Louisiana college students are about to lose half their scholarship money

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Aja Jefferson, a freshman at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, needs to come up with $1,300 more for tuition next semester — along with so do tens of thousands of some other Louisiana college students.

The cash-strapped state has pulled scholarship funding out by under them, raising their tuition cost for the spring semester to 50% more than they had expected.

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For Jefferson along with others, the cut might mean they’ll be taking on more student debt. the item might mean they need to pick up another job. along with for some, the item just might put graduation out of reach.

“There will be students who drop out. We don’t know how many, although the item will probably be the students with the most need,” said Dan Reneau, the Interim President of the University of Louisiana system who oversees nine universities along with 0,000 students.

The Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, known as TOPS, will be one of the most generous, merit-based state scholarships inside nation. Until at This particular point, the item covered the entire cost of tuition for Louisiana students as long as they graduated by high school in-state along with met two academic requirements: a 2.5 high school GPA in core classes along with at least an average standardized test score.

Those who attend a public school get enough money to cover the full tuition bill, plus extra for students with higher grades along with test scores. Students who go to a private college are also eligible, although the scholarship probably won’t cover the entire tuition bill.

TOPS will be a “great, unique strength of the state” along which has a “huge benefit” for those students who may not otherwise be able to go to college, said Rhonda Kalifey-Aluise, director of the KIPP charter schools in completely new Orleans.

For Jefferson, the item was also a big motivator.

“For people in low-income families like me, TOPS will be the only thing which can help us go to college. We try to do well along with get higher grades just to get TOPS,” said Jefferson.

The completely new Orleans native will be the first in her family to go to college. Jefferson chose UL Lafayette for its nursing program (she’s always wanted to be a nurse) along with because she would likely receive TOPS if she chose This particular school over one out of state.

Related: This particular will be how much college costs This particular year

Across the country, tuition will be going up faster than family’s incomes while state funding has declined.

although the cuts in Louisiana are more severe. Its funding for public colleges has fallen 39% since 2008, more than almost any some other state, according to the Center on Budget along with Policy Priorities.

Meanwhile, tuition rose an average of $3,500 in Louisiana during which time period.

the item shouldn’t have been a surprise which TOPS was the next domino to fall. The state will be facing an historic $0 million budget shortfall along with needed an emergency legislative session last year to fix the state’s finances. the item was at which time inside spring when lawmakers said TOPS would likely not be fully funded for the 2016-2017 school year.

They front-loaded the money in order which students received nearly what was expected for the current fall semester, although the amount was slashed in half for the spring.

Governor John Bel Edwards criticized which tactic for giving “false desire” to Louisiana students along with parents which lawmakers would likely be able to find some more funding before January. They haven’t, along with the next legislative session doesn’t begin until April.

“When we heard about the cuts, everyone was so scared which they weren’t going to be able to go to college,” Jefferson said.

which’s because many high school students count on getting This particular money. Going forward, the item’s unclear what will happen to TOPS. although, legislation which passed inside spring makes the item unlikely which awards will get bigger as tuition rises without specific legislative approval. inside past, the item automatically matched the cost of tuition.

“This particular adjustments their strategy. More students will be looking out of state for college,” said Kalifey-Aluise.

Related: There’s a hunger problem on America’s college campuses

There are dozens of legislative proposals for reforming TOPS, which has grown to cover more students along with cost $300 million a year before the cuts.

Some proposals keep qualifications more or less the same, although make the scholarship less generous. The Louisiana College Access Coalition will be fighting to make sure low-income students continue to receive TOPS. They propose a tiered structure which would likely give kids by higher-income families less money than those by poor families. This particular structure, the group says, would likely save the program money while generating sure every qualifying student still gets some money.

louisiana students drop out

Others proposals would likely make the item harder for students to qualify for the scholarship, by requiring better grades or taking more classes. Some lawmakers want to keep scholarship amounts equal for every student who makes the grades to receive TOPS.

State Senator Dan Morrish, who chairs the Senate Committee on Education, told sy88pgw which the cost of TOPS needs to be contained. He advocates for keeping the scholarships merit-based.

“There are lots of some other opportunities for need-based students, like Pell Grants, along with private scholarship programs. The intent of TOPS has always been merit-based,” he said.

For at This particular point, some colleges along with groups like KIPP are working to try to fill inside funding gap for current TOPS recipients who might need the item for the spring semester. which will be difficult for colleges which already receive less money by the state. They won’t be able to give extra money to every student, or cover the entire cost.

Whether or not TOPS will be fully funded next school year won’t be decided until after the next legislative session begins in March.

Are you hurt by the TOPS cut? Email Katie.Lobosco@sy88pgw.com to share your story.

sy88pgw (completely new York) First published December 23, 2016: 8:49 AM ET

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Louisiana college students are about to lose half their scholarship money

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