Lawmakers propose change to increases for TOPS tuition program - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Lawmakers propose change to increases for TOPS tuition program

Sen. Conrad Appel at a press conference about the TOPS proposal. (Source: WAFB) Sen. Conrad Appel at a press conference about the TOPS proposal. (Source: WAFB)
Phyllis Miller Taylor with the Taylor Foundation speaking at a press conference about the TOPS proposal. (Source: WAFB) Phyllis Miller Taylor with the Taylor Foundation speaking at a press conference about the TOPS proposal. (Source: WAFB)
BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) -

Looming budget cuts could impact students who use TOPS to pay for school as lawmakers submitted a proposal Wednesday that affects the scholarship program.

The TOPS scholarship program is in its 26th year and is expected to assist some 47,000 Louisiana students get a college education.

Families with students depending on the scholarships may have to shell out more for tuition if new legislation passes this spring.

Two state senators from Mandeville and Metairie have proposed removing the automatic increase TOPS awards usually get.

Currently, TOPS increases every time tuition does. However, with cut backs expected and money tight, Senators Jack Donahue and Conrad Appel's proposal looks to end the increase.

"The main thing about this particular bill is that preserves TOPS for the future," said Appel, R-Metairie. "We all know that TOPS has been growing exponentially. it was a danger to the state budget over long periods of time. However, this bill gives us the opportunity to put the brakes on that."

Under the proposal, there would be an extra step that would require the legislature's approval to grant a TOPS increase. If passed, lawmakers would look case by case at individuals earning the scholarships, and for those unable to cover the difference in the event of a tuition increase, they could get the help they need.

Governor Jindal wants TOPS to continue on as it has in the past, but the foundation that helped start TOPS appears to be in support of the possible cap.

"The state of Louisiana is definitely facing financial constraints," said Phyllis Miller Taylor with the Taylor Foundation. "So it was encumbered upon us, I believe, to try to figure out a way that would preserve TOPS and still give full opportunity to students to get their education after high school."

TOPS is expected to cost the state $250 million this year, and that would increase to about $390 million by the 2018 school year.

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