What Happens if TOPS is Taken Away?
The Southeastern Louisiana University Faculty Senate had an overwhelming concern to address at its last meeting, the possible removal of the state scholarship program, TOPS.
TOPS, which stands for the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, is an integral aspect of financial assistance for Louisiana college students. Southeastern has the largest allocation of TOPS scholarships in the state.The Louisiana State Legislature is threatening to cut the TOPS program because of necessary state budget cuts.
Within the last academic calendar year, the scholarship program has taken massive cuts due to the state’s major budget deficit. The state is facing yet another budget deficit of $304 million. A special legislative session has gone into effect to find ways to lessen the deficit. More cuts to the TOPS program could be used to bring the amount of the deficit down.
Students and faculty alike are paying close attention to the session and what comes out of it. Dayne Sherman, a professor at Southeastern and the faculty senate president, said that if the program faced even more cuts or was removed entirely Southeastern would stand to lose a majority of its students.
He said that there are three things would happen if TOPS was to be taken away. He said that students would have to come up with the money, take out more loans or drop out altogether. Savannah Brown, a freshman English Literature major, said that she would not be able to keep attending Southeastern if TOPS was taken away. She said that the scholarship was the only significant scholarship she received to attend the university and it was vital to her enrollment.
Professor Sherman also said that he was surprised that students were not livid when the news of the first cuts towards the program were implemented. He expected that there would be protests against the cuts. He pointed to the events that were taking place during the time when the decision was made to cut TOPS funding. There will likely be more cuts to the funding so he expects there to be more of an uproar in the near future.
As faculty senate president, Professor Sherman has taken the lead on finding a way to help students at Southeastern and at all the state colleges and universities. Along with the Southeastern Student Government Association, a joint resolution has been voted upon to stop further cuts towards the scholarship. The resolution known as the TOPS and Higher Ed Resolution will be sent to the state legislature if the faculty senate votes to pass it at its next meeting.
The Southeastern Faculty Senate will vote on the resolution at its next meeting on March 8th in the University Center.