now closed, the state is still obligated to pay off 108,000 contracts. But what happens if a child ends up receiving a full scholarship or worse dies?
Currently, refunds include the initial amount paid and the difference between the original contract price and a current value based on average tuition rates for state colleges and universities.
Tuition in the state of Texas has increased 69 percent since 2003, when the state legislature voted to deregulate tuition increases while also cutting funding to higher education. As a result, today the Tomorrow Fund is in trouble.
Last week, the state sent out letters to participants in the program notifying them of a change. As of November 1, parents opting out of the program will only be paid back the exact amount of money they put into the fund instead of the fair market value.
If they opt to stay in the program, their accounts are constitutionally guaranteed, which could ultimately cost the state as much as $2.1 billion.
"My reaction was that it didn't stand up to the promise we made to the people of the state," said State Representative Garnet Coleman.
Coleman also happens to be the father of two children in the guaranteed tuition program.
"It's the principle that matters," he said. "When you make that investment, it's your money, and the state took your money to invest in other things."