Task force considers cost-cutting changes to TOPS

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The TOPS Legislative Task Force met Thursday morning to discuss possible changes to the program that could save the state money.

Legislators face another budget shortfall in the spring, and cuts to the statewide scholarship program have been discussed frequently. Lawmakers were able to keep the program. The most popular possibilities discussed at the meeting were raising the minimum GPA requirement, making students repay the loan if they don't get a degree or fail classes, or to lower the amount given to each student.

Rep. Gary Carter wants to change the program to a need-based scholarship, based on the income of student's family. "We have to make sure that we're looking to protect those kids who need TOPS most," Carter said. "Make sure that those kids who come from financial difficulty, the ones who may be going to college for the very first time, that we're doing everything in our power to make sure we give them an opportunity to educate themselves out of their circumstance."

Others, like Rep. Thomas Carmody, say it's time to face the music and make cuts.

"We'll have to figure out some way as a state, in order to make sure that we're putting the available dollars which we have, which are scarce, into where they get the greatest return for the students, and for the state as producing productive citizens that become taxpayers and stay here," Carmody said.

Whatever options the task force chooses, it will mean either students get less money or they lose their eligibility. The task force will have two meetings in January, and then they must submit a list of recommendations to the state legislature by February 15.

Those recommendations will be taken into account by lawmakers when they start the next legislative session on March 12.

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