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Future of TOPS and higher education funding in the air

Lawmakers propose deep cuts to TOPS and higher education

Ruston, La. - Chris Bouton is a sophomore at Louisiana Tech University. He's majoring in cyber engineering, which adds a lot to his plate. But now his plate just got a lot heavier.

"I am worried as a family of a brother and me so two people that would add up over the four years of college."

He's worried because lawmakers have proposed some major cuts to higher education.

$96 million to be exact and TOPS helps him pay tuition.

The Taylor Opportunity Program for students is a scholarship program specifically for Louisiana residents who attend public colleges and universities.

Right now TOPS helps more than 28,000 students across Louisiana.

"My brother is a senior in high school so he doesn't receive TOPS yet but he does plan on it," says Bouton.

That may be a lot tougher now. If the next special session does not change it, each TOPS scholarship award would be cut by 30%. Tech has 4500 students that would be effected. 

"Each student would have to come up with approximately $1600 out of pocket to continue their education for the next year. For some families that can be an incredible burden," says Louisiana spokesperson Tonya Oaks Smith.

She says TOPS scholarships not only help students but Louisiana as a whole.

"TOPS serves as a help to keeping our talent in state which is very important in growing our economy to attracting companies to the state."

She says that's why college funding needs to be secure. 

"We know that higher education has the power to transform lives and to change the trajectory of families and our higher education institutions need to have our funding be stable."

Lawmakers have their final special session Monday, June 18th. They will revisit budget cuts and make final decisions before the start of the new fiscal year, July 1st. 

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