TOPS scholarships on the chopping block again
BATON ROUGE- Lawmakers failed to raise revenue in the recent special session, leaving TOPS scholarships in peril. Louisiana's budget is short $700 million dollars going into the regular session, with most of the cuts going toward higher education and healthcare.
Some lawmakers don't expect a budget deal until another special session is held in a couple months. The fate of TOPS will remain uncertain until then.
"Since I've been here, it's budget deficit after budget deficit. TOPS is always on the chopping block," said Rep. Barry Ivey (R-Central).
When students with TOPS took a one-third cut last year, constituents were outraged. The potential wrath of voters could be the strongest ally for the program going forward.
There are attempts this session to reduce the total cost of the program. Twelve bills have been filed so far, some seeking to raise qualification standards, others wanting to divert students to community colleges.
One lawmaker said without a stable revenue source, students will be more likely to leave the state for college. "You can't tell students this [program] is guaranteed because it's subject to appropriation by the legislature year after year," said Sen. Dan Morrish (R-Jennings).
Similar attempts to reduce the cost of TOPS has failed in previous years. However, last year the legislature did cap the program at its current level of spending.
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