Modest changes proposed to Louisiana TOPS tuition program
BATON ROUGE - Lawmakers looking for ways to control the ballooning price tag of Louisiana's TOPS free college tuition program are advancing modest cost-containment proposals. They have shelved, at least for now, more sweeping proposals to change who can receive the tuition aid.
The Senate Education Committee on Thursday backed a bill that would lock in the TOPS tuition payment rate at next year's level, unless lawmakers vote to raise payments when tuition rises.
The committee also supported a measure to raise the minimum academic standard to get add-on TOPS stipends for higher-performing students.
A proposal to end TOPS awards for students to attend private colleges was scrapped.
A day earlier, the House Education Committee stalled bills seeking to modify TOPS criteria and require repayment when a student fails to maintain academic standards.
Gov. John Bel Edwards supports proposals that would allow across-the-board cuts to the free tuition aid received by TOPS students if the program isn't fully funded.
He says that's preferable to current law, which would cut the students with lower ACT scores from receiving any tuition assistance if the program doesn't get the nearly $300 million needed to cover all eligible students next school year.
With Louisiana's budget shortfall, Edwards doesn't expect TOPS to get the money needed to pay for all eligible students. He'll seek additional revenue from lawmakers in a special session later this year.
Until then, lawmakers are considering how to spend whatever limited dollars are available for TOPS.
Republican Sen. Dan "Blade" Morrish's bill to allow for the pro-rata reduction received Senate Education Committee support Thursday.