- Louisiana legislators passed a state budget last week that includes full funding for its in-state student scholarship program, but allows the funding to reduce by more than 42% during the spring semester.
- Supporters of "frontloading" the TOPS program say it gives students a full semester to arrange for financial support which may elapse, but opponents say financial aid support is most limited during the spring semester.
- Louisiana is notorious for legislative cuts across a number of industries, and its budget allocations for the TOPS program maintain what many consider to be a nationally dubious record on higher education.
Limiting college access to in-state students by slashing its most prominent scholarship appears to be a solution that will create more harm than savings for the state. However, according to the Shreveport Times, a large percentage of students receiving TOPS scholarships are white and from affluent families, not the low-income families the program was designed to help. For some of these students, it is likely family contributions could make up the deficit and allow students to continue their educations.
But if officials are projecting students to lose money midway through the upcoming academic year, should schools be concerned about students stopping out for this year? Will there be an increase in transfers to out of state schools offering tuition rates comparable to TOPS-subsidized costs at Louisiana institutions?
When combined with the state's aggressive stance against admissions for undocumented citizens, public institutions in the state could potentially lose hundreds of millions in tuition revenue by limiting student access in the name of financial and cultural austerity. This puts the burden on institutions to find alternative means of financial aid from corporate or nonprofit partners.