TOPS payments stopped immediately due to state budget crisis

TOPS payments stopped immediately due to state budget crisis - 6 p.m.

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - All TOPS payments were stopped immediately Thursday because of the uncertainty surrounding the state's budget crisis.

The Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance alerted colleges and universities at 3 p.m. via email.

"Due to the possibility of state budget cuts, all TOPS payments are being suspended immediately until further notice. More details will be provided as information becomes available," stated John W. Bell, TOPS Awards and Renewals Manager via written statement.

The Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS) is a scholarship program which covers tuition for in-state students who meet certain academic criteria.

The schools bill the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance for payments of those who are TOPS eligible. Students do not receive reimbursements directly.

For the 2015-2016 school year, there are 49,710 students in the state of Louisiana who receive TOPS scholarships, which amounts to $142,702,219.

Richard Lipsey, the chairman of the Louisiana Board of Regents, said that over 50,000 students in Louisiana get TOPS. He gave the following breakdown of the TOPS scholarship:

  • 16,271 of them go to LSU
  • Less than 1,000 go to Southern
  • Slightly more than 26,000 goes to the entire UL system
  • About 6,000 to LCTCS, which is the community, 2 yr and tech campuses
  • Rest is private colleges

Click here for the full breakdown from the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance

"I don't want to presuppose what the legislature is going to do. If the legislature does nothing, we will close campuses before the end of the semester. The best-case scenario we're looking at is each campus will take a hit about 12 to 15 percent, but we hope they can keep their doors open," Lipsey said.

"What we're looking at unfortunately, you know the cuts you've seen on TV and every other place, each time the estimating conference gets together and each time the new commissioner of administration digs a little deeper, the hole gets a little deeper. I hope the legislature will cooperate with the governor and will help solve this problem. Governor Edwards did not create this problem."

Lipsey said the current problem is the shortfall in funding education through the rest of the current fiscal year with a bigger hole next year as the deficit will be over $2 billion.

"Unless the legislators finds where they can make cuts and at the same time raise revenues to somewhat mitigate these tremendous cuts, it's gonna devastating effects on high education," Lipsey said. "In worst case scenarios, we would start closing doors of institutions. We could also close them before the end of the year, and according to the numbers that could actually happen."

Lipsey urges parents to call their senators and representatives to ask about what will happen during the upcoming legislative session.

Lipsey said Louisiana Board of Regents oversees 27 four-year colleges, and four college systems: LSU System, Southern University System, LCTCS, and University of Louisiana System.

He said that TOPS is only partly funded by state's general budget, part is funded by tobacco settlement money and other sources.

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