LAFAYETTE, La (KLFY) – Students and parents are wondering if state lawmakers will find enough money to fully restore the TOPS college scholarship program.
Senate Bill 329 that passed was authored by Senator Dan Claitor of Baton Rouge. If the governor signs the bill, it would increase some GPA requirements for TOPS.
The GPA requirement for the TOPS Performance Award would change from 3.0 to 3.35 and the Honors Award from 3.0 to 3.5. The Opportunity Awards GPA requirement would remain the same.
Dr. DeWayne Bowie of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette is the Vice President for Enrollment Management. Dr. Bowie says changing the GPA requirement applies to the performance and honors awards under TOPS.
“Basically means that if those students didn’t qualify for those programs, then they would still receive the base TOPS program; which is the TOPS Opportunity. They just wouldn’t receive that additional stipend. Performance is $400 dollars for the year. The Honors its $800 for the year,” says Dr. Bowie
In addition to the bills awaiting the governor’s signature, there’s one bill that was signed about a month ago.
The governor says the bill unites TOPS funding from the cost of tuition, meaning tops awards won’t increase if tuition rises. It will be set at a capped amount and increased only with legislative approval.
Governor John Bel Edwards says the TOPS Program first ran about $50 million but now is a $300 million program.
“It was the right thing to do not because we wanted to do it but it was just essential given the overall budget constraints that we have,”
Dr. Bowie says it’s not over yet, if new funding is found during the special session, the bill could go unsigned. He says, talk to your legislators about supporting TOPS and higher education funding.
“Because as we have reduced funding on the higher education side, then what happens in the end is their cost actually ends up going up,” explains Bowie. “We’re talking about our kids receiving a significant amount of funding towards their post-secondary education. You don’t want to give up on that until the final vote is done.”