BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Students and parents across Louisiana have been fearing the worst for months and now, many will have to make some big choices as the effects of a 30 percent cut in TOPS funding for the 2016-2017 school year begin to take hold.
Sujuan Boutte, the executive director for the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance, said parents and students need to apply for any additional sources of funding now to reduce the sticker shock.
"What students can do to help themselves is make sure that they maximize any type of federal or state gift aid that's available to them or private aid to help mitigate the cost," Boutte said.
Thursday marked the deadline for students at LSU to pay their fee bill for the spring 2017 semester and while they can set up a deferred payment plan, students must make those arrangements now in order to register for classes.
At LSU, tuition and fees for the spring semester for full-time students is currently $5,379. TOPS is only set to cover $1,559.76 of that cost, which means students and their parents will now pay $3,819 in out-of-pocket costs.
Boutte said students do have options. They can either opt-in and accept the reduced TOPS funding this spring or they can opt-out, waiving their TOPS award on a semester-by-semester basis.
"A student might make that choice because they would say, 'Well if you on my TOPS award, you're still deducting a full-term count for me and I think I'm going to be optimistic and say that I think TOPS will come back and be fully funded and I want to reserve that term count for when full funding is there,'" Boutte explained.
Speaking before the Council for a Better Louisiana on Thursday, Gov. John Bel Edwards said more needs to be done. He challenged lawmakers to come up with a plan to among other things, fully fund TOPS.
"We've got to bring this into balance," he said. "The longer we wait, the greater the disturbance we do to our state and he more we destabilize institutions that afford people opportunity for a better life. We can do better. We have to do better."
The amount of money people will have to pay is different depending the school.