State budget cuts could affect college students

MONROE, La. (KNOE) - As lawmakers fight to update the state budget, the latest proposal takes aim at college students. A new bill would cut the TOPS scholarship program by 30 percent.

Source: MGN

People in higher education see the TOPS scholarship program as a promise.

"This is a promise that was made to the students of Louisiana that if you meet certain academic standards that the state would assist you in paying tuition for you to go to college," ULM president Dr. Nick Bruno says.

Academic standards that Cole Starkey met in high school. Now it's helping him pay for his education at Louisiana Tech.

"I’ll be going into my senior year next year so I’m going to need as much financial assistance as possible being I’m already on as many scholarships as I can," Starkey says.

He says he's worried about proposed cuts to the TOPS program.

"It’s already expensive enough for college so we're trying to get as much assistance as we can,” he says.

He's not alone.

In fact, at ULM alone thirty percent of students rely on TOPS.

ULM president Nick Bruno says with tuition on the rise this hurts.

"Certainly if you take $1,000 away from somebody, they'll have to backfill it with something and it's probably going to be loans," Bruno says.

He says keeping kids in college should be a top priority for the state because eventually, the money will help build Louisiana’s economy.

"You’re definitely going to slow down what Louisiana needs most and that's professional level, four-year degree employees to fill the slots that are needed by companies like CenturyLink and IBM," Bruno explains.

Representatives say even if this bill passes, the cut isn't final. They say they could still find money to fill the gaps during the upcoming special session.