Louisiana Legislators Cut TOPS
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Student Life

Dear Louisiana Legislators, If You Cut TOPS, You're Crushing The Dreams Of Thousands Of First-Gen College Students

Higher education is encouraged yet is always the first to get chopped with budget cuts... what's really going on?

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LSU Students Protesting
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=49Rosa154hE

As a Louisiana high school student, the closer you reached senior year, the more you heard about Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (better known as TOPS). How important TOPS is. How TOPS can save you money. How TOPS proves it is better to stay in-state for college because tuition will be covered. Right.

For all of my non-Louisianians, TOPS is a merit-based scholarship offered to Louisiana residents who choose to attend a public college or university in the state. It mainly covers the tuition for universities which is a huge help for students — especially students like me.

I am a first-generation college student from a low-income home. My parents never had the opportunity to receive higher education and always pushed education and its importance. I always strived to do the best I could in high school not only because I needed funding to go to college but because this was a huge milestone for my family and me.

And this is a similar skeleton of a story for many in-state college students. Most of us are first-generation because our parents did not have the opportunity usually because of money. Without scholarships, I would not have been able to attend a university, let alone the prestigious, flagship school of the state, Louisiana State University A&M. Everything we have done from grade school until now — achieving and maintaining high GPA's — was to get full funding for college, yet each year we have to cross our fingers that the state government doesn't disband the program due to budget cuts and failures.

Earlier this week, LSU Student Body President Stewart Lockett sent this email to LSU students:

"At the conclusion of the second special legislative session last week, the Legislature failed to stabilize funding for TOPS and LSU. Unless the legislature acts before June 30, we are facing the following:

- 30% cut to TOPS, meaning you will have to cover an additional $2,200 next year for your education

- 13% cut to LSU, which is roughly $21 million. These cuts would drastically impact our classes, facilities, and support services."

It's not just upsetting. It is downright heartbreaking.

Last year, TOPS was cut and a number of students at LSU alone had to drop out for the semester because they could not cover the balance the cut created. For a student heavily dependent on TOPS, if it is gone, our only options are to step down from school or take out loans thus bringing an even bigger burden on our family's finances. And who wants to push back their graduation date? Or end up in a sea of debt? The purpose of going into overdrive and achieving such great grades was to be able to get our education fully funded.

Oh and that's not all!

On TOP of TOPS cuts (bad pun here, I know), with budget cuts many classes and programs will be disbanded at various universities, so no more scholarship funding and you're program could get cut.

It is frustrating because there is a huge emphasize on TOPS and staying in-state for college in high school making it seem like the best option. There are hundreds and thousands of students who received scholarships from other out-of-state schools that they declined solely because of TOPS.

Had any of us know our scholarship would be a gamble each year — heck each semester, no one would have remained in-state. And that's just being honest.

One thing Stewart Lockett stated in the email stuck out to me:

"For years, LSU students have been able to graduate with little to no debt, thanks to the TOPS program. And the education that LSU has been able to offer us not only improves our lives, but also improves the lives of people across Louisiana, and generates billions of dollars annually to the Louisiana economy. It just makes sense to fund something that gives back to so many."

And this can be applied to all public universities in the state. There are so many positives outcomes of TOPS on all sides. Something needs to be done.

And It's not too late! We have until June 30, 2018 to change the legislators' minds.

For all Louisiana residents, find out who your legislators are at www.legis.la.gov. Contact them and let them know TOPS needs to stay. Your voice holds power.

For anyone in the Baton Rouge area, there will be a gathering at the State Capitol on Wednesday, June 20, 2018 at 5:30 pm.

For LSU students, student government asks for stories about how TOPS has affected you. Send them in to sgpres@lsu.edu.

And for my fellow reader, you can still help. Share this article. Help start a conversation. One click can start a chain reaction of change.

And that's exactly what we want to do.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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