That is how many times I conquered the ACT. I agonized over the confusing Math questions and whimpered at the Science portion for this standardized test five times. “Keep taking the ACT so you can earn TOPS,” my high school counselors encouraged. “The higher your ACT score, the more financial aid you’ll receive.”
Thus, I followed their advice. In my senior year of high school, I secured the TOPS Performance Scholarship, and I have remained on the President’s List every semester since I have been in college to keep the scholarship. Unfortunately, I did not keep it, or at least, not all of it. In August, I learned budget cuts had slammed TOPS, but I did not realize how detrimentally this would affect me until I saw the financial aid for the spring semester and learned I would receive only 58 percent of the money I usually acquire to cover my school’s tuition.
May I rant real quick?
I could not be more grateful for the opportunity to attend college and the financial aid I have collected this far. Still, for thousands of Louisiana students and I, college just became even more expensive. This is upsetting considering we earned the scholarships and fulfilled the GPA requirements to keep them, only to have the finances severely cut before we walk across the stage to obtain our diplomas. We are upholding our end of the bargain. We did what was asked of us in high school to earn TOPS, and we are making the right grades in college to keep it. It is shameful that our financial aid no longer reflects our hard work.
You know what? Maybe I should not complain, for I am one of the lucky ones. I am fortunate enough to return to Southeastern despite the TOPS cuts. However, there are deserving students out there who aren’t so fortunate. The prospect of these students unable to continue their college careers although they have the required GPA is unfair, and quite frankly, heartbreaking. And what of the high school seniors? What financial aid will they have to look forward to when they start college?
If I had flunked Earth Science last semester and my GPA plummeted, then I would not have the platform to gripe about the unfavorable cuts of TOPS because I would not have deserved to keep the scholarship. Yet, that was not the case. I did what I was supposed to do to collect the financial aid I needed to fund the expensive demands of college, and I am not the only one. There is a slew of students in this state pursuing a higher education, thousands who are now confronted with this roadblock of scholarship cuts, which will only add to the struggle of an already costly journey to a four-year degree.
When you are in grade school, you have your parents, your teachers, and your advisors emboldening you to go to college. A lot of us have done so. There are young men and women who are trying to make something of themselves. We want to graduate. We want the education. We want to gain the knowledge so that we can compete in the job market. From a student’s perspective, it is incredibly frustrating when you are trying to overcome every financial obstacle to reach your destination. Yes, compared to some of my peers, I am fortunate to be enrolled at Southeastern and continue my college career, but my continuation is now permeated with more monetary hardships.
A lot of us depend on TOPS. The scholarship covered our tuition fully, giving us one less thing to worry about. Now, regrettably, we do not have that reassurance anymore. With tuition costs rising every semester, it seems even our good grades are not enough to get the financial backing that we need from the state.
We are doing our part, Louisiana. Why aren’t you doing yours?