Proposed bill would allow college graduates to use TOPS for graduate school

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A new bill that will soon get plenty of discussion from Louisiana lawmakers would allow state students to put money toward graduate school, even if they received a four-year degree from an out-of-state college.

Tex and Cindy Morris cherish the moments spent with their daughter, Claire, who spends most of her time these days pursuing an undergraduate degree at Auburn University.

"She visited schools and made a determination as to where she wanted to go to school and it happened to be out of state," said Morris.

Under a proposed bill that heads to the House floor this week at the Capitol, Claire, who qualified for the state's Tuition Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS), could use that money to further her education back here at home.

"You qualify for TOPS when you graduate from a Louisiana high school but you decide not to use it," said state Rep. Hunter Greene, R-Baton Rouge, the bill's author. "If you come back to grad school, you are able to use up to the four years or eight semesters."

"With the costs, especially when you have two other children that are going to college, any assistance, especially when they achieve high academic standards coming out of high school, when they've earned scholarships, any scholarship is a positive for us," added Morris.

According to Greene, the bill would allow students to apply TOPS funds towards graduate studies at institutions across the state. He said more importantly, it creates an incentive to get talented minds back to the state and into the Louisiana workforce.

"If they do come back here for graduate school, they may be working part-time, they are probably going to stay here and eventually raise a family and be a taxpayer and spend money in the economy, so that's what we want," Greene explained.

It's a scenario Morris said would benefit his daughter and his family in more ways than one.

"College money to get a post-graduate degree, which for her generation is something that gives them a step up in the workforce," said Morris.

Greene's bill is not expected to be debated on the House floor until at least Wednesday.

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