The Taylor Opportunity Programs for Students, otherwise known as the TOPS scholarship, has been voted by the Louisiana House of Representatives to be funded at 70 percent next year in the budget bill passed on Monday. The cuts are deep losses for countless students who plan on attending college in state. However, the plan proposed within the bill is set to only complicate financial situations further for those who depend on TOPS to pay tuition.
The money awarded to eligible students will not cover both semesters equally. In other words, students will receive a scholarship fulfilling the prices of tuition for the fall semester, while the amount of money received in the spring will drop to 40 percent. This leaves students and families dependent on TOPS in a financially insecure position for the upcoming academic year.
The idea behind this uneven layout, according to Representative Cameron Henry, is so students “aren’t caught off guard for the fall semester.” Still, there is resistance to these changes from the Senate and Governor John Bel Edwards. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Eric LaFleur questioned the logic of the decision, asking whether the House of Representatives believed that students and their families will able to make alternative plans to support themselves in such a small time frame. In addition to the current unrest, several members of the House Appropriations Committee were unaware of the plan to reduce TOPS in the spring semester until after the bill was passed, prompting many to wonder about the reliability of the entire situation.
The House of Representatives’ plan to support recipients of the scholarship in the spring semester is to use excess money from recently passed taxes as funds. The downside is that this source of money is only hoped to come through. Gov. Edwards and the Senate leadership do not believe any extra revenue will be available to cover losses in TOPS.