Prepaid College Trust is solvent, seeks to...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Prepaid College Trust is solvent, seeks to expand offerings

The Maryland Prepaid College Trust (MPCT) would like to respond to The Sun's editorial "Trouble for taxpayers in prepaid tuition plan" (Nov. 6).

The program's investments are performing very well and surpassing our initial projections. PricewaterhouseCoopers determined that the program had an actuarial surplus of $4.7 million as of June 30.

In its first year of operation, the program earned an annual rate of return that far exceeded what it needs to remain financially sound. The board is proud of the investment performance and has asked the state to provide continued funds for administration and marketing expenses to further deliver the message to families to save for college.

The $3 million the state has appropriated to MPCT has been money well spent.

It has resulted in total committed savings of approximately $70 million; more than $20 million has been invested to date.

The MPCT has fewer participants than initially expected because of many factors. MPCT distributed 90,000 application booklets during the spring 1998 and 1999 enrollment periods. Our surveys indicate that the primary reason that fewer families actually enrolled is the uncertainty over the state's backing.

The lack of a guarantee is fully disclosed in all marketing materials, as required by state law.

Some other states began without guarantees, but unlike Maryland, their marketing materials did not fully disclose this information.

The editorial mentioned that the program should not be administered by the state. Yet every prepaid tuition program in the country has an administrative staff. Nearly all these staffs are two-to-three times the size of Maryland's.

Maryland contracts with outside vendors to provide major services such as record-keeping, marketing, actuarial and financial services, but maintains a small administrative staff of six to oversee outside vendors, provide support to the board and coordinate outreach activities.

The MPCT board supports a college savings plan, as a companion to the prepaid tuition program. The board has submitted legislation to the governor that would introduce a college savings plan and a statutory guarantee for the Maryland Prepaid College Trust.

A guaranteed prepaid tuition plan and a companion savings plan will give Marylanders the flexibility to choose the best program or combination of programs to meet their individual needs and goals.

Edwin S. Crawford

Baltimore

The writer is chairman of the board of the Maryland Prepaid College Trust.

Did Sen. Robert Neall deceive the voters . . .

Isn't it convenient that state Sen. Robert Neall decided to switch parties one year into a four-year term? ("Neall poised to switch to Democratic Party," Nov. 11).

More than 200 Democratic officials have become Republicans since Bill Clinton was elected president in 1992. Many have faced the voters immediately.

For example, Sen. Phil Gramm, now a Texas Republican, resigned his House seat after switching parties, and promptly won re-election as a Republican. This was the honorable thing to do.

Unfortunately, Maryland does not allow special elections. Therefore, Mr. Neall will not have to face the voters in his heavily Republican district until 2002.

Robert Neall deceived voters who thought they were electing a Republican. This was rank political arrogance.

David S. Marks

Perry Hall

. . . or flee a party grown extreme and intolerant?

State Sen. Robert Neall's switch from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party is yet another example of the right wing of Maryland's Republican Party in Maryland fostering stagnation and intolerance within their own ranks.

In the last primary election, right wing zealots targeted a good and honest man, former Senate Minority Leader F. Vernon Boozer.

The forces of Ellen Sauerbrey and Sen. Larry Haines teamed up to trounce Mr. Boozer because he was a moderate.

Senator Boozer didn't see it coming until it was too late.

America has a new political ideology --a warped and twisted mentality of forced votes and hatchet jobs being conducted by right wingers in this state.

They want robots who tow their line. No wonder independent and honest thinkers such as Mr. Neall and New Windsor Mayor Jack Gullo have switched parties.

As a proud Democrat I welcome Mr. Neall into the Maryland Democratic Party.

We have a big tent. We recognize independent thinkers and honest discussion of issues and hope out of real discussion, truth will emerge.

Thomas E. Quirk

Cockeysville

State GOP can compromise and is on the move

Barry Rascovar offered his usual unresearched observations in his column, "Neall's defection underscores state GOP's quandary" (Opinion Commentary, Nov. 14). If Mr. Rascovar took a good look at the Republican Party, which is so distasteful to him, he would see there is no quandary.

We've elected Rep. Connie Morella, who works well with her colleagues and Rep. Wayne Gilchrest who finds ways to lead in both parties. Dick Bennett was chosen to head the party, and is certainly a coalition builder.

It took years of compromise and work with the other side of the aisle by Ellen Sauerbrey to pass the state's Spending Affordability Law.

Being a minority party, Maryland Republicans know it is necessary to meld coalitions to participate in governing.

Mr. Neall was highly respected in our party for his knowledge of state government and his fiscal acuity.

I, for one, never heard him criticized for cooperation.

There is no quandary. We are growing in numbers, we're inviting Independents to vote with us.

We are on the move.

Marjorie S. Holt

Severna Park

Positive, non-violent stories make the paper a pleasure

The Sun is to be congratulated for placing interesting, non-violent, positive stories above the fold on the front page, particularly on Nov. 11 ("Budget talks move ahead," "After 37 years, man's last will entangles gift of millions," "Israel fulfills key parts of deal with Palestinians").

And again on Nov. 13 stories such as "Beginning of alphabet uncovered," "Y2K plans enlist guard," and "Impatient O'Malley gets lesson at 'mayors school' "made it a pleasure to read the paper.

If newspapers are to survive competition with other news sources, this is the way. We don't need to hear about every act of violence and bloody accident.

Elizabeth R. Downs

Baltimore

The front page of The Sun Nov. 8 was quite unusual. It contained two positive, happy stories about two exceptional people, Cardinal William H. Keeler ("Papal adviser, people's priest") and Maggie Barker, the young woman who works in South Africa ("S. African tragedy helps woman find her calling").

Amid constant media coverage of bombings, earthquakes, and other tragedies, it is useful to be reminded that a few shining stars remain in our dark and gloomy heavens .

Jeff Miller

Ruxton

The 'sky is the limit' for Children's Chorus

It was with great pleasure that I read The Sun's article about the Children's Chorus of Maryland and the triumphant return of Betty Bertaux to its musical leadership ("Harmonic convergence," Nov. 16). As a member of the board, I too am excited that she has returned.

But one area of concern is that, contrary to what the article suggested, during Ms. Bertaux's 12-year hiatus, we continued to provide excellent music education and participate in outstanding events.

The children have sung with the Baltimore Choral Arts Society, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the Moscow Ballet. They have performed in many operas at the Lyric including "Carmen," "La Boheme" and Tosca and performed "Carmina Birana" at the Meyerhoff and the Gordon Center for Performing Arts.

We have traveled also. While Andrea Nutter Macon was our director, we performed for Presidents Bush and Clinton at the White House. Under the leadership of Bruce Byrant we went to Longwood Gardens and were the featured choir at Carnegie Hall's annual Choral Arts Festival.

We needed to grow. We needed change. Thus we sought a new artistic director.

Betty Bertaux will take us in new directions. With her musical leadership, and with the able help of our executive director, Carol McCurdy, the sky is the limit for these talented children.

Ruth Spivak

Cockeysville

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