LA legislature cuts TOPS again, affecting Tulane students


A Louisiana state budget proposal by Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards which was presented on Monday, Jan. 22, poses drastic changes to the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS).

TOPS provides Louisiana high school students who have earned a grade-point average of 2.5 or higher and at least a 20 on their ACTs with supplemental funding as a means and an incentive to attend universities within the state.

According to, 80 percent of the annual funding for TOPS may be lost as part of “massive reductions in several government programs” outlined in Edwards’s budget proposal. The lack of funding for TOPS during the 2018-19 academic year will not only affect incoming college freshmen but also currently enrolled students on higher education campuses.

TOPS has enabled many students to attend universities throughout the state of Louisiana by providing at least partial tuition. This is a factor for Louisiana students applying to colleges, one that may change in the near future if the majority of funding for TOPS is lost.

“It’s been absolutely beneficial,” freshman Colin Harper said. “It helps a lot, makes a big difference. It kind of allows me to live on campus and have a meal plan every semester.”

The budget cut poses a more significant threat to students attending public universities in the state, where it is typical for TOPS to cover most, if not all, of their school’s tuition. Freshman Drew Judlin believes his friends at public colleges will be more affected by the TOPS cut than students at private universities.

“I am worried about them because that’s TOPS covering the majority of their tuition,” Judlin said. “So without it, I’m not sure what they’d do.”

Back in 2016, similar budget cuts were made to TOPS due to a $600 million dollar deficit. During the 2016-17 academic year, the Louisiana government struggled to provide 70 percent of TOPS funding, though the budget problems were not as severe as now.

After news spread regarding the uncertainty of whether TOPS would continue, it was anticipated more students would begin to go out-of-state for college while many of those who could not afford to pay tuition without the scholarship would probably drop out. With TOPS set to face dramatic cuts in the following months, this is likely to remain a serious issue.

“Some people might only go to school in Louisiana or in-state because of TOPS,” Judlin said. “That’s a primary reason that you pick your school. But, yeah, I think [TOPS being cut] could definitely influence that.”

Some officials have proposed, in order to save money for future funding, TOPS should be denied to students from wealthy families. Others, however, disagree that this is the best way to allocate funding for TOPS. Senator Dan Morrish, a Jennings Republican who chairs the Senate Committee on Education, has advocated that the funds should only go to high-performing students.

Morrish argues that there are plenty of need-based scholarships, such as the Pell grant, offered to students and that the TOPS scholarship should remain merit-based, which was the original intention when it was created in 1998. He proposed that all students in their first year of college should receive a $4,000 award, which would then increase each year for students who do exceedingly well in school.

“I think it should remain more academically-oriented,” Harper said. “I think the cut-offs should be raised because, where their currently at, there’s way too many people receiving TOPS for it to be economically feasible for the government. So, I think the requirements should be raised but I think it’s definitely necessary and a good incentive to keep people in Louisiana.”

Morrish’s proposal is estimated to save $20 million per year, but this is a small fraction compared to the overall amount of funding that may be lost for TOPS.

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