Edwards: TOPS shortfall could mean more students drop out of college

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BATON ROUGE (WGNO) – Gov. John Bel Edwards confirmed that due to historic budget shortfalls, Louisiana students will only be eligible for 41.8 percent of their TOPS awards for the spring 2017 semester.

“When we leave our kids with more student debt than necessary, we’ve failed them,” Edwards said. “Going forward, it is my hope that we can restore funding to TOPS because too many students across the state are dependent upon the assistance it offers. In fact, despite the budget shortfalls we’re currently facing, we will not be making further cuts to this program. Today, we risk having an influx of students drop out of college or leave with burdensome debt. We can and must do better.”

TOPS, or the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, has for years paid full tuition for students who meet certain academic guidelines and attend Louisiana colleges or universities. Income is not a factor in awarding the scholarships.

The reason that students and families will have to shoulder more of the cost next semester is because the state Office of Financial Aid mistakenly awarded more money than they should have for the current semester. The University of New Orleans announced today that it will pay the TOPS shortfalls for its students. LSU will not.

“As I said in June, the gimmick of ‘front loading’ TOPS gave students and parents false hope for the future. Today, as I said this summer, Louisiana’s budget problems are having a real impact on students and their families. The upcoming regular session in 2017 will give us another opportunity to stabilize Louisiana’s budget and invest in our children’s futures, and I’m asking the Legislature to work with me, so that Louisiana’s students are not left to shoulder the burden of our state’s financial problems,” Edwards continued.

Information regarding TOPS funding for the spring semester is available in this FAQ from LOSFA by clicking here.