As few weeks ago, I read a column with the headline: Three scariest words: President Donald Trump. Although for some Americans, these are the three scariest words they have ever heard because Trump has not been an ideal candidate for president. But that’s a story for another day. I did; however, bring that up to point out that for college students, current and future, the two scariest words for them is TOPS suspended.
It’s the latest news that Louisiana is suspending payments for TOPS through the rest of this school year and the next school year.
What does this mean for students who have already received TOPS for this semester. And what about the TOPS that have not been distributed yet? According to an article on wwltv.com, student and parents could end up owing the remainder of the semester’s tuition that has not already been paid. However, according to an article on nola.com the Gov. Edwards and the Board of Regents, no students currently receiving TOPS would lose their scholarship mid-semester. Now students, especially college seniors, can breathe a little easier. But every other college student or future college students have to figure out how they will pay their tuition in addition to other college costs next school year.
According to President Bruno, in a worst-case scenario students would be billed for the balance on their individual accounts.
So, this could potentially affect students this semester, but an even bigger problem is going to be for students who planned on using TOPS for next year.
But if TOPS is also suspended for the rest of this school year and colleges won’t receive their final distributions for this fiscal year, are colleges and universities expected to cover this cost? According to Gov. Edwards in a letter to the commissioner of higher education, that’s approximately $26 million in TOPS that won’t be funded. Higher education will have to come up with ways to cover the shortfall. Cutting classes? Shutting down?
This is going to impact thousands of students, most in the University of Louisiana system because over half of the students receiving TOPS attend a college in that system. These colleges are: Grambling State University, Louisiana Tech University, McNeese State University, Nicholls State University, Northwestern State University, Southeastern Louisiana University, University of Louisiana- Lafayette, University of Louisiana- Monroe and University of New Orleans. LSU also has the largest percentage of its student body attending school through TOPS.
Now all that is left to do is to wait for colleges and universities to make their final decisions after Gov. Edwards releases the final budget.