TOPS scholarship task force set to meet later this week

TOPS scholarship task force set to meet later this week

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A new task force made up of state senators and house members is looking for ways to keep the popular TOPS program financially sustainable.

Some students on UNO's campus said lawmakers should do what is necessary to keep the program afloat for the future.

"I think that TOPS is really beneficial."

"I definitely think so because a lot of people depend on it to come to  school and it's important."

"There's a lot of uncertainty with TOPS," said Garrett deValcourt.

Thursday the task force studying long-term funding for the $300 million TOPS program holds its second meeting.

State Sen. Wesley Bishop of New Orleans is a member of the panel.

"The fact that it costs so much, it has grown exponentially over the last several years, so many lawmakers have looked at ways to try to rein in those costs," Sen. Bishop said.

He thinks the idea of making TOPS more of a needs-based scholarship is worthy of serious consideration.

"The hope is that at the end of the day we can come up with some proposal, or proposals to take a look at the TOPS program to try and reign in those costs, while at the same time try to devise and opportunity for those who need it most," said Bishop.

"If financially you're able to, you know, pay for college and kids aren't able to  then the kids who aren't able to pay I think should have  a better chance at getting that, but also at the same I know people will argue like if you make the grade you still get the money," said Encalarde.

"I think that's a really good idea on his part because not everybody has the ability to go to college, like not everyone in my family has gone to college like I'm one of the first people to fully go and try to get my master's and such, so being that my family, personal experience you know, I feel like everybody should have the ability to go to college, if they so choose," said deValcourt.

And because of this state's ongoing money problems the popular scholarship program was only funded at 70-percent last school year.

"The rate at which it's ballooned over the last several years, you just don't have it.  We have a $1.5 Billion deficit right now and that's problematic and everyone that I've talked to while they want TOPS and they think TOPS is important, at the same time we cannot sustain that at the rate that it is right now," said Bishop.

Even as some question whether Louisiana reaps enough benefits from its investments in TOPS.

"While we're paying for individuals to go on to college we really aren't getting our bang for our bucks when they have finally educated themselves, when they can do the most for the State of Louisiana, some folks have a big problem because they don't think they should be required to stay in the state of Louisiana, well, if we're paying for their education we ought to have something that we could benefit from."

Bishop said the panel will meet twice a month through January.